ZTE's Crowdsourced Phone Gets a Name, a Price, and Needs Your Help Again


LAS VEGAS—Call it the Hawkeye, if you please. ZTE's Project CSX, a phone whose ideas have been crowdsourced from start to finish, now has a name, a mock-up, and some unique features. But the crowdsourcing adventure isn't over.

"The color, material, and finish will be decided on by users. After that, we'll do the software experience—people will be able to submit crazy ideas of what they want for a skin and apps," ZTE VP Jeff Yee said.

The Hawkeye's core idea is for a phone that can stick to a wall and be controlled through eye tracking and gestures. The phone itself won't be sticky; the stickiness will be part of a case that comes with the phone, Yee said. Now's your chance to choose the Hawkeye's color and software skin.

The mock-ups I saw here at CES (pictured above) are flat smartphones with 5.5-inch screens, but very different back designs. One has a flat, smooth, dark blue back. The other has a ridged green back, which reminds me of a gecko lizard—geckos stick to walls, of course.

The prototypes aren't totally faithful. The Hawkeye will have dual rear cameras, for instance, and they aren't on the current samples. Yee didn't provide many other clear specs for the phone, saying that it will have a "good battery" and a "nice screen," for instance. He also isn't totally clear which global LTE carriers it'll work on, although it'll work with AT&T and T-Mobile here in the US. That'll get straightened out soon, he said.

ZTE is also putting the phone on Kickstarter for pre-orders. It'll cost $199 unlocked on the crowdfunding site, which the company is just using as a shopping platform—ZTE doesn't need the funds to build the phone. It'll cost considerably more when it goes off presale.

"It's a chance for [buyers] to lock in a good price now. For ZTE, we've never taken pre-orders this early; we can have our supply chain based on pre-orders," Yee said.

But will consumers be willing to put down real money for a phone whose specs are this vague, before elements like the software skin are set? ZTE won't even specify which processor is going into the phone, which leads me to feel more than a bit concerned about how well the eye-tracking functionality will work. But Yee seems open to correcting his course as fan opinion warrants.

The ZTE Hawkeye is on Kickstarter now. The next phases of voting on body design and software will happen at https://community.zteusa.com/community/csx.

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