Ever since Pebble struck it big on Kickstarter, there's been no shortage of startups looking to cash in with their own smartwatches, fitness bands and gesture-control rings. But as backers of the Kreyos Meteor smartwatch have discovered, funding these projects on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo is a risky proposition, and one that rarely goes as planned.
Android Police has spotted a devastating account from Kreyos backers, describing a company that has grown increasingly hostile toward the people who funded the campaign. Among the backers' complaints:
- Many backers haven't received their watches, nearly 10 months after the anticipated delivery date.
- Those who have received watches aren't getting what they were promised. There's no Windows Phone app, no gesture control, no gamification platform and no sleep tracking. Waterproofing doesn't work properly, battery life doesn't last anywhere close to the advertised seven days, and there are many bugs.
- Shortly before shipping the first units, Kreyos amended its terms of service to deny refunds for Indiegogo backers. Those who pre-ordered outside Indiegogo must wait to receive their watches before returning them for refunds.
- The Kreyos team has reportedly been deleting complaints from its Facebook page.
Android Police also claims to have photos of Kreyos co-founder Steve Tan posing with a Ferrari, and, in a separate photo, with a mound of shopping bags from high-end retailers. Assuming these photos exist and reflect actual purchases, even if Tan didn't pay for these luxuries with crowdsourced money, the images don't look good to backers who haven't received what they paid for.
Kreyos should clearly take the brunt of the blame, but the company's behavior is enabled by crowdfunding dynamics. We live in a world where backers throw money at unproven startups; the technology press lavishes attention on those startups with very few caveats; and companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo accept no liability when things go wrong.
Kreyos is hardly the only example of an imploding crowdfunding campaign, but it is a particularly alarming one. Here's a rundown of some other crowdfunded wearables that have faced delays or appear to be in limbo:
Agent by Secret Labs
The pitch: Billed as the "world's smartest watch," Agent promises wireless charging, downloadable apps, "world-class" developer tools and "unparalleled battery life."
Funded: June 2013 on Kickstarter for $1,012,742
Estimated delivery: December 2013
Status: The latest update, from July 2014, shows the watch still in production and includes photos from a visit to the manufacturer. The makers apologized for the delays, but gave no new timeline for shipping.
The pitch: It's a fitness bracelet that tracks exercises, reps, sets, heart rate and calories burned, with syncing to iPhone and Android.
Funded: March 2013 on Indiegogo for $580,710
Estimated delivery: July 2013
Status: The first "couple thousand devices" started shipping a couple weeks ago--more than a year behind schedule--according to an update on Amiigo's Website.
The pitch:MEMI is a smart bracelet "made for women by women," with notifications for calls, text messages and calendar alerts.
Funded: November 2013 on Kickstarter for $101,144
Estimated delivery: August 2014
Status: An August 6 update says the product is taking more time and costing more money than its creators anticipated, so the makers have "decided to hit the pause button" on manufacturing until they can raise additional funds. Early backers shouldn't expect their bracelets until next spring.
The pitch: This high-tech ring has an LED display that shows the time and serves up notifications from iOS and Android devices.
Funded: December 2013 on IndieGogo for $297,699
Estimated delivery: April 2014
Status: The creators just announced a new design that promises 30 percent more battery life over the original, but it's very different from the original concept. Backers can apparently still get the original design if they want. There's no word on when either of the rings will ship.
The pitch: This smartwatch has an earpiece that allows "private calling" similar to a smartphone. It also promises gesture controls, notifications and standalone apps.
Funded: September 2013 on Kickstarter for $616,231
Estimated delivery: December 2013
Status: The creators have reportedly started shipping one of its designs in a single band size, but most other models are still in production.