Getting ripped off on the internet is nothing new, people have it happening to them every day on eBay and the likes however when it happens to you it makes you stand up and pay attention.
On this occasion it hasn’t happened to me, thankfully, however it has happened to a very good friend of mine and that along with some terribly poor communications from myself to Italian newcomer I’m Watch has prompted me to highlight the issues customers are facing.
It’s worth noting that I am not angry that we didn’t get a review unit like promised by I’m Watch, at Land of Droid we often don’t get review units, this is the nature of the review industry. This is more to raise awareness of a company with very unethical practices.
Lets start off at the beginning then, the new comer burst onto the scent with an amazing looking product and ahead of Sony and Motorola in the smartwatch field too. Not only was this watch innovative, it actually looked good too.
When they first announced the watch I personally was very excited and contacted their PR team for a review unit, infact this was in July of 2011 (yep that long ago) to which I was advised that there would be review stock available after they attended an Expo however after no review unit appeared I contacted them to ask if all was OK and express that I felt they could communicate with people a little better. It’s worth noting at this point (November) that pre-orders were live.
The response from their Press team came back:
I’m really disappointed in reading your email, cause we get in touch many times by email. I’m forwarding you below some of our correspondence dated 24.10.11 (this is the last one)
The reason why i havn’t replied to your email of November is because I’ve never received it. I’ve searched on the mail and I’ havn’t found. Probably it has been detected by the antispam.
As per our correspondence, I’m used to reply to all the email I read and receive. And i’m connected real time to the emails also at 2.30 am, as today. and for me it’s a pleasure to send all the infos to the press.
That been said, the reason why the company didn’t decide to send out the units in November, right after the Arm conference, is because they realized that i’mWatch should be improved in terms of technology and apps.
They prefer to postpone the testing in January right after the CEs event, the official launch.
Now all the team is in Las Vegas (presentation was yeaterday) and the samples collection is there.
Next week they will be back and I will have a meeting to understand the delivery procedures they want to adopt.
Hope to have clarified.
Jump a few months forward to January 20th and I’m Watch is officially unveiled at CES where it wins the Innovations Award and again heightens its pre-orders and hype.
Still no review unit.
Fast-forward a little to the 7th of February, my friend orders one via the pre-order system on the I’m Watch website and is charged immediately:
Dear [Name Ommited], we are pleased to inform you that your order is being processed. In order to receive your i’m Watch, please perform the next steps to complete the payment by clicking on the link below: http://www.imshop.it/payoff.php?[url ommited] For further information and/or receive assistance during the transaction feel free to contact us at email@example.com or by phone +39 02 92958778. We will be at your disposal. Thank you and best regards,
Fast-forward again to 16th of May, by this time I had given up hope if ever receiving a review unit and forgot all about them whereas my friend got another email from the team:
Dear Customer, we appreciate the patience you’ve shown so far regarding the delivery of i’m Watch. We are aware that you have encountered some inconveniences and that, above all, you were not able to use a device that grows every day further interest around the world.
Unfortunately we have verified once more the validity of that saying: "The best is the enemy of the good!"
What do we mean?
We want to tell you today with great transparency and humbleness that, not only have we met all the difficulties of an extremely innovative and ambitious project (and the unforeseen events that have surpassed any logical expectation), but we have especially given into the temptation of implementing some modifications in order to increase and improve the adaptability of i’m Watch towards the future development of technology (for example, enabling it to handle a larger number of apps than initially expected). All of these factors brought us to lose precious time and, particularly, has prevented us from providing you some certain dates for the delivery.
But we are now able to define them as follows, taking into account that we intend to conduct a last serious testing program with our customers:
1) By June 15th we will provide i’m Watch to a group of 300 customers, who will cooperate with us for a final and ultimate check, to be completed by July 15th. We will ask them to give regular feedback on their experience, which will be reported in a public blog on the website www.imwatch.it in order to allow you to follow its evolution as well.
2) Starting July 15th we will begin to ship the product to all those who have an unsent order. We expect to fulfill the delivery for all current orders within and no later than September 15th.
