This summer, Canonical tried to raise $32 million for its Ubuntu Edge smartphone, a high-powered device meant to close the gap between mobile devices and desktop computers. It failed, despite raising the most funding — $12.8 million — of any Indiegogo project to date.
“The Quasar IV is really like the fourth generation of mobile devices. First you had the brick phone, then you had the feature phone, and now you’ve had the smartphone for the last decade,” says QSAlpha CEO Steve Chao. “And now we’re moving into a new category, which we call the superphone.”
The so-called superphone was built around QSAlpha’s proprietary encryption logic, Quatrix, to become “unhackable.” “This is going to be, on the communications side, the most secure phone in the world,” Chao says. (It occurs to me that calling a phone “unhackable” is like bragging about creating an impervious armored car: Even if you’re right, someone’s going to try their damnedest to prove you wrong.)
The Indiegogo campaign is meant to net QSAlpha enough funding to begin manufacturing the Quasar IV, which is expected to launch in early 2014. And, of course, there are the usual reasons companies turn to crowdfunding: free marketing, built-in pre-orders, and a rabid “crowd” willing to support an unproven product.
But, as The Verge reported in August, many Indiegogo projects fail to secure funding. Only 10 percent of projects meet their funding goal; 80 percent fail to raise even one-fifth of what their creators hoped. (The Quasar IV was originally supposed to debut on Kickstarter, which has a higher success rate, but issues with PayPal and international pledges forced the project to Indiegogo.)
Chao remains hopeful. ”Looking at the Ubuntu Edge campaign that ran before us…there’s an enormous amount of interest in smartphones,” he says. “I don’t know about the convergence of computers and smartphones, but smartphones have a built-in consumer base.”
That’s assuming that the so-called superphone manages to differentiate itself from every other Android-based smartphone on the market, of course. Chao admits that most consumers probably won’t notice the difference between the Quasar IV and other device. Instead, he’s betting that app developers and more security-conscious users will espouse the device’s virtues to their blissfully ignorant friends and family.
And, given increased scrutiny of proprietary encryption and security measures after a series of revelations about the NSA’s ability to compromise such systems — either by brute force or by convincing companies to install backdoors into their software — that consumers trust that any device is truly secure. (They shouldn’t.)
If the Quasar IV is able to beat the “Indie no-go” curse and succeed where the Ubuntu Edge failed, if it’s able to convince potential backers that its device offers security in a time when essentially every other device is compromised, and if it’s able to then use those backers to convince carriers and consumers that the Quasar IV is better than other products, the “superphone” might become a reality. That’s a lot of “ifs,” though.
[Image via the Quasar IV's Indiegogo campaign]