Top 20 Biggest Tech Product Fails
These products were dead on arrival. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Biggest Tech Product Fails.
For this list, we’re looking at the most infamous and disastrous tech product flops in history. We’ll be excluding the implosion of WeWork, which was more of a real estate service than a tech “product” - although yes, that WAS a disaster of truly epic proportions!
When it launched back in 2016, the Juicero Press promised to deliver “the best juice ever”! At least, for anyone who could afford the $699 price tag. Yeah, you heard that right. 700 bucks for a juicer! Then again, it WAS Wi-Fi connected - yaaaaay [unconvincing] … Investors, including Alphabet Inc., sank $120 million into the company. But slow sales led Juicero to reduce prices to $399 … which is actually still really expensive. Then, in April 2017, a Bloomberg story revealed a surprising discovery. You could just SQUEEZE the juice packs into a glass. Without paying $400 to have a machine do it. Humans are lazy, but not THAT lazy, and Juicero shut down later the same year.
#19: Samsung Galaxy Fold
In 2019, foldable phones were supposed to revolutionize mobile devices. And maybe they still will. But the initial launch of the Samsung Galaxy Fold did NOT help argue the case! After the phone was unveiled in February 2019, people couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. The first reviews were decidedly mixed, however. While praising the performance, reviewers criticized the device’s overall fragility, in particular the plastic coated screen and gaps that let in dust and water. CNET went so far as describing the inside as “toy-like”. Not really what you want from a $1,980 phone. Pre-orders were cancelled and refunded, and Samsung has since made improvements; but don’t expect the Galaxy Fold to “reshape the future”.
Even before this tablet’s launch in 2010, developer Fusion Garage was under a cloud of negative press. The device was originally the brainchild of TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who called it the CrunchPad. But Fusion Garage decided to just cut him out of the deal, leading to a massive lawsuit. When Fusion Garage released the tablet anyway, the JooJoo was universally panned for its criminal lag, five-hour battery life, and un-creative interface. Further criticized was its failure in portability, thanks to unwieldy dimension specs. As a result of poor sales, and litigation, the JooJoo ultimately gave Fusion Garage their own short battery life when the company filed for bankruptcy a few years later.
#17: Sinclair C5
Marketed as a one-person “electrically assisted pedal cycle,” this now-retro looking tricycle takes the shape of a pod straight out of an ‘80s film’s vision for the future. Designed with portability and space-friendliness in mind, the Sinclair C5 was advertised as an alternative to cars and bikes. However, in the end, the C5 was impractical for consumers due to its low speed range, shoddy weather endurance, and awkward control scheme. This led to poor reviews and even poorer sales, and finally a cease in production less than seven months after its launch. It then notoriously became known as “one of the great marketing bombs of postwar British industry.” Ouch.
#16: Palm Foleo
Designed to be what would’ve been the market’s first netbook device, Palm’s simple, slick, and ultra-convenient laptop was a complete failure at launch. Announced in 2007, this Linux-based subnotebook was built to serve as a companion for Palm Treo users, featuring the same email, organizer, and web-browsing software the phones were noted for. A little over three months after its announcement, the Foleo ceased further development following a multitude of negative reviews from critics and a drastic decline in the company’s revenue in the face of the smartphone wars. Meanwhile, in 2009, the Treo was replaced by the Palm Pre, which, despite initial promising sales, eventually led to Palm’s acquisition by HP.
Named after its developer, this social networking site was founded on the same premise as every other one in existence: to stay in touch with family and friends. At one point one of the most visited websites in America, Orkut appeared to be well on its way to replacing MySpace, which in the mid-2000s was a very big statement. However, as controversy began to stir around the site for its concerns with privacy, fake profiles, and hate group pages, the site dwindled in popularity, seeing a massive drop in active U.S. users. This would lead the site to lose the battle with, well, every other social media platform, and eventually Orkut was totally shut down in 2014.
