Saga Phone’s Rocky Journey: From Launch to “Bust of the Year”

In the world of tech, not every launch is a success story, and the Saga phone by Solana Mobile is a prime example. Known for catering to the crypto community, Solana Mobile, a division of Solana Labs, entered the smartphone arena with the Saga in April 2023. Initially priced at $1,000, the phone’s cost was later reduced in August, aiming to attract more users.

The Saga wasn’t just another smartphone. Equipped with a 6.67-inch OLED screen, 12 GB RAM, and 512 GB storage, it ran on the Snapdragon® 8+ Gen 1 Mobile Platform. The real standout, however, was its Solana Mobile Stack (SMS). This feature seamlessly integrated crypto functionalities into the phone, boasting a secure “seed vault” for private keys and a unique dapp store, free from the high fees of Apple and Google’s app stores.

Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana Labs, envisioned the Saga as a trailblazer in mobile Web3 experiences. But tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee, also known as MKBHD, had a different take. In his September review, he acknowledged the phone’s solid build quality but pointed out its average specs like the 1080p display and mediocre cameras. Its weighty feel and initial high price also didn’t help its case.

MKBHD, a respected figure in the tech community, is known for his detailed and insightful reviews. His content, ranging from smartphones to various gadgets, has earned him a substantial following. In his review of the Saga, he particularly critiqued the phone’s narrow focus on the Solana blockchain and how its features didn’t quite justify the price, even post-reduction.

Despite the criticisms, the Saga experienced a sales boost in mid-December 2023. Each purchase came with an airdrop of 30 million Bonk (BONK) tokens, tempting enough for the crypto enthusiasts to make the phone sell out. Solana Mobile celebrated this moment on social media, expressing gratitude to their community.

However, the celebration was short-lived. An inventory mishap with their distributor led to overestimation of available devices, resulting in unfulfilled orders and cancellations for suspicious activities. Affected customers were promised refunds, but the incident caused disappointment and confusion among the buyers.

MKBHD’s recent thread on the MKBHD Smartphone Awards 2023 brought more attention to the Saga. He dubbed it the “Bust of the Year,” highlighting its underwhelming camera, display, and battery life. He argued that its appeal was limited to Solana fans, which couldn’t overshadow its overall shortcomings.

In contrast, other smartphones fared better in MKBHD’s awards. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra won the “Best Big Phone,” while the Asus Zenfone 10 was the “Best Compact Phone.” The iPhone 15 Pro was recognized for its camera, and the Samsung Galaxy A54 for its value. The iPhone 15 Plus took home the Battery Award, the Honor Magic V2 was praised for its design, and the OnePlus Open was named the best foldable. The “Most Improved” award went to the Nothing Phone 2, and the “Phone of the Year” was awarded to the Google Pixel 8.

Featured Image via MKBHD’s YouTube Channel