The Brydge is a Bluetooth keyboard/speaker that transforms the iPad into a Macbook-ish creation.

You shove the iPad into two rubber hooks, which hold it tight through friction.

You’ll cringe a bit ever time your iPad docks, but they appear to be perfectly safe to use.

From the side, it almost looks like you have a small Macbook.

The problem is that the keyboard looks the part, but it doesn’t feel the part. Every bit of its texture and responsiveness screams knockoff.

And I’m not crazy about the fact that a rubber tab is pressed hard against switches and my camera lens, either, if I dock the iPad the wrong way.

The resulting device is like a clunky netbook (remember those?).

Co.Design

Kickstarting Great Products Is Hard, Even With $800,000

The Brydge is an iPad keyboard that reminds us it’s the little things that make great products.

Kickstarter is a place of big ideas by small teams. Big companies get bogged down by logistics and profitability, while passionate, agile talent can make the streamlined products customers want. That’s the tacit premise behind every hardware campaign on Kickstarter.

The Brydge was a perfect example of this. Now shipping to early pre-orders, the Brydge was a massively successful ($797,979) Kickstarter-backed Bluetooth keyboard that ostensibly turned the iPad into a Macbook. As the product description read:

Brydge’s aluminum body is machined and anodized so that it matches the look and feel of the iPad precisely. When paired together Brydge and your iPad appear to be two parts of the same device, blending style and functionality seamlessly. Unlike other products made of painted plastic in an effort to look similar to the iPad, Brydge does not fake it. Not only does it look good, but when held in your hands you can feel the quality craftsmanship Apple lovers demand.

I’ve tested out a review unit, and my only real critique--beyond the impossibility of pairing the Bluetooth speakers--is that the Brydge is exactly like every other Apple-stylized product I’ve ever tested. It looks great in product photos, but as soon as you actually touch it in person, you realize all the little things are wrong. The anodized aluminum has an uninviting, ever-so-scratchy texture. The keys have a strange amount of give, their plastic lacks suppleness and their edges are sharp. Plus, unlike a real laptop, the Brydge base isn’t lighter than your iPad screen, but it’s not much heavier, so it constantly teeters on tipping over.

In other words, the Brydge is in the same boat as just about every third-party product (many backed by mega corporations) that’s attempted to match Apple’s build quality blow for blow. It’s absolutely the sort of premium accessory you’d imagine seeing on the shelves at Best Buy: It’s mediocre.

So the Brydge is no scandal, and it’s no messiah, either--though it certainly seems a touch expensive for its quality at ~$200.

For Kickstarter, unrefined and/or overpromised goods are a real problem. Not so long ago, amidst a wave of bad press from outlets like NPR, Kickstarter enacted some new policies to remind “backers” that this was an investment (risk-oriented) site, and that products may differ from sales pitches.

Product renders and simulations were banned, since anyone can draw a flying car. And a risks section was added to each listing, requiring project leads to explain problems that could arise in producing their good. These changes certainly protect consumers--err, investors--but I’m not sure they solve the larger problem: Is Kickstarter a venue that encourages good designs to become great ones, or great designs to be scaled into incredible manufactured products?

The Kickstarter premise is all about big ideas by the little guy--it’s about rolling the dice to back the basement inventors and coffee shop designers, handing a pile of cash to the Thomas Edisons and Jony Ives who haven’t been discovered yet. But while the best ideas may be born from inspiration, they mature through perspiration. And Kickstarter, as inspiring as it may be as a platform, isn’t designed at its core to encourage refinement.

[Images: Mark Wilson]

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6 Comments

  • Dlaituri

    Of course there are always exceptions ...our Kickstarter project, the 1Q Bluetooth Sound System (http://www.kickstarter.com/pro... shipped on time and had excellent build quality. We pitched our product vision, backers enthusiastically supported us, we delivered, everybody won. Most important - our backers are thrilled and had a great time following the process.  

    Shortening the path between 'the little guy with an idea' and a 'supportive crowd' is a wonderful feature of Kickstarter, but it doesn't eliminate the experience requirement. Having an interesting idea is great, but shipping 1000's of them with great quality and on time is something else entirely. 

    Backers need to vote for experience when they get behind a project.

  • jmco

    Kickstarter and others like it are funding, usually, based on design by committee. 
    Design by committee never works.
    Apple is successful because it avoids this. It does new product design in house, using trained professional designers (with an overall director), by iteration, and its own interests. Not that of customers or people in a room who are questioned about an idea.

  • Killaz05

    You do realize that you are suppose to put the iPad in with the buttons up... The one picture with the caption saying you weren't pleased with it mashing the buttons make it sound like a design flaw but even with something like the logitech ultrathin keyboard, you put the buttons up. 

  • Pookie

    Seriously!?
    People actually demanded this??!

    BUY A LAPTOP!!!

    Anyways.. completely agree with all the other flaws of the product. The teetering thing made me laugh... what, no one actually tested this?? Although, to be fair, the monitors of the iMacs are just as bad.. constantly leaning down because of their own weight... 

  • drektion

    I think the problem for Kickstarter is two-fold: First, the 'backers' don't view their pledge as an investment to get an idea off the ground rather they view it as a retail transaction - they think they're buying something. The second part of the problem lies in the designer(s) inexperience or misunderstanding with manufacturing processes. Great ideas and concepts can quickly be scuttled by the reality of manufacturing (minimum quantity orders, poor understanding of injection molding processes, etc.) 

    Personally i'm glad that they've instituted further restrictions on what can be shown for projects seeking capital for manufacturing purposes. A render is not a prototype and is hardly representative of a final manufactured object. Giving a potential backer more knowledge of what they're 'investing' in up-front is a much better alternative to promising the universe and only delivering a tiny part of it, or at worst, nothing at all. 

  • Bsquires

    Exactly.  

    Design is but one element (1).  In my experience design is either: (a) the inspiration or (b) reactive.  In either case supply-chain and MANUFACTURING are critical elements (2) to bring the design to life.  And even more critical, yes it's true, is the go to market strategy (marketing & sales) element (3).  And since we are talking "critical" the MOST critical element at the end of the day is: will the consumer pay (4).  OK, one last critical element: will they pay again (5).  KickStarter shows backers #1 above, backers expect #2 above, as a backer to probably 20 'products' almost zero have evidence or understand #3, and as you point out most don't understand #2.  Yet via the KickStarter model we are guilty of #4, but have we seen any real evidence of #5??