Why ZTE’s Project CSX Phone Still Matters
While at CES 2017 last month, we were at the ZTE press event, during which the unveiled their Project CSX phone, codenamed “Hawkeye.” The phone was an entirely-crowdsourced device, from the design concept, to the naming of the device, and all of the different features packed within.
Ultimately, though, the phone ended up being a complete failure, raising just over $36,000 on Kickstarter—well below the company’s goal of $500,000—which is super sad considering ZTE flew the winners of its crowdsourcing campaign out the Vegas for CES and paraded them in front of the press barely a month ago.
The lack of support was pegged to a number of different reasons, but mainly because of ZTE’s decision to include subpar specs (a Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB of ram, and 32 GB of onboard storage). All of that was all to help keep the cost of the phone down to $199, but it might’ve led to consumers’ disinterest in the device.
On the now-canceled Kickstarter page, ZTE said the end of the crowdfunding campaign doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the project as a whole. “We are reevaluating the device … and it will be implemented based on your feedback,” the company said.
Whatever ZTE decides to do with its Project CSX device—even if they end up ultimately doing nothing—I still think the phone and the project is a huge success. “How?” you might ask. Especially if ZTE ends up making not one penny off of the phone.
The answer is simple: It proves how successful the idea of crowdsourcing (and crowdfunding) can be. Say this was a phone that ZTE baked up in their own labs, spent hundreds of millions of dollars on in R&D, put even more money behind it for marketing purposes, and placed in retail stores around the country, only to see the thing fall flat on its face.
Project CSX proved, without a shadow of a doubt, how tech companies can utilize their respective audiences to develop products that their consumers want (or how to not develop products that they don’t want).
This Hawkeye device is a prime example of the latter. Sure, the Z-Community forum pushed this thing through to almost-near-completion, but ZTE learned really quickly, through feedback on that same forum and through Kickstarter, that consumers just weren’t that into the device. They didn’t even need to let the campaign run its entire course. They got the message early and had the opportunity to act on the information at hand before going too far down the road towards producing a product that would’ve been destined to bomb.
We see successful crowdsourced ideas all the time in the food industry. Frito Lay has run a bunch of those “Do Us a Flavor” campaigns over the last few years to introduce new (albeit, incredibly disgusting) flavors to their lineup. Starbucks did the white cup contest not too long ago. And Doritos had that whole crowdsrouced Super Bowl ad a few years back.
Tech companies are very good as far as crowdfunding goes, but there are definitely opportunities to get fanboys and fangirls involved in the actual brainstorming phase of product creation. ZTE tried and failed with attempt number one, but it’s a start. And I think once they get it right, we’ll see other tech companies attempt to recreate the idea within their own circles. At the end of it, even if a manufacturer doesn’t get a working product out of the process, they, at the very least, get a totally engaged group of enthusiasts that they can call on for all kinds of small scale market research. The benefits of pulling together a community of consumers like this are far too enormous to ignore.