Remember Saygus? We got an exclusive sit-down with founder and CEO Chad Sayers

Remember Saygus? We got an exclusive sit-down with founder and CEO Chad Sayers

It has been roughly 18-months since we have written anything about Saygus. You remember Saygus don’t you? It’s okay if you forgot about them.

I forgot about Saygus too, until I found myself in Salt Lake City, Utah on other business (not mobile related, but cutting edge science, from which I am fortunate to be part of a very small group of people to benefit from). Late last year, I was driving down the Interstate-15 freeway en route to Provo when I saw a big Saygus logo on the side of a building, the company’s headquarters. I reminded myself that I would have to check out their digs when I returned to Utah.

Revisiting CES 2015


Saygus was all the buzz at CES two years ago, the company had earned an innovation award and its smartphone proposition at the time was very promising. The Saygus V2 (aka V-Squared) was everything any enthusiast could want, top spec Snapdragon 801, front facing speakers, high-resolution cameras, and premium build with actual buttons. I got to have some hands-on time with engineering builds of the device at CES, and the package, given the mobile landscape at the time, was impressive.

All the pieces seemed to be in place, the company was set to open pre-orders within weeks of CES, with promised delivery by that spring. Pre-orders opened, as promised, less than a month after everyone cleared out of Las Vegas.

And then…


Nothing. Nothing happened after some exciting coverage. The order process was not the smoothest, but it also was not a disaster either. Order receipts were sent out, and eager customers waited, and waited, and waited.

A short while later, Saygus sent out an update saying that shipping had to be pushed back. That was probably not a surprise to anyone with a reasonable assessment of a company trying to break into the highly competitive smartphone market with a spec-leading device. However, shipping got pushed again. Then it was pushed again with a hope to begin deliveries by the autumn of 2015.

For those that offered up $550 to pre-order, the delays were hard to accept. The company allowed refunds from pre-orders, but even that option was not ideal because what enthusiasts really wanted was the V-Squared.

Sadly, the second half of 2015 and all of 2016 would pass with only sporadic, non-specific updates.

Let’s just walk in for a visit


After lunch and the middle of the work week, an empty receptionist desk greeted me. Was Saygus open for business? Yes, although a beehive of activity, the offices were not.

After lunch and the middle of the work week, an empty receptionist desk greeted me. Was Saygus open for business? Yes, although a beehive of activity, the offices were not.

As it happened, I was due for a follow-up to be prodded by scientists, radiated by CT technicians, and exsanguinated by doctors in Salt Lake City. I made a point to set aside enough time for me to stop by Saygus’ headquarters and see what’s what.

It was hard not to generate a preconceived notion of what I would see when I walked in. The building is small-ish office complex, with multiple tenants. Saygus was the “anchor tenant” with its branding on the building, and it occupied the whole fifth floor.

The elevator doors opened, and as I stepped out, I was met with silence. I looked to find the receptionist desk behind a set of glass doors empty, with a little sign that said, “Out for a bit, please call…” If it had been lunch hour, that sign would have made sense, but it was 3:30 in the afternoon. Were the doors unlocked?

We’re in


You can imagine how this write-up might have gone if the offices were locked in the middle of the business day, in the middle of the week. Thankfully, the doors were unlocked, so I stepped in, and called the number the placard noted. I listened to the office phones ring, and then no one answered. However, I could hear voices in discussion somewhere down the hall. It turned out they were coming from the conference room, so I knocked on the door and lo-and-behold, there is Chad Sayers, the founder and CEO of Saygus.

I wasn’t in the mood to try and ambush, and in fact, he remembered me from CES two years before. He asked me to wait a few minutes while he finished his meeting.

Saygus founder, Chad Sayers, is acutely aware of the firestorm over delays, but says not delivering is not an option.

Saygus founder, Chad Sayers, is acutely aware of the firestorm over delays, but says not delivering is not an option.

“Have we failed? Yes.”


I asked point-blank after listening to some of the decision points that were made over the past two years, “At what point do you sh** or get off the pot so you can finally begin building and shipping?” Chad responded frankly, “Have we failed? Yes.” It is not often you hear direct ownership of a situation like that. Not only did Chad say that, he also made a point for me to quote him. Of course, he added that he and the team have learned from these failures.

Why has it been so problematic for Saygus to get its V-Squared handset built and shipped? In 2015, it was the manufacturing partners and the design of certain components. “My biggest concern was getting [the radios] right,” Chad said.

Saygus had to switch ODM (original design manufacturer) partners a couple times, and ultimately lined up a small in-house team to make things happen. Of course, that process added time to the project since it required being able to develop proficiency in the manufacturing process.