#14: The Apple Pippin
When you think of classic '90s gaming, Apple doesn't exactly spring to mind. The Pippin technology platform was licensed to Bandai Company Ltd, which advertised its Bandai Pippin model as a gaming console. However, they sold less than 50,000 units… so it isn't that surprising. Depending on your point of view, the system was either an overpriced console or a cheap computer. Stateside, the system offered just 18 titles, but it did offer players the opportunity to connect to the internet, or as it was known at the time, “the 'net”. Unfortunately, very few people had an internet connection up to the demands of online gaming, making the Pippin a pretty useless purchase and underwhelming experience.
#13: Betamax [aka Beta]
Long before the DVD slayed LaserDisc and Blu-Ray crushed HD-DVD, there was the first home video format war: Betamax vs. VHS. Introduced in the U.S. six months after its release in Japan, Betamax involved a six-inch-wide videocassette that was much smaller and lighter than its VHS counterpart. Initially, it drew attention with the console’s home recording capabilities. Still, despite Betamax’s superior image quality and smoother console engineering, it was ultimately VHS that was crowned as the victor by consumers, mainly for its superior playing speeds and longer running times.
As the company’s fourth attempt into social networking, Google+ was founded with a slightly different take on keeping in touch by allowing users to group friends, photos, and communities into circles. That said, it was basically Google Wave with a new name, new interface, and removed features in place of less-than-innovative new ones. In 2018, a massive security breach exposed private data from over 500,000 accounts on their website, leading Google to begin a multiphase shutdown process. As of July 2020, all applications connected to Google Plus were replaced by a new Google product called Currents.
#11: The Apple III
Complete failures are quite rare, but Apple found a way to do the improbable. Replacing the Apple II, the Apple III was meant to push the company into the business sector; instead, this faulty device led to near financial ruin. Partially due to Steve Jobs' inflexible demands and instructions to not include a cooling fan, the device suffered from overheating and would break down after a couple hours of use. This was particularly problematic since it was targeted towards businesses rather than hobbyists and enthusiasts. Software for the Apple III was also scarce, and the computer got dismissal reviews right out of the gate.
#10: Amazon's Fire Phone
Following the astonishing success of their Kindle Fire e-book readers and Fire tablets, Amazon looked to further expand their Android-based Fire OS family by setting its eyes on the cell phone market. Announced as an AT&T-exclusive in mid-2014, Amazon’s take on the smartphone came with several neat innovations, including the "Dynamic Perspective" feature for apps and games and "Firefly" - a text, sound, image, and object recognition tool. Nevertheless, the Fire Phone was met with underwhelming reception and sales. Thus, it was quickly dropped by retailers and even pulled off of Amazon’s own store the following year. Not so hot for a device with fire in its name.
#9: dMarc Broadcasting Acquisition
Never even heard of this company? You're not alone. Anticipated by Google to grow from its $102M purchase price, dMarc was supposed to be the brand that would finally get Google’s stagnating radio advertising initiative to spread like wildfire. However, wary of Google's dominance in online advertising, marketers and radio companies were reluctant to work with the company, so the unit floundered. Despite being one of the more promising startups, Google's woeful integration made dMarc fizzle, even though remnants of it were eventually integrated with Google’s AdSense program.
#8: The Backfiring Clone Licensing
With Microsoft dominating the PC market by licensing out their Operating System, Apple tried to close the gap by doing the same thing with their Macintosh. The idea was to provide a cheaper means for consumers to get used to Apple's system, but the clones were often more advanced than the Macintosh computers. Unlike Microsoft - who were mainly into software - Apple's decision just resulted in an oversaturated market that threatened to leave them in the dust. With Motorola preparing to launch their Mac-based G3 powered StarMax 6000, Apple opted to stop the licensing program to save themselves.
