One headache haunting smart hardware manufacturers able to convince customers to pre-order their products is to meet the shipping schedule as promised. Unfortunately, the problem often affects most Chinese smart device makers, both big companies developing products with their own capital and small hardware makers raising money from crowdfunding sites.

T-watch, a smartwatch developed by Tomoon Technology, was opened up for pre-order in Sept. last year, promising to ship on December 22nd. Prompted by the endorsement of co-founder Wang Feng, who is also the CEO of game developer LineKong, T-watch snapped up nearly RMB37 million worth of orders. But its shipment has been delayed several times and there’s still no sign of shipping. Backers are becoming irate, demanding refunds from the company.

Smartisan, the ambitious smart phone startup, also had problems in meeting its shipping schedule and offered to refund pre-orders. A host of other domestic smart device makers have failed to their promised time frames, including big ones like Geak Watch, Xiaomi’s router, Qihoo’s child tracking bracelet, and startups like inWatch and Cuptime.

Shipping delay is nothing new to hardware users. Over 80% of the top-50 crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter missed their target delivery dates, according to a report by CNNMoney. Although not all of these projects are hardware-related, the data may to some extend indicate the time frame typical to crowdfunding projects.

Living in a world where everything is a Taobao-click away, Chinese people don’t like to pre-order items which need months of waiting. This mentality means that all the gadgets raising funds in crowdfunding platforms are nearing the production stage. However, neither this advantage nor proximity to the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen have helped, and Chinese smart hardware’s shipping delay rate is reportedly over 70%. The rising delay rate will inevitably be detrimental to customer trust and loyalty, which are essential sales components, especially to Chinese backers who are more sensitive to this matter.

Shipment delays can happen for a variety of reasons. Some teams have underestimated the complexity of the production process and released the product or launched crowdfunding campaigns when they are still in prototype. Unlike software, hardware usually takes a long time to make and bring to market because there are more procedures involved, like molding, testing, and certification. Moreover, many smart products adopt new technologies or new materials. Numerous small problems in multiple links will also result in delays.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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