You may have read about the hyped ‘frank’ smartphone project lately, a $180 Android device with decent hardware, from a couple Canadian entrepreneurs, one of them being 17-year old Ottawa teen Moe Omer.
The teen’s project made bold headlines recently, as his ‘frank’ phone was apparently read to take on Apple and Samsung, with their crowdsourced Indiegogo goal set at $250,000 USD. So far, $48,360 USD has been raised by 255 backers.
Here’s the frank phone’s overview according to their backer page:
It’s about time to disrupt the shit out of the North American smartphone industry because let’s be honest, it’s just not frank that the Big Guys charge $1,000 for a product that only costs around $150 to make. frank. comes packed with high specs at a low cost just for you!
But the phone, which was sent to some early ‘testers’ with Android Marshmallow software from 2015, has come under scrutiny as being just a rebadged Chinese smartphone from Leegoog, available on e-commerce site Alibaba.
Before anyone considers plunking down $180 or more on a ‘frank’ phone, go read the scathing takedown of the project by Android Police’s Corbin Davenport:
If you just hate reading and you skipped all the way to the end for the conclusion, it’s simple – don’t back the Frank phone. You’re simply buying a generic Android phone that already exists, with the promise of support from a student going to college and his youth leadership coach.
The site’s founder, Artem Russakovskii has also been questioning the project on Twitter as well.
He's going to run a company on his class breaks, you guys. With support, s/w development, distribution, design, etc. all done by unicorns.
— Artem Russakovskii (@ArtemR) September 5, 2017
Kickstarter does not allow projects to be funded that are rebadged devices from another manufacturer. At one point, ‘frank’ phone tweeted it was ready to launch on Kickstarter, but later said it switched to Indiegogo, because “We made the shift when we were offered a better promotions package with Indiegogo and thought it was worthwhile to get the help,” said ‘frank’ co-founder Fahd Alhattab.
Honestly, the whole project sounds too good to be true, after reading more about frank phone. Developing hardware and software when it comes to smartphones is not easy and requires a lot of capital.
The project reminds us of now-defunct Chill Telecom, which was hyped and promised unlimited 4G talk, text and data in Canada.
If Canadians want a cheap smartphone, go ahead and buy one from Aliexpress or Alibaba. Just don’t expect hardware or software support. You do get what you pay for, compared to what you spend for an iPhone, or even a device from Samsung (that is if it doesn’t explode).
iPhone in Canada reached out to frank smartphone via email, asking them about these allegations, but did not hear back as of publishing. We will update this post accordingly.
Update: ‘frank’ responded to iPhone in Canada, with the following statement via email, when asked about their Chinese Android phone and design:
Custom moulds are tens of thousands of dollars to design, produce and manufacture so no, our phone isn’t designed from scratch. We went to manufacturers with our designs and since we couldn’t pay for custom moulds, they offered us existing phone moulds that matched our designs and requirements as close as possible. We did thorough testing and worked with many different manufacturers and with prototypes of what was available (that matched what we needed) and we made adjustments to it accordingly. We have a quality assurance engineer who worked for Blackberry for 7 years on our team to make sure everything is up to our standards. We are working with other engineers to make sure all software is done properly, we recently upgraded to Android 7.0. and we’re actively working to maintain updates.
You can buy the mould we’re using on Alibaba but the MOQ to purchase is 3000 phones so it isn’t available to consumers, clearly.