Given that we understand that you might have lost interest in the purchase, we decided to offer you the following possibilities:
• Giving up the purchase and requesting an immediate refund of the paid amount, providing by July 15th an e-mail to the following address, if you are residing in Italy: firstname.lastname@example.org, or to the following: email@example.com if you are residing abroad.
• If instead you are willing to wait until the expected date of delivery, you will receive at the delivery a 15% discount on the price paid.
We thank you for your cooperation, very confident that i’m Watch will fully meet your expectations.
Manuel Zanella and Massimiliano Bertolini President and CEO of i’m Spa
Now let’s not forget this is 4 month since my friend placed his order and maybe even 6 for others who ordered in November 2011 when pre-orders when live.
The use of words like “extremely innovative and ambitious project” make it sound like they didn’t even have a product to sell but more of a concept of a project and a few prototypes yet here they were selling them to costumers… and not for low prices either, the cheapest I’m Watch is the I’m Colour variant which is 299 Euros.
Of course even with me saying they had a prototype they were now saying they were going to ship out 300 I’m Watch’s to customers “who will cooperate with us for a final and ultimate check, to be completed by July 15th. We will ask them to give regular feedback on their experience, which will be reported in a public blog on the website www.imwatch.it in order to allow you to follow its evolution as well.”
whoa! wait up! So you are shipping devices which people have paid the full retail value of only for them to be testers? Should this not have been done pre-go-live or even earlier?
So what where I’m Watch telling these customers?
we would like to inform you that we started shipment of the first 300 i’m Watch today, 15th June 2012. These 300 units will allow 300 customers (selected by earliest reservation dates) to take part to the smartwatch final test.
In the following days, you may visit support.imwatch.it where you can find all comments and queries concerning the features and operation of the i’m Watch. So, you will become part of the validation process, keeping track of all comments and news released by our staff.
On this occasion we would also like to inform you that regular shipments of all other orders will start from 12th July 2012, as planned. Finally then, you are about to receive your i’m Watch and, as we promised, 15% bonus on your purchase order.
Thank you again for choosing i’m Watch and for your trust and support in this project.
Manuel Zanella and Massimiliano Bertolini
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of i’m S.p.A.
Yep, customers who paid the full money were now part of a feedback project and despite getting 15% off their order (44.85 euros) they still didn’t have a finished product.
Now at June 18th and I’m Watch post a new item on their support site:
The 300 testers now had a place to file bug reports and read the latest news or download updates to the device (again, is this really after sales stuff?).
It’s worth noting that the device still couldn’t access a market or handle SMS notifications at this point (eh, the point of the watch no?)
Move forward 7 days now to the 25th of June and I’m watch release their first software update focussing on”better in call audio quality” and “reducing resume from sleep delay” but still no sign of a market or SMS notifications.
So how were they progressing with the other bugs on this retail watch?
Seems like there are quite a few though to be honest and in their defence, being a software tester myself, there are always a lot of bugs post go live with any new software.
I decided to contact I’m Watch PR again to see what was happening and express again my disappointment in communications
where did you read that we started shipping the watches?
We published an official communications that states exactly the "art of work" . Only 300 selected customers (that pre-ordered the product) received the watch for testing. Below you can find the official press release written by the 2 founders.
ANY samples has been sent to press yet, as we don’t want to influence customers while testing the product. Customers, that has waited long time to receive the watch and it’s reasonable to have doubts or concerns. But we are totally so sure about the product realized that we decided to create a public forum where people and real customers can say if the product is worth or not. I think you can imagine the risk for a company to activate this strategy completely uncommon.
So to sum up, selected customers who pre-ordered this smart watch were now part of a QA team who processed bug reports for the company, the remainder who pre-ordered have to wait until maybe September before getting their devices even though the company have had their money for almost a year by that point.
If you want my advice, and please remember that it is my advice then you will stay well clear of this company who have obviously went down the same route as Pebble by getting money first and shipping later with the major difference being that at least Pebble done it the right way through Kickstarter.
Shame on you I’m Watch, just glad I’m Not A Customer