The Superbook promised to be a technological masterpiece that would turn your smartphone into a laptop. But WTF happened to it?
The Superbook was revealed back in 2016. In a very successful Kickstarter campaign, creator Andromium Inc. showed a device that could turn your Android smartphone into a laptop for as low as $85. The idea was simple: Install Andromium’s custom launcher on your smartphone, connect it to the physical Superbook shell via USB and voila! Your phone is now a fully working laptop.
Despite renowned tech manufacturer ASUS’ repeated failed attempts to achieve the same1, people obviously have bad short-term memory. When the campaign ended on August 20, 2016, 16,732 backers had pledged $2,952,508 to Andromium Inc.
Then, in classic Kickstarter fashion, the waiting started.
All Ahead Full!
For a while, though, everything seemed to be on track. BackerKit surveys were sent out, Andromium hired new team members, and they went to China to monitor the production process.
In December, 2016, the backers got the first signs that things didn’t go quite according to plan. The expected shipment date was pushed from February 2017 to June the same year. There were several reasons for this, among them modifications to the production pipeline, and a significant component price increase. But against all odds - at least in Kickstarter terms - the first 500 Superbooks were shipped in June as promised. Andromium also rebranded, and the company is now called Sentio.
Exactly how well the units in the first batch worked is hard to tell because the Kickstarter updates following the batch shipment are for backers only. But the feedback found elsewhere on the internet is probably a good indication. People complain about flimsy hardware, battery problems, bad screens, and unusable trackpads.
Call It Version 0.1
Sentio continued to post semi-regular progress updates to Kickstarter, and in February 2018, the first mass produced batch of the Superbook was shipped from China. When the batch arrived in California, it turned out the trackpad on quite a number of the Superbooks had come lose during shipment.
Although I didn’t pledge to the Superbook campaign, I very much liked the idea. A month after the campaign ended, I wrote a lengthy post about the Superbook, praising the product. But being the realistic optimist I am, I decided not to pre-order the Superbook, but rather wait for a couple of reviews of the finished product.
I’m happy I did just that. The last update from Sentio was 6 months ago, in October 2018. The comments on every single Kickstarter update are by angry people who have not yet received their Superbook. A couple of small time YouTubers have posted reviews of the Superbook, but as far as I can tell, not a single Kickstarter backer has received a fully functional Superbook.
Is it Over?
I honestly don’t think the Superbook was an intentional scam. The Andromium/Sentio team put way too much time and effort into Kickstarter updates, the websites, pictures, videos, and the Sentio Desktop app for that to be the case. Instead, a group of young, aspiring entrepreneurs had a great idea, but faced a lot of bad luck, made some terrible hardware partners, and bit off way more than they could ever hope to chew.
Using real, paying customers as beta testers when you’re dealing with hardware is really bad idea. As opposed to software beta testing, you can’t upgrade the product. Your only option is usually to replace the entire unit with a new version, which is immensely expensive.
As it seems now, the Superbook is dead in the water. It’s a failed product. Sentio should throw in the towel, and admit defeat. Sure, a lot of people will get angry, but that’s the risk you take when raising money from crowd funding.
But Wait, There’s More!
If this tale of a presumably failed hardware adventure didn’t scare you off, you might want to have a look at NexDock 2. With 4 days left of the Kickstarter campaign, the NexDock 2 promises to be pretty much the same as the Superbook. It’s considerably more expensive, though, but in this case, that might be a good sign. A higher price tag could mean higher quality hardware - or just more overhead.