We’ve been warning about over enthusiasm in the crowdfunding world for a while now, and now a new project has popped up which triggers every alarm bell we’ve got. The new product is Fonkraft, billed as the ‘world’s first crowdfunded modular smartphone‘, which is basically a rival to the long-standing Project Ara concept being built by a Google sponsored team. [UPDATE: Aaand….it’s gone!] :)
What worries us is the fact that there are so little facts, just a lot of computer generated images and a lot of claims. The product is scheduled to ship later on this year, which is an extremely short timeline for a technology which is this complex. It’s taken Google around 2 years or so to get Ara to any sort of prototype, and these guys are claiming this short delivery period with nothing except some drawings?
The Indiegogo fund has apparently already reached 80%+ funding after just 3 days, which says a lot about the ability of people to put aside rationality when something glittery appears on the horizon. So it’s supposed to be completely modular, with the ability to swap out screen, camera, audio and who knows what else, with prices starting at $99 for the base model. It’s a fantastic deal. If you’re a lover of unicorns.
The Project Ara team are laboriously working their way through a long prototyping process, along with a committed development community, workshops, massive engineering support from Google etc, and even so they say that the basic costs – that’s cost of materials – will be around $50 to $100. Excluding the cost of the modules. So these Fonkraft guys are going to produce a product which retails at around the same price from the get-go? Amazing.
We’re also forced to ask some searching questions about the pedigree of the Austrian team behind this new wonder phone. Seb and Mattias we’re told have ‘years of experience‘ and also we’re told are ‘very talented‘, which is definitely reassuring, even if we have no specifics on their actual skillset and expertise in building mobile phones of this complexity. There doesn’t appear to be any other members of the team.
And that’s all we know about the people behind the project, apart from some great photos of them looking earnestly at some pretty drawings and Post-it notes on the wall. No fab, no designers, no engineering staff, not even a guy talking about the logistical challenges of meeting potential orders within the next four months. This is indeed powerful stuff. And we won’t even mention their ‘beta’ web site which has precisely no links working on it at all, just a bit of text, the promo video, and yes…some pretty drawings again. Oh and the two looking earnestly at some computer screens.
If we didn’t know better, we’d call this as yet another of those ‘art‘ projects, so loved by pranksters around the world. It’s too obvious to be a pure scam, but it’s perfect for a bit of fun poking at earnest crowdfunders. Anyway, time will tell, won’t it? We’ll see just how real this is in 43 days. Where’s the popcorn?