Media & Services > User Experience Strategies Blog

Consumer Driven ZTE Smartphone Is No More

by Kevin Nolan | Feb 21, 2017

In a blog post on Kickstarter, ZTE has announced that it has killed off the ‘Hawkeye’ phone – the device which it planned to develop via a groundbreaking crowdsourced modelled dubbed “Project CSX”.

Project CSX was intended to turn the product development process on its head. In a typical design process, a company generates ideas, designs the product, builds the product and creates the brand identity. Companies typically will seek input from consumers after each step of this process, but it will be the company driving the initiative.

Exhibit 1: Typical Product Development Process
Design Process - Traditional

Project CSX – which was only announced at CES 2017 – aimed to leverage ZTE’s Z-community forum to generate ideas for a phone, thus putting the consumer at the heart of generating ideas, product design, building the product and creating a brand identity.  The idea was that this would resonate with the ZTE audience and give its customers a feeling that they had helped to design the new device.

Exhibit 2: Consumer Driven Development Process of Project CSX

Design Process - User-Centric

The name the first proposed product was ‘Hawkeye’ – a name chosen by Z-Community.  A team of designers won a competition and came up with two key features for ‘Hawkeye’ – scrolling based on eye-tracking and a self-adhesive case that allowed the phone to be stuck to walls and other surfaces.  The idea was to provide a hands-free experience for the user in multiple scenarios:

Exhibit 3: Key Features of ‘Hawkeye’

Eye-Tracking HMI


ZTE was hoping to raise $500,000 for its Kickstarter campaign, but pulled the plug with only $36,245 pledged.  The challenge that ZTE faced in coming up with a compelling innovation is something that all smartphone OEMs have struggled with over the last few years.

In Strategy Analytics’ view, it is no major surprise that the highlight features of ‘Hawkeye’ failed to gain traction with general consumers.  Our past UX Innovation research already identified that most consumers do not consider these features to be particularly useful or compelling.  In a previous benchmark evaluation of the Samsung Galaxy S4, conducted in 2013, only a few participants felt that Smart Scroll was a useful feature to have, while more than half of those users we asked to trial the feature struggled to actually it.  Samsung subsequently removed Smart Scroll from future devices.

It is clear that user-centered design should remain an important aspect of the design process.  Strategy Analytics has assisted many clients to successfully implement this.  We have facilitated concept development, design ideation, value proposition evaluations, design archetypes and CMF preference research for numerous clients in this space.

In our ongoing research, we have seen consumer enthusiasm for incremental UX improvements wane and a degree of apathy emerge towards product innovation.   We believe that innovation in future smartphones that will provide truly exciting experiences for consumers is likely to be led by new enabling technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence – and these are among the key areas that our User Experience Strategies research service will be exploring in depth and developing UX guidelines for in 2017.


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