A boatload of products, trends, and people in the tech sector really disappointed us this year. In the spirit of the season, however, we won’t single out any individuals here. Instead, we’ll focus on the products and trends that made us sick.
This year was rough for the technology industry. From anxiety-inducing social networks and buggy mobile devices to glitchy operating systems and killer driverless cars, we had it all.
Join us on this miserable tour down bad memory lane. And here’s to looking forward to a better new year in 2019.
Facebook: Unsecured and unethical
If anything could be classified as tech that sucks this year, it would have to be social networking. Facebook has had the majority of the suckage attention, whether it has been its serious security breaches that compromised the privacy and personal data of over 87 million users or its compromised ethics in hiring opposition research firms to attack billionaire George Soros, who has been one of their most notable critics.
Twitter: Haven for hate
Facebook may have the most public embarrassment to deal with, but everyone’s favorite screeching feed has also been not without its controversy. Twitter has been under fire for allowing actual Nazis and white supremacists to tweet with impunity and had been permitting racist and conspiracist agitators such Alex Jones (and well as the President of the US) to thrive on its service. Only after repeated and prolonged high-pressure appeals by high-profile users to the service’s founder, Jack Dorsey, did the company remove Alex Jones’s account.
Google Project Dragonfly: Making information selectively accessible
Google tried to keep it secret, but its secret program to cooperate with the Chinese government to create a censored search engine has really made the company look awfully bad and has prompted walk-outs, protests, and high-profile resignations. Remember when the search giant’s mission was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful?”
Google Project Maven: What happened to “Don’t be evil?”
A recent disclosure of the company’s involvement in a Department of Defense project to develop computer vision systems for warfare has put the company under tremendous ethical scrutiny.
Google+: Sorry we exposed your data, we’re closing up shop
Google’s social platform, which was never really able to galvanize its user base like Facebook or Twitter since launching in June 2011, had been in the doldrums since its former head of social, Vic Gundotra, went off to become CEO of connected medical devices company AliveCor. Google finally decided to put it out of its misery after a highly publicized security breach that exposed the data of up to half a million users, and will be winding the service down over a 10-month period.
Google Pixel 3: Maybe you should not have been so cheap with the memory
That expensive Pixel 3 you bought has been experiencing photo-saving issues and has been crashing likely due to the fact that Android is extremely resource-intensive, and the device has only been equipped with 4GB of RAM when compared to most of its competitors on the market that have 6GB or 8GB of RAM. Cheap, Google. Real cheap.
Google Pixel Slate: A Glorified Chromebook
This expensive $600 to $1,600 iPad and Microsoft Surface Pro competitor running Chrome OS is simply just a glorified Intel-powered touchscreen ChromeBook and lacks decent application support, because Android tablet apps never really took off in the first place. Instead we are stuck with Google’s Progressive Web Apps and for the most part, Android smartphone apps, which look like garbage when they scale because Material Design has not been implemented by third-party developers.
Google Play Store: Not exactly an impregnable fortress
It seems the Play Store is utterly infested with malware that will hijack your phone and serve you ads. Isn’t that special?
iPhones and iPads: Nothing’s too big to fail
The latest crop of Apple iOS devices are technical marvels, but they have now become so expensive that you practically have to get a second mortgage now to afford them, and we may be witnessing the peak of technical advances with these products. While the company will always have its dedicated fans, demand for the devices has been waning considerably. It will be even more of a challenge for Cupertino if President Donald Trump gets his way with increased tariffs on Chinese manufactured goods.
Apple AirPower: It’s vaporware by any other name
This Qi charging pad that was designed to accommodate both an Apple Watch and current-generation iPhones was supposed to be out in late 2017, but numerous technical issues have prevented it from being released after a year of delays. Apple has had to rely on third parties such as Belkin, Mophie, Anker, and RAVPower to supply magnetic induction charging accessories in order to fill that gap.
Apple HomePod: That’s one pricey speaker
Compared to Alexa-powered Echo devices and Google Home, Apple’s Siri-powered entry into the smart speaker market does very little other than play music from your iTunes library wirelessly and has a minimal skills ecosystem to speak of for its $350 price point. Ouch.
Apple Watch ‘Walkie Talkie’: OK, but why?
What exactly is the point of a smartwatch push-to-talk feature if you can only talk to other people with the same brand of smartwatch? And not even other people with Apple products, such as iPhones, iPads, or Macs? Fail.
Apple Siri: Still stupid after all these years
It’s been years since this poor excuse for an “intelligent assistant” has been released, and yet when you compare this product to Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana, it’s still the dunce of the bunch.
Apple iOS 12 CarPlay: Doesn’t play well with others
Users rejoiced when they heard that iOS 12’s CarPlay would finally add support for third-party mapping and navigation apps, such as Google Maps and Waze. But then we found out that they would not be treated like equal citizens in the same way Apple’s Maps does and would not have hands-free support for third-party intelligent agents such as Google Assistant as their preferred voice control (as opposed to Siri).
