ZTE's Crowdsourced Devices Include a Sticky Phone, Power Glove

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ZTE has narrowed its crowdsourced device submissions down to three, and they include a sticky phone, a waterproof VR headset, and a power glove.

Notably missing from the list of top choices for ZTE's "CSX" project, which will result in Web users picking a gadget for the phone maker to produce next year, were the first and third most popular choices: a phone running the Ubuntu Touch OS and a phone that's mostly like the Axon 7 but better. But ZTE VP Jeff Yee warned last week that the options would be thinned out by a panel of experts focusing on innovation.

"I posted a few blogs trying to get people to think out of the box and I got, 'you should design a smartphone with a Snapdragon 830 chip,'" Yee said. So now the company three devices that aren't like anything else out there.

The top three ideas, plus a "wild card" idea, now go to the design phase, where users of community.zteusa.com offer up clearer ideas of how these gadgets will work and be built. They're going to have to tussle with questions like: how do you get the sticky phone to only be sticky sometimes? (Because, ew) and, what kind of components do you put into the diving mask to make it work well while you're swimming?

Concept designs are due on Sept. 30. Eventually, the winning design will get handed over to an exclusive team at ZTE to build, Yee said, and it'll come out sometime next year. "If it's a smartphone, it might be December ... if it's something simple, it might be March," he said.

I'm typically very skeptical about crowdsourced hardware, but that's because crowdsourced start-ups generally don't have hardware experience. ZTE CSX flips the crowdsourcing model on its head: the only ideas that make it through, at the end, will be devices that an experienced hardware company is confident it can make.

"It has to be a mobile product, it has to be something we can deliver by 2017, and it has to be affordable," Yee said. "Now we have to get down to the nuts and bolts of, can we do it?"

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