Indiegogo shuts down Frank phone campaign

Indiegogo has shut down the Frank phone campaign only a couple weeks after it went live, citing “a violation of [Indiegogo’s] Terms of Use.” Oh, the Frank phone. It had a short but controversial life.

The creators of the Android device marketed it as a smartphone market disruptor. They were attempting to subvert phone manufacturers by bringing an affordable phone to North America without any carrier bloatware, yet with specs people would want. Android Policedisparaged the phone when it launched, essentially saying it was a scam as you can find a nearly identical version on Alibaba. This makes sense given that the team partnered with a manufacturer they found on the site, but this also technically made the phone a commodity. That’s likely why Indiegogo removed the campaign, although the company wouldn’t give a specific reason when we contacted them.

Frank’s creators attempted to remedy their PR nightmare, particularly in an interview withThe Verge, but I guess that didn’t matter to Indiegogo. The Frank team’s use of Alibaba was also an open secret among crowdfunders. (The site provides plenty of gadgets that manufacturers already know how to make without a way to get to market.) Backers will be refunded, Indiegogo says, but the device definitely won’t ship.

Do I think the Frank campaign should have been taken down? I don’t. These kids — one of them is a teenager — tried to sell a boring Android phone, and people got upset that it already exists in a Chinese factory. Indiegogo was probably just doing its own version of image control by taking the campaign down.

Plenty of sketchy crowdfunding schemes exist, and plenty of people have ended up backing a gadget that never shows up, but with a built-in manufacturer, Frank actually had a solid chance at pleasing backers. No one could afford to buy this phone in bulk on their own, and Frank served as a matchmaker for phone enthusiasts. That’s harmless to me.