Many of us are likely relieved that 2018 is in the rear view mirror. The year provided lots of ups and downs, and the tech industry was no exception. Privacy concerns factored big in 2018, with hacks and breaches exposing the personal details of millions. Moreover, there was a spate of missed product launches, abysmal hardware failures, and much worse.
Here are the 10 worst tech failures of 2018.
All four major U.S. carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, spent much of the year hyping 5G, the wireless technology that is 10-times faster than current 4G tech. But the reality didn’t live up to those lofty expectations. Verizon launched faux 5G as a home broadband replacement in just a few neighborhoods and AT&T lit up its service in only a handful of markets mere days before the end of the year. The sad fact is that it will be mid-2019 before we see 5G available in a respectable number of cities.
Apple announced AirPower, a wireless dock that can charge an iPhone and an Apple Watch at the same time, in September 2017. Yes, that’s right, 15 months ago. The company delayed the launch, and then delayed it again and again. Here we are at the start of 2019 and still no AirPower. Apple has never failed so hard at getting a product onto store shelves.
It’s safe to say Facebook had the worst year of any tech company. The social networking giant was rocked by a cascading series of privacy breaches that continues to snowball. Facebook’s explanations and lack of real accountability haven’t helped matters. Unfortunately, this story will color much of the company’s 2019 too.
In one of Facebook’s most tone-deaf moves, it announced Facebook Portal, a video-chatting hub that it pitched as a way for people to stay in touch. It handles chats, as well as photo and video content, and the Alexa digital assistant. At the end of the day, however, it entails putting a Facebook-connected camera in your kitchen or living room. Despite the company’s assurances about privacy, it’s hard to give Facebook any benefit of the doubt here.
The U.S. government kneeled heavily on the necks of Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE in 2018. In January, Huawei was prepared to launch its flagship phone, the Mate 10 Pro, with AT&T and Verizon. Pressure from the White House over security squashed those and other distribution deals, leaving Huawei effectively squeezed out of the U.S. market. In April, the U.S. accused ZTE of violating a settlement agreement over sanctions that led to a crushing ban. For three months, ZTE was unable to export U.S. parts or software for its phones. The result? Its sales cratered in the U.S. and may never recover. In December, the White House threatened to ban the use of both Huawei’s and ZTE’s telecommunications gear and had Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou arrested in Canada for violating sanctions.
A camera company called Red announced a revolutionary-sounding phone in summer 2017, but it didn’t reach stores until more than a year later in November 2018. The Hydrogen One boasts a “holographic” display that doesn’t require special glasses for 3D content, a unique industrial design, and the ability to capture 3D photos and videos. This all sounds neat, but the phone is a train wreck from top to bottom thanks to awful software and janky performance. Oh yeah, it costs $1,300. No thank you.
Microsoft Windows 10 Update
Perhaps the one thing that worries PC owners most is that they may lose their files during a system update. Microsoft capitalized on this fear with its October update to Windows 10, which saw computers randomly deleting files from hard drives. Well done, Microsoft! The issue was so bad Microsoft cancelled the update and spent weeks re-tooling the code to prevent the problem from happening again. But wait, there’s more. The October update also wreaked havoc on Intel audio drivers, which caused sound issues. Last, the update included a borked keyboard driver that caused the screen to go blue. Smelly egg lands on Microsoft’s face once again.
A California startup bought the Palm brand, which has been dead since 2011, and cooked up a new smartphone called the Palm Phone. Rather than create a regular, fully-functional phone, Palm’s new owners decided to take a minimalist approach. The Palm Phone isn’t a stand-alone product; instead, it’s a phone for your phone. The Palm is meant to offer basic services (calls, messaging, navigation) while preventing time-sapping social networks from wasting your time. The miniature hardware is cute, but at just a few hours battery life is simply the worst. And who needs a $350 accessory for a phone anyway? You’d be better off with a smartwatch.
Google hit a few bumps in the road that was 2018. The company’s hardware division generated a pretty epic failure in the Pixel Slate. The tablet initially promised to bridge the gap between Android tablet and Chromebook, but the uneven software ruins the fine hardware. It was widely panned by reviewers.
In March 2018, Uber became the first company developing autonomous cars to kill a pedestrian. A test vehicle in Tempe, Ariz., ran into Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a street. Not all the details are clear, but it appears that the car was able to see Herzberg and yet didn’t slow, swerve or stop. Following the accident, Uber halted its self-driving car tests for eight months. The company also suffered fallout in the form of a lawsuit over the death and bans from operating autonomous cars in several states.