Business is a game of winners and losers. And unfortunately, some of our most beloved tech products end up on the “loser” list. After decades of watching products meet their demise, it’s time to highlight the most disappointing downfalls of modern technology.
Microsoft Fitness Tracker
Let’s start with something weird. During its awkward “Metro” years, Microsoft released a fitness tracker called the Microsoft Band. And it was an impressive product for the time, offering smart features like Cortana’s voice assistant functionality, integration with Microsoft services (Health, Calendar, Outlook), and a design that falls squarely between “cool” and “dumb.” .
At just $199, the Microsoft Band had a lot of potential. But it launched in October 2014, just half a year before the first Apple Watch. The upcoming Microsoft Band 2 received hardly any fanfare when it arrived in late 2015.
Microsoft stopped selling its fitness tracker in 2016 or 2017. We’re not sure how many units the company sold, but it did offer a $175 rebate to remaining users after it shut down Microsoft Band services in 2019.
Of all the products we saw at CES 2022, the Noveto N1 speaker made the biggest impression. This Kickstarter-funded desktop speaker uses beamforming technology to create a silent bubble of audio around your ears. Basically, it’s a pair of invisible headphones.
But Noveto fell into insolvency shortly after CES 2022. It ran out of money, hasn’t fulfilled a single Kickstarter order, and unless a rival company comes forward for a takeover, the Noveto N1 will never go on sale.
We’re bummed out by Noveto’s failure, but in a way, we shouldn’t be surprised. This company managed to burn tens of millions of dollars in just one year. Check out our full article on the Noveto flop if you enjoy a tragedy.
The SmartDry clothes sensor
I have two problems with laundry: first, I always forget that I’m doing laundry. And second, my dryer’s humidity sensor is a bunch of crap, so I have to constantly check my clothes and see when they’re dry.
An inexpensive product called SmartDry solved these problems. It’s just a moisture sensor that uses your smartphone or voice assistant to let you know when your clothes are dry. But man, SmartDry works great and can save you from over-drying your clothes and wasting electricity. We rate it 9/10 in our review!
But SmartDry and its parent company, Connected Life, are out of the game. These sensors will stop working on September 30, 2022. Shut up, I’m not crying.
We don’t appreciate LG phones enough. Of all the boring phone companies, LG made some of the most quirky and innovative Android phones of all time. Products like the swivel-screen LG Wing, the dual-screen V60 ThinQ, and an unreleased foldable were just the tip of the iceberg for LG.
Our friends at LG gave up smartphones to make indoor gardening equipment. But for what it’s worth, LG offered three years of upgrades for its discontinued phones. That’s better service than you get from companies that continue to make new phones!
Smart Automatic Plugin for Dumb Cars
Turning a “dumb car” into a “smart car” sounds like a monumental task. But just a few years ago, you could get the job done with a cheap OBD-II plug-in. The auto smart adapter unlocked features like GPS tracking, collision detection, and mileage tracking to see how much you spend on gas during trips.
The auto adapter was really great. He even had a cool app that could notify you of any issues with your vehicle or remind you where you parked. But after Sirius XM bought Automatic in 2017, it all went downhill.
Automatic was decommissioned in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least, that’s the excuse. It appears that Sirius XM lacked any real interest in the product as the quality slowly declined in the years leading up to 2020.
Pebble, the original smartwatch
Before the Apple Watch, we had the Pebble. Pebble was not only the “first smartwatch,” it was the first project to generate tens of millions of dollars on Kickstarter. Heck, three models of the Pebble watch are still among the most funded projects on Kickstarter.
Pebble did all the basic smartwatch stuff that we enjoy today. But more importantly, it had a week of battery life thanks to its E Ink display. No modern smartwatch save the Fitbit can match the battery life of the humble Pebble.
The original Pebble launched in 2013, two years before the Apple Watch. Our sister site, geek how to do it, wrote a very good review of Pebble in 2016, highlighting its smart home integrations and value for money. But Pebble closed later that year; I guess our review didn’t really help.
We’d do anything for a Windows Phone
Are we giving Microsoft too much love? Well, the Windows Phone deserves its flowers. For a few short years, Microsoft offered a third option for smartphone buyers caught between Android and iOS. And they were glorious years, minus the poor selection of applications.
The Windows Phone was doomed to fail. But it introduced several features. prior to Android or iOS, including a dark mode, apps as widgets (in the form of Live Tiles), and a native song identification feature.
Oh, and Windows Phone hardware was great: Nokia Lumia devices were built like bricks and had incredible cameras, relative to competing products, at least. Also, Lumia phones got wireless charging in 2015, two years before the iPhone. (Nokia Lumia devices would also burn a hole in your pocket because they had such sharp, crisp corners. Windows Phone loses a few points for that.)
But Windows Phone managed to disappear pretty quickly. Basically, Microsoft found itself in a feedback loop; Windows Phone lacked a large user base, so app developers shunned the platform. And without major apps like Instagram and Snapchat, customers wouldn’t buy Windows Phone.
The original movie showing
When was the last time you stopped to think about 2018? It was one of the weirdest years of our lives, and interestingly, MoviePass manages to encompass that weirdness. Here’s the gist: Some guy convinced theaters that a $10 monthly subscription to unlimited movies could make a profit.
MoviePass was not a profitable venture. The corporate idiots assumed that people would only use it to watch one or two movies a month. Yes of course.
Shortly after launching its $10 monthly plan, MoviePass was forced to destroy itself. Movie theaters wanted to increase attendance, and ironically, their further increase in customers was not profitable.
Today, MoviePass is relaunched as a privacy-driven crypto nightmare. It probably won’t last.
Google Reader, or any Google app you like
The list of good products killed by Google deserves its own article. But for now, we’ll highlight Google Reader. It was an excellent little RSS app with a traditional “inbox” style layout: mostly text, no oversized images or wonky design quirks. It was also free, and lacked any of the stupid “learning” algorithms that modern alternatives force users to swallow.
But after years of neglect, Google Reader died in 2013. People lost their decade-old RSS feeds due to this shutdown, and were forced to either give up RSS or switch to a service like Feedly. It seems that Google killed Reader in favor of algorithmic aggregators, like the modern Google Discover page (which seems hell-bent on showing junk you don’t care about).
Now, you might think that the days of RSS are over. After all, they don’t stick those little orange buttons on websites anymore. But I still use RSS every day as an editor in geek review. And let me tell you, I would kill for something as simple as Google Reader.
Dishonorable Mention: Wink Smart Home Hubs
Some failed products just won’t die. Wink used to be one of the best smart home hubs, offering great service and functionality in a reasonably priced package. But he’s practically a zombie these days.
The problems started in 2015, when the original owner of Wink (called Quirky) went bankrupt by pouring money into R&D. Wink then moved on to Flex before ending up in the hands of Will.i.am’s company, creatively named i.am.plus.
Wink now charges a monthly fee and does not make new products. And every 30 days, customers cross their fingers that Wink actually pays their bills. The company has experienced several severe unannounced outages, lasting several weeks at a time and always seeming to fall on the first day of the month.
We’re not sure how Wink stays in business. It treats customers like garbage and has one of the worst track records of any smart home company. Perhaps we should wait for Wink to die before including him in this list, but hey, there are no signs of improvement from this brand.