#7: Philips CD-i
Most of us remember Apple’s video game console fail - The Pippin, and, who can forget Nintendo’s dreadful attempt to pass off the Virtual Boy as a quote-unquote portable console? However, the biggest out-of-character product-fail is none other than Phillips with their Compact Disc Interactive. Has anyone even heard of this? Panned for its graphics, game titles, and controls at the time, it has been consistently ranked as one of the worst gaming systems ever to be put on the market. Intended to, ahem, compete with fourth gen giants like Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, the CD-i was ultimately a commercial failure that caused Phillips to lose over a billion US dollars.
#6: Blockbuster Total Access
Created in response to the then-rising media empire that is Netflix, Blockbuster Total Access was built with convenience in mind. Carbon-copying Netflix’s DVD-by-mail strategy, Total Access also permitted subscribers to return their rentals to a brick-and-mortar location in exchange for new titles in or out of their queue. However, despite surpassing its subscriber quota, the program quickly failed because most independently owned Blockbuster franchises declined to honor the service. One major franchisee even took the company to court, alleging that Total Access breached contract terms. Throw in a patent infringement lawsuit from Netflix and you’ve got quite the product-fail drama worthy of a film adaptation.
#5: Apple Maps
To compete with Google Maps, Apple released their own version in 2012. While things eventually improved, Apple Maps got off to such a rocky start that the company's CEO publicly apologized. The application's biggest issues included misspelled place names, an inability to differentiate from cities that shared names, out of date information about stores and places of interest, and completely wrong locations and directions – pretty damning problems for a map app. Famously, the app left several users stranded in a hot Australian park 40 miles from their intended destination; while Ireland’s Ministry of Defense had to warn consumers that a non-existent airport was showing up near Dublin. Apple would eventually fix over two million errors in the app. So yeah, huge FAIL.
Even the world’s largest computer company isn’t safe from the occasional ouchie, what with its track record of flops that includes the Spot Watch and the Kin. But who can forget the Zune? Despite impressive reviews from critics and users, Zune’s entrance into commerce came at a time when its primary competitor, guess which one, had already established a borderline-monopolized foothold in the market. This, coupled with inferior marketing strategies, mediocre software support, and a lack of innovation, sent the Zune straight to flopsville, with the devices pulled from production in 2012 and the remaining services retired in 2015.
#3: Google Glass
So far, we’ve covered tablets, laptops and gaming consoles, but who would’ve ever thought that eyewear would find its way onto this list, and from Google no less? Though certainly an innovative and dandy device, the Google Glass prototype was ultimately a failure for its not-so wallet-friendly price tag, lack of special features, and the legislative actions it sparked due to privacy and safety concerns. Moreover, the product failed to impress most users, with many calling the device more of an intricate eyesore than a convenience. Google announced they’d cease production of the prototype in early 2015 – and though the company plans on continuing to develop it – as of early 2016, Google Glass is one of the fastest product flops ever to be released, tech or otherwise.
#2: Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Soon after its much-hyped release in August 2016, this phone was ON FIRE. But not in a good way. Before launch, there was huge buzz around the Galaxy Note 7, with glowing reviews and record-setting pre-orders. Then the phones started exploding. A manufacturing defect caused the batteries to overheat and burst into flames. As reports spread, Samsung was forced to order a recall in September. Talk about bad PR. But wait, it gets worse. Samsung REPLACED the phones, only for the replacements to ALSO CATCH FIRE! In October, they ceased all production of the Galaxy Note 7. The whole fiasco cost them billions of dollars, and left their reputation in crispy tatters.
#1: Theranos’ Edison Machines
How do you fool investors out of $700 million? Apparently, just talk in a really deep voice and promise them a miracle. Elizabeth Holmes was 19 when she founded Theranos in 2003; she told investors that her Edison machines could perform blood-tests quickly and cheaply, with only microscopic amounts of blood. You know the saying “Good, fast, cheap. Choose two”? Holmes claimed that her Edison devices did all three. There was NO peer-reviewed evidence that they worked; yet she became a media darling and Theranos was valued at $10 billion! Weeell, guess what? The emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes. The Edison machines didn’t work, Theranos was making up their profits, and in 2015 a whistleblower brought the whole thing crashing down.