Apple iTunes: Dumpster fire of old crusty code
This was first released over 17 years ago, and during that entire time, the software may have changed a lot, but one thing that could be relied on is how much the experience of using it would suck. Apple just seems to bolt features onto iTunes, rather than giving it the redesign it so desperately needs, which has turned it into a bloated, confusing mess.
Windows 10: How about one update per year, Redmond?
Microsoft’s switching to a much more aggressive update strategy has caused any number of issues for its end-users including botched update rollouts. While some may appreciate and even applaud the more progressive, risk-taking Microsoft compared to the company of old, others are calling for a return to focusing on basic fundamentals instead of introducing new functionality and a less frequent update schedule.
Yay Cloud! OK, maybe not
There were so many incidents of significant downtime at public cloud hyperscale providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services that there are simply too many to actually count. How are we supposed to migrate to public cloud infrastructure or use it as a business continuity solution if we can’t actually reliably depend that it will be there when we need it?
Amazon HQ2: Talk about anticlimactic
What appeared to be a year-long obsession over which city ended up getting the HQ2 nod ended in a bit of a let-down for emerging tech centers around the country when Big Bezos finally decided it was going to award it to two separate metropolitan centers: New York City and the Washington, DC area near Northern Virginia. I mean after all that waiting and speculation, they choose those two for what amounts to just branch offices?
Palm: It should have stayed dead
Look, we all like nostalgia, but this teeny-weeny miniature phone for your phone that runs Android is a bit much for $350. We already have smartwatches, we don’t need another expensive gadget to drag around in order to be minimally connected.
Cryptocurrencies: Yeah, maybe it isn’t so secure
This year our faith in secure cryptocurrency, the CPU-mined darling of armchair speculative investing, got its comeuppance in the the form of Bitfi, an electronic crypto wallet device which was supposedly unhackable. Well, not only did it turn out to be hackable, but it was hacked by a 15-year-old to play the classic 3D shoot-em-up DOOM. The exploit was so embarrassing for the company that it earned a Pwnie award for its awful vendor response.
As if security exploits weren’t insult enough for injury to crypto currencies, Bitcoin has been crashing and burning in the cryptocurrency markets and has lost over 700 billion in value in the last year.
Virtual reality: Half baked
Augmented reality: Even less baked
Apple makes a big deal of AR, especially with respect to the iPad, but having to awkwardly hold a smartphone or tablet in front of you is a terrible user experience. AR is a technology that’s just begging for smart glasses to take off, but that market is still stained by the initial reaction to, and subsequent consumer failure of, Google Glass.
Uber and Lyft: Please don’t hurt me
As if the company’s trials and tribulations with internal sexual harassment issues in 2017 that led to the ouster of its founder and chief executive, Travis Kalanick, weren’t bad enough, 103 drivers on the service have been investigated for sexually assaulting passengers on the ride sharing service. And since we don’t want to play favorites, Lyft has also had its share of sexual assault woes.
Driverless cars: Wile E. Coyote can do better
While everyone cannot wait until they can sleep behind the wheel on the way to work, or can be driven home from the pub after a rough happy hour, it is going to be some time until autonomous vehicles are commonplace. Experimental driverless vehicles, such as Google’s Waymo, have been involved in numerous high-profile crashes in the past year. Apple was involved in an autonomous vehicle crash. Uber has had its autonomous program shuttered in Arizona. Tesla had to deal with a number of high-profile collisions with its autopilot feature, as well.
Hate for innovative and inexpensive Chinese smartphones
There is absolutely no reason why our President should be asking for our corporations to boycott partnerships with companies like Huawei due to an irrational, unfounded fear of spying on our country’s citizens. Not only are these unproven fears jeopardizing our trade relationship with the largest economy in the world, but these boycotts prevent US citizens from getting access to affordable technology. When companies like Apple and Samsung are continuously raising their prices, it is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to justify buying their expensive products.
Robocalls: Please, make them stop
All the major mobile operating systems are implementing some type of call screening and blocking technology now, but unsolicited automated harassment by telephone is now becoming a major issue, and there doesn’t seem to be a good solution for dealing with them yet.
Presidential Alert System: There’s no escape
It’s bad enough that we have to be subjected to endless retweets of President Trump’s harassing missives on Twitter, but at least you can opt out of such systems. You can’t opt out, however, of the Emergency Alert System (or EAS), which can be used to broadcast to anyone in the nation via text using a smartphone. While this system is primarily designed for actual emergencies, such as a major natural disaster like an earthquake, catastrophic weather event like a hurricane, or — heavens forbid — a nuclear war, there’s significant concern that President Trump will use this for broadcasting his own personal tirades, from which there will be no escape.
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