YotaPhone 2 Cancels U.S. Version, Offers Refunds Instead

It’s easy to understand why gadget fans were interested in the Yotaphone 2: it’s an Android smartphone with a regular touchscreen on the front and an e-ink display that can display widgets or function as a power-saving regular screen on the back. When the company behind the phone announced in May that a U.S. version compatible with our LTE networks here in the US would become available, lots of people stepped up to place orders, including reader Steve.

The company used Indiegogo for the pre-order process, and took in almost $300,000. The first 100 backers could reserve a phone for $500 each, and they cost $525 each after that. They would be unlocked GSM phones which would work with T-Mobile or AT&T or compatible MVNOs on their networks, such as Ting or StraightTalk. Most importantly, unlike the phone’s international versions, it would be compatible with LTE networks in the United States. The phones were supposed to ship next month…and then the company dropped the bad news.

It’s important to note here that even though this was a crowdfunded pre-order process, the campaign was no sketchy crowdscam. Yota Devices is a fully-grown company that sells actual devices in other countries, and the YotaPhone 2 has been on the market elsewhere since May of this year. There were rumors that the company would be selling their phone through T-Mobile.

They sent this update to backers:

The reason for our cancelled launch is due to unforeseen delays including both production and delivery of the North American variant of YotaPhone 2 from our manufacturer. This despite spending months finalizing and securing the deal to bring to life the North American variant of YotaPhone 2, and when we launched this campaign we were confident our supplier would be able to follow through with their commitment. This was a shock to everyone at Yota Devices, and our leadership team, including our CEO, met with the manufacturer last week in a last-ditch effort to find a solution but the logistics were insurmountable and the device would simply arrive too late. In turn, we believe that the likelihood of a severe delay in these shipments would have created a conflict with our international road map for 2016, leaving Indiegogo supporters behind when customers in other regions will be offered a newer, cheaper and better YotaPhone.

A later update to the IndieGoGo page gave users two options. They can get a refund, or they can have the international phone shipped to them instead. The international version is the same device, but not compatible with the LTE that we use in this country.

While this is the most professionally-handled crowdfunding failure that we’ve ever seen, reader Steve, who let us know about this, pointed out one problem: they’re issuing refunds for customers who want them through Square Cash, a service that needs to be tied to a debit card to work. What if, like Steve, you don’t have a debit card?

Steve made his pre-order pledge more than two months ago, so disputing the charge on his credit card is out of the question. He’s asked the company whether customers who don’t want to use Square have an alternative option, and we’ve contacted them too. We’ll update this post if we hear anything.

UPDATE: The U.S. distributor of YotaPhone told Consumerist that they will make other payment options available, and told Steve that they can arrange to send him a check.

YotaPhone 2 won’t be coming to the US [The Verge]