Other challenges stemmed from the UI, a thin layer over Android, but that was just stomping bugs. Apparently, rigging a smartphone to accommodate a second microSD card reader presented a new set of challenges. Saygus also designed its own board to run things underneath which introduced problems. Minor redesigns were required with the antenna set-up. By themselves, these are not necessarily severe problems, but cumulatively, the result has been a predictable tempo of moving the timeline ever-farther to the right as other players arrive on the scene with new concepts (like the Nextbit Robin), and deliver to market.

Renewed promises


Not bringing a product to market is not an option according to Chad. The V-Squared is the sole focus. The V-Squared seems to be finally poised to clear the FCC, and be ready for AT&T and T-Mobile networks (suggested to be ready in a matter of weeks). Indeed, Saygus is confident it will generate renewed enthusiasm when it finally has things ready.

What about the hardware? The Snapdragon 801, as solid a CPU from Qualcomm as it is, is basically at the end of its life. Saygus promises a lofty, free exchange for V-Squared owners. Sometime after the current-spec model is released, those that pre-ordered will be able to trade in their V-Squared for a new device with beefier specs, namely a Snapdragon 820 CPU (same device, upgraded components). We will not share the suggested timeline as it was simply not believable given the past two years (though if it is fulfilled, I'll write a mea culpa).

The V-Squared now


I got to look at the latest pre-production unit. It was running Android Marshmallow, and the UI is a light skin overall.

I got to look at the latest pre-production unit. It was running Android Marshmallow, and the UI is a light skin overall.

I got to play around with one of the newer pre-production models of the V-Squared. It is remarkably light, the dual-SIM and dual-microSD slots are there behind a removable backplate (with a removable battery). USB Type-C is present as is a headphone jack. There is a dedicated camera button, power/lock button, and volume buttons. The fingerprint reader is flush, just below the power button. Indeed, it was notable progress inside and out compared to the engineering demonstration units I saw at CES in 2015.

The UI flowed well. In my limited time looking through things, there were no glaring omissions in the experience. The 5-inch display looked great, the UI allows for a 5x5 app arrangement on the homescreens, and there are two front-facing speakers. The potential of the V-Squared is still a compelling package, even today with the older chipset.

Expectations


I was excited about the V-Squared two years ago. I am still excited about it today, or the idea of it anyway. OEMs seem to be abandoning all the little things I loved about the past couple generations of smartphones, with front facing speakers being one of my favorite features. Other users have long desired to have the ability to remove and replace their phone’s battery, and have dual-SIM capacity, the V-Squared fits that bill too. Many of those features have been left by the wayside by just about everyone.

Since Saygus presented the promise of the V-Squared, we have seen not one, but two new generations of devices, plus the emergence of a new premium segment with a $400 price-tag. Is there room for a new player with a $500-600 device? Can Saygus pull it off?

Those that pre-ordered the device should have known there would be an inherent risk when backing a small company trying to make a big impact. Delays are to be expected, delays are common. A barrage of delays that continues for two-years is something else.

I won’t lie, despite my excitement, and despite the reassurances from Chad, I continue to maintain a healthy level of cynicism. The pattern of broken promises stemming from broken timelines over the past two years is impossible to ignore. The company’s communication to its customers has been nothing short of a disaster. Chad knows this, his company endures a continuous onslaught of flames from customers and onlookers on Twitter. If you spent $550 to pre-order a V-Squared, and you still hold out hope, your anger is certainly justified.

Despite all that, I still want a V-Squared.

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22 Comments

1. kiko007

Posts: 7379; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

What's that? The king of vaporware lives? LONG LIVE THE KING!!!!

2. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3925; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I remember this phone, it was interesting. SD820 is a little dated now so any price over $399 will ruin this phones rebirth.

16. KingSam

Posts: 1281; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

They shoulda start making budget phones first then go flagship. They lack the expertise clearly.

3. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2204; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I'm sorry, but I just don't see them lasting that much longer unless they produce a successful product quickly. You start to run out of money pretty fast when you haven't produced a product in 2 years, have a building you're leasing with your name on it, have employees with benefits you have to pay, and having to put the money down to actually pay for the manufacturing of the devices.

11. DGxumbreo7

Posts: 63; Member since: Nov 27, 2016

"you don't start a business unless you can buy it 3 times over" professionals tip. By the way even though they bombed this release I still think they can muster up something by 2019 to get a good name out. Maybe not the v-squared but new device

4. PryvateiDz

Posts: 439; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

@Phonearena "Saygus promises a lofty, free exchange for V-Squared owners with a follow-on V-Squared handset equipped with a Snapdragon 820" What does that mean? It's hard to decipher that. They would only send replacement with the 820 if u had the 801 & wanted 821? or they will release another version of it (like the OnePlus 3t to the 3), after releasing the version with the 801 processor?

