Google Glass and 9 Other Epic Tech Flops
Everyone loves talking about tech innovations. The latest gadget or service released by a hot startup gets even non-techies buzzing. As fun as it is to discuss tech’s greatest successes, it’s more amusing to talk about the biggest failures. Not only do we get a chuckle out of how poorly executed an idea was, but we can also learn what went wrong.
In the last two decades, there wasn’t a flop quite so big as Google Glass. Where did Google go wrong on this one? And what are some of the decades other biggest tech failures?
Why Did Google Glass Fail So Badly?
There’s no doubt Google has been one of the world’s biggest tech innovators since the turn of the millennium. The company has rolled out countless products over the years, with many successes – but also some failures. Google Glass was one of those Google products that got a lot of hype, achieving “next big thing” status, but it never got off the ground.
What the Glass developers thought would be a world-changing product actually raised major privacy concerns. Plus the glasses looked silly. Nobody was willing to fork over the $1,500 for a pair of glasses that could spy on you, so the plans were scrapped in 2015. Google Glass did release enterprise versions, but they never caught on with average consumers.
Google Glass is one of the most memorable tech fails of the last several years, but it’s not the only one worth mentioning.
1. Microsoft Zune
The Zune was Microsoft’s answer to the iPod. Trying to compete against Apple, the Zune was doomed from the start. A buggy interface, clunky design, and software glitches didn’t help. As of 2010, the iPod had 75 percent of American MP3 player market share, while the Zune had only 1 percent. Some were surprised it even lasted that long. Alas, Zune was no more by 2011.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 7
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s initial reviews were sparkling. Critics loved the smartphone and consumers gobbled them up – until they started catching fire. Just two weeks after the August 2016 release, reports that the smartphone burst into flame were circulating. The phones were even banned by the TSA. Samsung ended up recalling all the phones and caught some pretty bad press for the whole debacle.
An igniting smartphone isn’t the most dramatic tech flop on this list. A flaming hoverboard is. These slow-moving platforms on wheels didn’t “hover” as the name promised. But kids and teenagers rode them around everywhere anyway. The boards turned out to be poorly constructed and tended to burst into flame while kids were riding them. Once that revelation hit, it didn’t take long for consumers to abandon hoverboards. At least Samsung has been able to recover from its blazing failure; hoverboards don’t appear to be making a comeback anytime soon.
4. 3D TV
In the 2010s, 3D TV was supposed to change the face of home entertainment. 3D films managed to capture our imagination – and out wallets – at the box office, so why not in our living rooms? Transferring the technology wasn’t successful, though. People didn’t want to wear 3D glasses at home and screens weren’t quite wide enough to produce the full 3D effects. People never took to it and manufacturers stopped pushing them.
Handheld gaming devices took off in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and every company wanted a piece of the action. Not every device did as well as the Gameboy, but none did as poorly as the Gizmondo either. The device supported games as well as music and movies, and included GPS. The $299 price tag (which included ads!) didn’t make it appealing and it got bad reviews. The company later filed for bankruptcy and one of the directors was found guilty of embezzlement.
JooJoo was one of the first tablets, intended for web browsing. The partnership between Fusion Garage and TechCrunch, the two companies behind the tablet, dissolved before it was released. JooJoo was also launched a mere days before the Apple iPad. If infighting and competing against Apple weren’t enough to seal this product’s fate, the interface and the software weren’t well received by critics or consumers.
Another Google product to make it on this list is the now defunct social networking site Google+. It launched in 2011, and was Google’s response to Facebook and LinkedIn. The social site didn’t distinguish itself enough from its competitors however. The only reason the service had so many users was because Google tied it to its other platforms. Google+ hung around until 2018, when the company had a massive data breach. Although some good Google products did come from it, like Google Photos, Hangouts, and Meet, Google+ never caught on.
8. The Fire Phone
Fire seems to be a theme on this list but this tech flop has nothing to do with conflagration. Amazon’s Fire Phone failed because it was a crappy product. The software was bad and the phone was no more than a conduit for pushing Amazon’s other products. Critics and consumers saw through the attempt, and the Fire was put out when Amazon took a $200 million hit.
Theranos was supposed to revolutionize medicine by creating an accessible blood test you could do with a finger prick. The product seemed promising and the startup was valued at $9 billion at one point. But CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes was exposed as a fraud – the company’s proprietary blood tests weren’t real and she had faked her results with standard blood tests. Holmes was later indicted for fraud and is set to stand trial in July, 2021.
With innovation comes failure
If you never try anything new, you’ll never know what will succeed and what will fall flat.
If these stories teach us anything, it’s that something can always go wrong in tech, no matter how good your idea is. Google glass was a failure, but it wasn’t the only massive tech flop in the last 20 years — and it certainly won’t be the last.
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