The POP portable device charger attracted one thousand backers on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, it finished its campaign without the approval of the most important backer of all: Apple.
On Thursday Edison Junior, the technology startup that received almost $150,000 in Kickstarter funding to produce its innovative gadget charging station, announced that all production on POP had ceased because Apple had denied it permission to use its new Lightning charger on its accessory. The refund will be the largest in Kickstarter history, per Wired; Edison Junior is out over $10,000, and its CEO is not happy with the Cupertino company who killed his project.
Here's what doomed the POP: Edison Junior ran into trouble when Apple introduced the new Lightning charger in September with the iPhone 5. The Kickstarter page had reached its funding before that date and had proposed to include four iPhone chargers and four micro USB chargers used by most BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone devices. But once the Lightning charger was announced, Edison Junior changed the design on the POP to include two Lightning chargers, two of the old iPhone chargers and the four micro USB plugs.
Apple, which has been notoriously strict in licensing its Lightning technology to third-party manufacturers, said no.
In a lengthy letter to all backers (printed on the tech site GigaOM), Edison Junior CEO Jamie Siminoff said Apple had informed him that it had rejected POP's design, apparently because it is not allowing any manufacturers to place a Lightning charger on the same device as the old 30-pin charger.
As a result, Edison Junior will refund money to all of its Kickstarter backers, which means that it's stuck with credit card processing fees and Kickstarter's cut from the funding. All told, Edison Junior is out about $11,000, not to mention time lost and money spent on prototypes.
Edison Junior is trying to get some of that money back from Kickstarter, but it's still a lot of labor and money for a young company to absorb.
You can read Siminoff's letter below (via GigaOM):
I’ll never forget the moment when our campaign passed the $50,000 goal and our dream of powering dying batteries became tangible. Our promise was simple: provide a portable charger that was capable of charging ALL of your devices including the anticipated iPhone 5, which at the time, had yet to be released.
When Apple officially announced the move to Lightning we determined the best course of action was to incorporate two Lightning chargers, and two 30-pins (along with the four micro-USB’s). After applying to Apple (which is now required for Lightning), we learned that they are no longer willing to approve a product that uses the Lightning charger alongside any other charger (including their own 30-pin – seriously). Just like that, POP could no longer fulfill its true promise.
As we struggled with Apple we realized that Kickstarter did not have a mechanism for refunding everyone their money. Since we are not willing to compromise and build a crappy product, refunding the money is the only acceptable thing to do.
This sparked the idea that crowdfunding of physical products needed a place that was built around the intricacies they present, so a few weeks ago we launched our own crowdfunding site, Christie Street. Built from the ground up around product, Christie Street is designed to handle needs that can arise from products – such as refunds – in order to prevent compromised products from being delivered.
In order to process your refunds efficiently we are going to set you all up with Christie Street accounts, and there, you will be able to process your refunds. Since payment processing has little to no room for error, we still have some final testing to do before we can send out the instructions, so the plan is set for mid-January. Conversely, had we manually sent out the refunds to all 1,000 backers the process would probably have gone longer.
Providing full refunds means we will have to absorb a hit for both credit card (3%) and Kickstarter fees (5%) totaling over $11,000. Today we asked Kickstarter for the 5% fee they collected based on the circumstances, however regardless of their decision YOU WILL RECEIVE 100% OF YOUR MONEY BACK.
We don’t believe in selling a substandard, compromised product that only satisfies the needs of a few backers, as that was not our promise. So we can’t thank you enough for your incredible support and awesome feedback – we hope to collaborate again with you soon. If you have any issues please email me directly.
All the best,
P.S. If you know anyone at Apple please send them coal for their stockings, on behalf of us :)
In an interview with VentureBeat, Siminoff was a bit more bellicose than his smiley sign-off:
“We are pissed [at Apple],” Edison Junior CEO Jamie Siminoff told [VentureBeat] on the phone today. “I think they are being a bunch of assholes, and I think they’re hurting their customers.”
Apple did not respond to a request for comment on this story, nor has it commented publicly on the matter yet. (Update: Apple responds below.)
Reading the POP blog, which tracked the progress of the product for backers, you can sense the growing desperation and hopelessness from the Edison Junior team as it tangles with Apple and intermittently expresses hope that it will approve the use of the new charger. Here is the final blog post, from the end of November, after almost two months of waiting on Apple's judgment:
It is so frustrating but we have still not heard back on our approval from Apple. We are saw a few more things come back for other customers in the factory this week. A few were rejected and a few were accepted. The good news is that the accepted ones were very close to our project in what needed to be done with Lightning. So while we are frustrated with the delay we are more and more optimistic that when we hear back it will be a positive response.
Alas, that was not to be, and now POP is powering down for good.
You can visit the original Kickstarter page for the POP portable charger here; a video of the device (without the offending Lightning chargers) is below:
Update: Apple released the following statement to HuffPost regarding POP:
Our technical specifications provide clear guidelines for developing accessories, and they are available to MFi licensees for free. We support accessories that integrate USB and Lightning connectors, but there were technical issues that prevented accessories from integrating 30-pin and Lightning connectors, so our guidelines did not allow this. We have been working to resolve this and have updated our guidelines to allow accessories to integrate both 30-pin and Lightning connectors to support charging.