2016 Biggest Tech Flops
The year 2016 was full of failure. In politics, pollsters wildly misread voters in the UK and the USA. And in the tech world, there were many unpredictable (or at least unfortunate) events as well. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most impressive technology failures of 2016...
What Went Wrong in 2016 Tech?
Samsung’s flagship smartphone for 2016, the Galaxy Note 7, set the market on fire -- but not in a good way. Following 35 reports of exploding batteries, Samsung told everyone to stop using their Note 7 and return it for a replacement. But several replacements caught fire, too, so Samsung recalled all 2.5 milliion Galaxy 7s sold. Incredibly, some diehards held onto their ticking time bombs, so now Samsung and its carrier partners are pushing out automatic software updates that brick the phone permanently. What really hurt is that Samsung bought the faulty batteries from its own battery-making subsidiary.
If that wasn't enough bad news for Samsung, they also had a problem with their washing machines exploding. In November 2016, Samsung recalled almost 3 million top-loading washers after over 700 of them had exploded, and at least nine people were injured. Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, described the issue as a "very serious hazard of the top of these washing machines completely blowing off.” Thirty-four top-loading Samsung washers are affected by the recall.
Volkswagen gave its engineers an impossible mission: come up with a diesel engine that gets as many miles per gallon as gas-powered cars, and also passes emissions tests. You can’t do both at once, said the engineers. Just do it, said executives. So the engineers wrote secret software that disabled emissions-cleaning tech except when a vehicle was being tested. This cheat worked well for ten years, but after the scheme was discovered, Volkswagen owes over $14 billion in fines to U.S. authorities alone. Plus, VW is buying back hundreds of thousands of vehicles equipped with the cheating engine. The scandal widened recently when it was discovered that some vehicles made by Audi (a VW subsidiary) may also have emissions cheating software.
Yahoo ended 2016 with a huge black eye as well. In December, it was revealed that over one BILLION of its users’ accounts had been hacked, in addition to another 500 million breached accounts that were discovered separately in September. Even worse, Yahoo execs didn't tell their own security team about a secret email monitoring program that was installed to let the FBI monitor email messages flowing through Yahoo servers.
Also in December, I published Tech That Spies On You, which warns of toys, TVs and home automation gadgets that are listening to your every word. Some of these gadgets are recording, storing and transmitting your voice commands over the Internet without encryption. In a related story, police are seeking audio data from an Amazon Echo device that was used in the home where a murder took place.
More Flops, Fails and Frauds
Theranos, a medical unicorn beloved by Silicon Valley venture capitalists, turned out to be just a pony with an ice cream cone on its head. Headed by Elizabeth Holmes, the kind of young, blonde female that Silicon Valley desperately needs to boost its CEO diversity cred, Theranos promised an automated test for dozens of diseases and physiological metrics using just a tiny droplet of blood instead of the frightening vials that are usually drawn. Walgreens installed Theranos devices in dozens of its stores. But it turned out that Theranos had faked most of its test data, and could only test for a couple of metrics. The company was banned from lab work and so was Holmes, personally.
The $799 GoPro Karma drone was released on Oct. 23; on Nov. 8, GoPro announced a recall of all 2,500 Karma drones it had sold in just over two weeks. Karma drones were losing power and falling to the ground in alarming numbers. Other drone makers had worked through similar problems before they started selling lots of drones.
The official verdict isn't in yet, but I'm calling Apple AirPods a fail. The wireless ear buds created by Apple look like a cross between a bluetooth headset and an electric toothbrush. Because they are wireless, they have batteries that need to be recharged, and they're also extremely easy to lose.
The Internet of Things, better known as the IoT, is perhaps the biggest privacy and security hazard looming in 2017. In my article IoT Security News Just Gets Worse, I discussed the alarming lack of security in many home automation and so-called "smart" devices that can connect to the Internet. Webcams, baby monitors, DVRs, light bulbs, coffee makers, refrigerators, door locks, door bells, and other gadgets may leave you open to hackers, and facilitate devastating denial of service attacks.
Adobe Flash is a favorite target of hackers and malware writers because it's old, complex, and riddled with hidden bugs. So many critical flaws were found in Flash, that browsers are starting to drop support for it. I say it's time to stick a fork in it.
Remember smartwatches, including the messianic Apple Watch? Well, Apple is still in the watch game, but the Apple Watch is estimated to account for less than 6% of revenue and sales are falling. Other smartwatch pioneers, such as Fitbit and Pebble, are failing or have gone out of business. The Microsoft Band 2 was canned in October. The biggest fail in the smartwatch sector may be the market analysts; one estimates that global smartwatch sales are down 60% for the year, while another claims they’re up 40%.
It could be that gadgets are just doomed. In a New York Times article The Gadget Apocalypse Is Upon Us, Farhad Manjoo argues that the gadget age is over. It's an interesting perspective, and a good read.
The tech scene was littered with other failures in 2016. What was your personal favorite? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Jan 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- 2016 Biggest Tech Flops (Posted: 3 Jan 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved