Another year in the books! (Almost). As such, we’re taking a look back at the biggest flops in consumer technology for the year.
We’ve done this annually. It’s interesting to see which companies are getting better at reining in poor products, and which aren’t. This year, Google had practically no flops. And Apple had just a few minor errors. Compared to years past, this is really good. Google in particular seems like a much more disciplined, more focused company today than ever before.
Then again, in sports there’s a saying that goes, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” The tech equivalent would be, “If you ain’t failing, you ain’t trying.” A few flops here and there are good—it means you’re trying something new. Not everything is going to work, and you can’t be scared to test out new ideas.
15. Microsoft’s CEO succession planning
We’re not quite sure how to frame this one, but there was something weird about Steve Ballmer’s retirement. He says he’s leaving of his own accord, yet he put plans in place for a radical reorg of the company just a few weeks before he announced his retirement. And, Microsoft didn’t have his replacement lined up, so it’s been out there trying to figure out who is going to run the company next. This process has been odd, and stilted.
14. The Google Barge
Google was working on a mysterious barge in the San Francisco Bay. Initial speculation said it was going to be a floating data center. Later reports said it would be a storefront for Google Glass. Now, it looks like it might not be anything because Google failed to get the proper permits for the barge. The multi-million dollar project is now under investigation.
13. The iPhone 5C
Sales of the iPhone 5C appear to be weaker than expected. There have been multiple reports of Apple cutting 5C production in favor of the iPhone 5S. For Apple’s business, this is a good thing. But, it’s perplexing. We’re not sure why Apple did the 5C. Maybe it becomes clearer in the future.
12. The television industry’s attack on Aereo
Aereo is a new way to watch TV. It transmits broadcast channels to your tablet and phone. Big TV companies are not happy about it, so they’ve been trying to sue the company into oblivion. Thus far, their lawsuits have done nothing but bring attention to the company.
11. Apple’s twee advertisements
Apple released very serious advertisements this year about why it does what it does. The ads were a hit with Apple employees and Apple bloggers. But for normal people, they were off-putting and cold. The ads didn’t last very long.
10. Yahoo’s new logo
Marissa Mayer was personally involved in the design of Yahoo’s new logo. Maybe she should have stayed away.
9. Payments startup Clinkle
How does a company that has yet to launch a product land on a list of flops? By raising a massive seed round of financing, releasing a pretentious, vague promotional video, and then laying off a huge chunk of its staff. If you’re an investor in Clinkle, you have to be nervous.
8. Yahoo Mail redesign
Users really don’t like Yahoo’s Gmail-esque redesign. Yahoo stripped away features users liked. The redesign was bad, but what’s even worse is that Mail has had problems staying up, and Yahoo’s response has been bad.
7. HTC One
The HTC One is a great phone. It might be the best Android phone on the market. And yet, no one is buying it. HTC, which was at one time the biggest Android phone company, is in a tailspin. The One was supposed to save it. It failed.
6. The Surface RT
Microsoft took a $900 million charge on the Surface. Not sure we need to say much more.
5. BlackBerry 10
BlackBerry 10 finally launched this year. It was a total failure. No one wanted it. As a result, the company spent the year trying to sell itself, then changing its mind about selling itself. The CEO is gone, and the company is now considered an ancient relic.
4. The Moto X
Motorola’s Moto X is a good phone, but it’s been a flop in the market. It’s barely selling despite a massive marketing push from Google/Motorola. We’re not sure what Motorola can do about this other than keep trying to improve its product, and hope that eventually consumers come around.
3. Facebook’s Poke App
Snapchat has made a mockery of Facebook this year. At the end of 2012, Facebook tried to crush Snapchat with Poke, which was a clone of Snapchat. No one used it. So, if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em, right? Snapchat rejected a $1 billion offer from Facebook. Then it reportedly rejected a $3 billion buyout offer. Not a good look for the mighty Facebook.
2. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear
Woof. That’s all we can say about Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, a smart watch that was supposed to work with its smartphones. The Gear was a big flop, and Samsung is already working on a second version. A Samsung executive speaking at our conference likened the Gear to a not-yet ripened tomato. Kind of a bummer for anyone that paid $300 for the Gear.
1. Facebook Home
Facebook Home was supposed to be Facebook’s big attempt to take over Android. It was a downloadable skin for Android that turned an Android phone into a Facebook phone. When it launched, people thought it might be so successful that Google would block it. Google didn’t have anything to worry about. Home was a total bust, and no one used it. We heard Facebook is back to the drawing board, and hopes to have a better version of the product out next year.
See also: The Most Underrated Apps of 2013