Crowdfunding, like any gamble, preys on your hopes and dreams. Sometimes, you get the wonderful dream device you deserve. Other times, you get a million pound pile of shit, like a smartwatch that can't tell time. The Kreyos Meteor seems to fall into that second category.
June 23rd 2013, a new Indiegogo campaign popped up on the internet. KREYOS: The ONLY Smartwatch with Voice and Gesture Control! The pitch video is conveniently gone from the original Indiegogo page, but you can still find it on the Kreyos homepage and soak in the hubris.
It's not the most wildly optimistic crowdfunding project ever, but it's up there. Flawless voice control! Fitness tracking! Waterproof to five feet! Works with Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone! And all with seven-day battery life! But the clincher is the starting price: $100 (£60) for early backers, but a mere $140 (£85) for slowpokes.
As a flex-funding campaign, the Keryos project would have kept every penny it pulled from naive backers even if it never met its $100,000 (£60,000) goal. That was never an issue, though, since Keryos blew past its goal by 1,500 per cent, pulling in a total of $1.5 million (£900,000). Plenty of money to put out a smartwatch, right? Right?!?!
The red flags that were present at the start are so numerous and obvious that it almost feels excessive to point them out: Absurdly low budget goal, unrealistic promises, too-good-to-be-true price tag, all from an untested manufacturer. According to the Indiegogo campaign, the raised funds were just to put the Meteor over the edge; the units in the video were allegedly actual injection-moulded products, not just some prototypes. As such, Kreyos promised that the first batch of 5,000 finished products would go out to backers in November 2013, a mere five months after its Indiegogo debut.
Nearly a year later, the first units are finally trickling out, and getting abysmal reviews. Two understandably disappointed and incensed backers, Andrew Wright and Kenneth Larsen, have written what reads almost like a thesis, an exhaustive text devoted to all the ways in which the Meteor is a total disappointment. It's wonderful and horrifying in its detail. Here are a few excerpts from the report:
The pedometer function is rendered useless by the fact that it is triggered by the watch's own vibration alerts, and some devices are vibrating all the time for such reasons as Facebook photo upload notifications constantly refreshing to show upload progress.
The very title of the Indiegogo campaign states that the Meteor supports gesture control, but no such functionality exists in the released version of the watch. It remains to be seen whether it will be added through later firmware updates – Kreyos isn't saying.
Battery life is claimed at up to 7 days but in practice seems to last just over 24 hours.
Kreyos claims the watch is waterproof to beyond 5 meters. Several users have found that in fact it breaks immediately on taking a shower or immersion in shallow water (such as a bowl).
But the real kick in the nuts, according to the report:
Users report that the watch fails to keep time unless it maintains its Bluetooth connection to the smartphone. One user's watch was still showing the time from the previous night until he re-paired it.
Of course this report is only words on a page; we haven't had the pleasure(?) of testing a Kreyos Meteor to verify any of this. But a Facebook group of agitated backers has been aggregating evidence and disappointment, all while demanding a round of refunds. And a YouTube video provides firmer evidence of just how much went wrong, albeit in a pretty garbled voice:
We've reached out to both Kreyos and Indiegogo for comment; Indiegogo directed us to Kreyos on matters of hardware, and Kreyos hasn't responded. Meanwhile, Kreyos is firing out updates on its Facebook page, attributing waterproofing issues to a defective first batch, and suggesting the speaker might somehow get better with firmware updates.
There's also talk of an upcoming iOS app and other feature updates, but it's understandably hard to be optimistic when many of the initial 5,000 Indiegogo backers still haven't received their devices yet, and the ones who have seem to have been sent total crap. It's no doubt an uncomfortable position for all involved, but according to the scathing report, these optimistic early backers are getting screwed the hardest, especially considering Kreyos updated its Terms and Conditions to highlight that all Indiegogo pledges are non-refundable (which in fairness has always been true), even though earlier versions of the return policy were not quite so harsh.
And that's really the lesson here: crowdfunding is dangerous. You're not buying products, you're betting on an idea and some (often random) stranger's ability to have planned it well and to follow through. Sometimes it works out great! But sometimes you end up with a smartwatch that doesn't even know what time it is. [Kreyos backers lose faith via Android Police]