2013 marked a particularly exciting year for technology. We saw the introduction of real, usable wearable technology, new smartphones and tablets that pushed the capabilities of what we can do right from our pockets beyond our imaginations, and even the introduction of some amazing new gaming consoles.
While it’s always fun to look back at the biggest trends, it’s also important to look back at the biggest flops of the year. After all, technology moves so quickly that there are bound to be some mistakes that we can learn from along the way. Without further ado, we present the biggest tech flops of 2013.
HP Chromebook 11 Charger
Talk about a hot product! Recalls are pretty common in general, but it’s not that regularly that we see a piece of technology called back to manufacturers. Even more worrisome is when the recall involves potential dangers to the end user. That’s exactly what happened this year with the HP Chromebook 11, an entry-level notebook running Chrome OS. Google and HP ultimately recalled the device after it was discovered that the charger was prone to overheating and could possibly cause a fire. The companies alerted all users and warned everyone not to use the device at all. Thankfully, a new charger is already on its way out and retailers are starting to stock a corrected version of the notebook.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
We applaud Samsung for at least trying to make a smartwatch, but the Galaxy Gear is a flop from a usability perspective. The battery will hardly get you through a full day if you want to actually take advantage of all of its features. It also hit the market with only one supported device, the Galaxy Note 3, and a sky-high price tag that put the cost up there with a brand new phone or computer. The industry largely reacted with negative reviews, though Samsung is hopefully learning from its early mistakes and will push out a newer, more useful model in 2014. This time, however, Samsung may face competition from new entrants such as LG, maybe Apple, and even the Pebble smartwatch, which is becoming more powerful by the week. Oh, and dare we mention that creepy, creepy Galaxy Gear commercial that just started airing? Ugh.
Most pundits thought Apple was going to introduce a new iPhone that would appeal to the masses at a super budget-friendly price point. The device could have theoretically helped Apple build a stronger consumer base in emerging markets, too. Instead, Apple released the iPhone 5c, essentially an iPhone 5 with a literal new coat of paint and a plastic shell. The market reacted differently than Apple expected, of course, with most people choosing the far more powerful iPhone 5s instead of the iPhone 5c. A report in October suggested that just 27 percent of all iPhone sales were for the iPhone 5c, while 64 percent of sales were for Apple’s flagship iPhone 5s. Rumor has it that poor iPhone 5c sales even caused a stall in negotiations with China Mobile, though those problems were eventually ironed out.
Amazon’s Prime Air “Drone” Service Marketing Blitz
Amazon took the world by storm when, on 60 Minutes, CEO Jeff Bezos introduced a new mode of delivery that he promised the company was looking at to use in the future. The idea was Amazon Prime Air, which could take advantage of drones to deliver packages in about a half hour from any of Amazon’s nearby distribution centers. Of course, the FAA has yet to even finalize its plans for drone use in the United States, and it was quickly discovered that Amazon wasn’t even allowed to film its catchy ad for the service here in the U.S. Most pundits quickly called it a marketing ploy; Amazon was able to use prime TV airtime to talk about its products and services right during the busiest shopping season of the year. As we learned recently, it must have paid off, as Amazon had a record number of Amazon Prime sales.
Target Loses 40 Million Credit Card Numbers in Hack
This just happened ahead of the holidays, but it goes to show that you’re not safer by shopping in stores as opposed to online. Target revealed recently that hackers gained access to 40 million credit card numbers from shoppers who were in Target retail stores during the busy Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping season. Since then, several reports have suggested that some credit card numbers are being sold on the Black Market, and affected customers have been notified. Target apologized and issued a 10 percent discount in its stores for one weekend… though we that’s not going to help anyone who had their identity stolen.
NSA’s PRISM Spies on All Of Us?
We don’t get too involved with politics at TechnoBuffalo, but early accusations that all of the major tech companies were providing NSA with free access to private data certainly caused a scare. Most companies have since denied any “back door access” to NSA’s PRISM program, though we do now know that companies such as Yahoo, Google, Apple, Microsoft and even U.S. wireless carriers do provide data on customers when requested. Sometimes the data is more complete, if the government is suspicious, while at other times it’s meta data that makes it hard to identify a specific person. Even still, there was a lot of lost consumer trust, and most companies are still trying to convince us that we’re all still safe.
Xbox One Always Online and DRM Worries
The key to a successful launch of any product is to make its features super easy to understand. Microsoft botched that when it started to tell consumers what they could and could not expect with the Xbox One. First, Microsoft said that the console had to always be connected to the Internet and that it wouldn’t support the ability to lend games or trade them in. That caused an uproar, particularly among gamers who don’t always want to be online, or who might not always have access to the Internet. Worse, plenty of gamers love the option to buy games and then trade them later toward the price of a new game, and Microsoft said it was going to stop that from happening. Thankfully, after much uproar, Microsoft took a step back and said that it would remove any requirement of an Internet connection and that there will be “no limitations to using and sharing games.”
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Active Not That Waterproof
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 was an exciting product when it was announced. It was basically a watered-down (pun intended) version of the Galaxy S4, though with a more rugged design that promised to allow users the ability to dunk it in water. Unfortunately, actually taking the device in the pool left users with broken phones, errors regarding the 3.5mm headphone jack still being in use, and more. AT&T eventually decided to offer a one-time exchange for customers who had damaged the phone, though Samsung never provided a new version that fixed all of its issues. For most, the phone quickly became the Galaxy S4 Inactive.
Microsoft’s Crazy Steve Jobs Commercial
Talk about poor taste. We understand when companies like to go after one another’s throats with advertisements that focus on the strengths of new products, but Microsoft hit Apple below the waist earlier this year with an ad campaign that was aired in poor taste. The ads, titled “A fly on the wall in Cupertino,” depicted an emaciated figure that looked strikingly like the late Steve Jobs through a series of seven commercials. Microsoft eventually pulled the ads and admitted that they were aired in poor taste, but the damage was already done. Microsoft had not only upset Apple fans, but technology enthusiasts who hold the late Steve Jobs in the utmost regard.
There are plenty of other blunders out there. Remember when Twitter changed its blocking policy only to revert it four hours later? These, however, stand out as some of the biggest mistakes made this year. Like we said, these aren’t necessarily always bad – at least they can be considered learning lessons for moving forward.