R E V I E W – T E C H N O L O G Y
Shammi Syera Simin
These products were dead on their arrival.
Counting down TDA’s picks for top 10 biggest tech product fails of all time.
You knew it was coming: Microsoft’s 2007 OS Windows Vista is an infamous piece of tech ridiculed around the world, and for good reason. Although Vista was meant to be an updated version of XP, it offered little more than its predecessor and wasn’t compatible with older computer models. If you did manage to get it to run, Vista was horrifically slow and frustrating, causing many users to either stick with XP or jump straight to Windows 7.
“For an operating system that took five years to create, Windows Vista’s reputation went down in flames amazingly quickly,” writes the New York Times. “Not since Microsoft Bob has anything from the software giant drawn so much contempt and derision. Not every company lives to see the day when its customers beg, plead, and sign petitions to bring back the previous version of its flagship product.”
The Facebook Phone
Despite Facebook’s huge amount of success and popularity worldwide, the HTC First—also known as the Facebook Phone—received very little attention from the general public. The handset’s Android skin and Facebook-centric home were particularly unpopular with users, and so even though the phone was only $99, very few people invested. AT&T, the Facebook Phone’s exclusive carrier, even went as far as to sell the model for just $0.99 in a ‘temporary sale’.
In 2006, reviewers slammed the Zune (aka iPod’s ugly cousin) for software glitches, among other issues. According to Engadget,
“The only thing big about the Zune right now is the marketing campaign.“
In 2009, Microsoft opened an online media store that was criticised for being overly complicated. Business Insider reported that the iPod had claimed 76% of the market for MP3 players in the US, while the Zune held only 1%. The Zune is still hanging in there, but barely.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a phone launch like the Samsung Galaxy Fold’s. After just a couple of days, my review unit just…broke.”
And so did the units of several other people, because Samsung didn’t tell them to leave the screen protector on.
How Samsung thought this device was ready to launch at all, much less as such a high-profile device, remains a mystery to this day. The company reworked the design and re-released it later, but the damage was (literally) done.
“Folding phones may yet still be A Thing, but the first one landed with A Thunk.”
– Dieter Bohn
Before it was a failure, Vine was a glorious engine of culture. The looping 6-second-videos that the app pioneered became a launching pad for comedians and musicians, while also introducing countless priceless phrases and memes into the culture. Eyebrows on fleek! A potato flew around my room! Back at it again at the Krispy Kreme! No defunct social network is more fondly remembered.
Unfortunately for Vine, it was purchased in its infancy by Twitter, which might never have known what to do with it, and certainly never figured it out along the way. The New York based team languished while the Twitter team in San Francisco focused on more pressing problems, including a decade of unprofitability. Vine itself stopped growing when Instagram introduced videos, and advertisers and influencers abandoned the app, and it died in 2016 from neglect. It lives on as a series of compilations on YouTube with tens of millions of collective views, and in its spiritual successor, TikTok.
A “cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table.” That was how Elon Musk described plans for Hyperloop, a “fifth mode of transport” that he unveiled to the world after months of teasing in 2013.
The original white-paper outlined a system of pressurised tubes that would propel pods across the country at speeds of 700 MPH. However, the document proved to be little more than an elaborate back-of-the-napkin sketch, with engineers and transport experts pointing out serious structural problems in the plan, and noting that costs had been drastically underestimated.
A bevy of Hyperloop companies have so far failed to produce even a single mile of fully-operational track, and Musk himself has rerouted his ambitions to simply building tunnels for cars. Talk about going underground.
Faraday Future was at one point the most hyped EV startup in the world. It hired away top talent from the biggest tech and automotive companies by liberally spending its billionaire founder’s money, and at the same time, insisted on overwhelming secrecy. That combination fueled so much speculation about the startup’s intentions that, at one point, it was thought Faraday Future was a front for Apple’s own secretive car project. Many believed it would take on Tesla, or perhaps even take it down.
As documented in great detail over the last three years, Faraday Future is now more well-known for rampant mismanagement, sketchy financial dealings, and ceaseless drama. The company does still exist, but it has teetered on the brink for more than two years now, all without shipping one single car. And even if Faraday Future ever does put its gaudy, fast, screen-laden electric SUV on the road, the majority of people who worked on the car have already left the company.
Apple Butterfly Keyboard
Boy did Apple get it wrong with its ‘butterfly’ keyboard.
First introduced in the 2015 12-inch-MacBook and eventually used on the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. The butterfly keyboard is often held up as the peak (or more accurately, nadir) of Apple’s preference to emphasise form over function, as it was specifically designed to allow for thinner laptop bodies. But in doing so, Apple reduced the travel of the keys to a scant 1 mm, which many found unpleasant under their fingers, and the keyboard was significantly louder to type on compared to prior MacBook models or other laptops.
But those were just the tip of the failberg for the butterfly keyboard. Once the butterfly keyboard showed up in 2016’s redesigned MacBook Pro, it didn’t take long for owners to complain about sticking keys that would either not work at all or would type two letters at a time.
In typical Apple fashion, the company’s initial response was to deny the problem and instructed owners to use canned air to blow out any dust or debris that might be causing the keys to stick. Those that brought their computers to a Genius Bar were often met with high repair bills and long wait times, as the only way to “fix” the keyboard was to replace it entirely.
Google Glass debuted with skydivers. Yes, Google co-founder Sergey Brin stormed the stage during a Google event at Moscone Center in 2012 to bring viewers a livestream of skydivers wearing Google Glass, who wore the glasses while they landed on top of the convention centre.
These connected glasses would change the world was the conceit. And they could have, until they freaked people out so much that the entire device failed to ever take off. People wearing the glasses became “glassholes”; Robert Scoble alarmingly posed with them in the shower; and concerned citizens worried about the privacy implications of a camera staring at them at any moment.
Since it stopped shipping to consumers in 2015, Snapchat resurrected the idea of a camera in glasses with its Spectacles and dodged the fate of Google Glass. Meanwhile, Google kept its Glass dream alive with enterprise versions, but Google Glass’ shadow still hangs over every AR headset targeted at consumers. Maybe the world just isn’t ready.
More of a hoax than a business failure, Juicero Inc. is one of the best examples of how investors can get temporarily side blinded and waste money on fake tech. Juicero sold a $400 kitchen counter device that supposedly produced fresh, cold-pressed juice from vacuum-sealed bags sold separately.
In 2017, Bloomberg called Juicero’s bluff, showing readers the bags can be squeezed by hand to receive the same result as the damned presser. A day after the story was published, it was reported that Juicero was offering all of its customers a full refund. The company went out of business five months later.
Shammi is a high penguin who loves planners, highlighters, giant calendars, nice pens, to-do lists, and anything else that gives her the illusion that she’s getting her life together. She is also a part of TDA Editorial Team.