9. Maxwell.R

Posts: 218; Member since: Sep 20, 2012

Edited and clarified. Saygus is stating that a beefier spec-ed version of the phone will follow the initial release, and pre-order customers will be given a free upgrade to the new device via simple trade.

15. PryvateiDz

Posts: 439; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

Yeah ,got my answer last night at dev. erhard last night. Didn't see your moment, so I commented to you, just not as a reply. Thanks for the clarification though. You can delete the other comment.

5. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1261; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

So they intend to bring to market a phone 2 years late? Dayum.

18. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

Technology is changed a lot in these two years. No need for two sd cards now. They can put 256gb internal storage with 256gb sd card support. Xiaomi is an example, you can buy 128gb storage Xiaomi models online in a great price. Saygus should use Helio X30, it is cost effective, 10nm and a lot better than sd801. Sd801 was even a joke in 2016 and we enter in 2017 now. There are sd650/652/653 to use. Which perform better than sd810. There is no point to stick with the R&D for sd801. Even a cheap chinese company can deliver a similar phone with Saygus V2 in 4 months. I wonder why Saygus cannot?

23. chipster

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 11, 2017

Probably because the cheap chinese phone manufacturer bought up the parts inventory to stop others from completing orders. Just a WAG...

6. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

you forget to mention the worst part... it didnt even use android as promised, it use failfish OS

7. Rafishant

Posts: 389; Member since: Oct 13, 2015

Saygus isn't Turing. Don't mix.

8. Rafishant

Posts: 389; Member since: Oct 13, 2015

People were stupid enough to believe this scam from start

10. Punchy506

Posts: 129; Member since: Jan 10, 2016

The receptionist was in a meeting with the CEO? That's weird.

13. fancollo

Posts: 130; Member since: Dec 30, 2015

they get "positive" articles for at least having tried. if this was a chinese company, it would be like going against satan.... saygus is a negative example of how companies should be RADICATED!

14. PryvateiDz

Posts: 439; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

I found my answer out on dev . erhard last night

17. ShadowHammer

Posts: 188; Member since: Mar 13, 2015

Huh, I was curious if Saygus was still around, and what happened. They must be so in the red by now that they all look like vampires. I liked the concept of the phone when I heard about it, although the 5" screen wasn't that appealing. Best of luck to them.

20. inkdrink

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 03, 2017

So how much are you being paid to shill for them? You just wandered in one day and had a chat with the CEO? You still want a V-Squared despite their constant lies on social media, their obviously faked and mocked-up photos of demo units, their continuous delays for licensing and FCC approval that never go anywhere and are always "taking longer than they anticipated?" Their promises of OS and software updates for hardware that is so out of spec at this point that those promises are literally impossible because the support is no longer there? The fact that they are fucking YEARS late on a phone that people paid upfront for that was always vaporware? I have never seen a more blatant example of a company scamming people out of their money and then running away with it, only to produce some half-assed demo photo every 6 months to keep people toeing the line. I had respect for PhoneArena up until about 30 seconds ago, now I think you're trash.

24. chipster

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 11, 2017

The photos are of real phones. I used one. For three days. The problem is getting the OEM, and parts to make them....contracts don't seem to mean jack in many places overseas...

21. chipster

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 11, 2017

I am one of the few who has held a real V2-801. It existed 2 years ago. It was awesome. A dream phone. So why dont you have one? Because the off shore manufacturers have scrambled Saygus around like a croquet ball. Competitors bought out parts so Saygus couldn't manufacture. Off shore designers promised and didnt deliver. These are the nasty things that well meaning US innovators face with out of country reliance on manufacturing. I have seen it many times. And the US company gets screwed and blamed. It looks, to me, like the V2 835 will be out in the next few months. Will I buy one? You bet. Replace my Iphone 6s. Please.

22. chipster

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 11, 2017

Again, just to address the 'scamming' issue--if you have contracts with offshore ODMs and OEMS and they screw you in favor of larger customers,'borrowing' the innovation (lets entertain this as an explanation), and crying sudden lack of parts, then who exactly, is the scammer(s)? Off shore manu's making US innovators into perfect chumps...and you, conveniently, blame them...when the real culprits remain anonymous. Name the biggest OEMs and ODM with HQ's in Asia and the Indian Ocean, and start your investigation there....

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