Best Gadgets That Never Came Out
In an alternate universe, our doubles are watching the Nicolas Cage Superman movie on their CrunchPads as key alerts come into their Nokia Moonraker smartwatches. History is filled with hyped-up products that never quite made it to market but could have been great. These are our favorite gadgets that never came out.
Microsoft Courier (2008)
First reported in 2008 and canceled in 2010 before it was ever released, the Courier looked like it could have been the future of tablets. Instead of a slab, it was a book, with two 7-inch displays and a hinge to close them. It would have been focused on productivity and organization, with support for a stylus. Some reports suggest it wasn't integrated well enough with Microsoft Office to be released. —Andrew E. Freedman
Sega VR (1991)
Sony's PlayStation VR might be the first successful console VR platform, but that doesn't mean other companies haven't been trying to make one for decades. In 1991, Sega announced the Sega VR, a virtual-reality headset that would bring the same technology from some of Sega's arcade games to the Genesis. Sega reportedly canned the project out of fear that the level of immersion would cause real-world injuries, which is funny to think about when looking at the incredibly realistic games we currently have on the PSVR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. — Mike Andronico
Google Project Ara (2015)
While most desktop computers and many laptops are upgradable, the best you can do to improve most phones is pop in a microSD card. Google's Project Ara was meant to launch a new series of modular, upgradable phones from which you could add and remove pieces as easily as you can yank the keyboard off a Microsoft Surface.
Not made just for early adopters, the initial bare device was meant to cost only $50. For that price, you would have been able to bling it out with camera modules, extra sensors or even a faster processor. Unfortunately, Google disconnected Project Ara in 2016, long before the first models were expected to ship. But another company, Motorola, did apply the modular concept to its Moto Z phones, which use snap-on speaker, battery and camera modules known as Moto Mods. — Avram Piltch
Apple WALT (1993)
The iPhone wasn't the first phone Apple worked on. The WALT — Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone — was a device with a touch screen, stylus and early "apps," like an address book and notepad. Unlike the iPhone (and Newton, the company's PDA), it wasn't designed to be portable but rather meant to be a companion to a landline telephone. The device was announced at Macworld Boston in 1993, but it was never officially released. — Andrew E. Freedman
Credit: Jim Abeles/Flickr
Palm Foleo (2007)
Announced in 2007, the same year the first netbooks appeared, the Palm Foleo was a 10-inch laptop that would have provided a larger keyboard and screen than you could get on the company's smartphones. The Foleo was designed to sync with your Palm handset in real time and run its own stripped-down, proprietary operating system with a set of first-party apps for email, web browsing and document editing.
However, critics balked at the idea of paying $499 for a device that wasn't large or functional enough to replace someone's main laptop or small enough to fit in a pocket. Though the Palm Foleo was canceled before it had a chance to roll out, the concept of tiny, low-cost laptops (aka netbooks) took off for quite a while. — Avram Piltch
Nokia Moonraker (2014)
Before its phone business was acquired by Microsoft, Nokia was working on a smartwatch, code-named Moonraker, that it planned to release with its Lumia 930 smartphone. It would have borrowed from Windows's Metro interface and added a few simple apps made for a watch screen, like messaging and email. At that time, though, Microsoft was working on its own wearable, the fitness-based Microsoft Band, and the company canned Nokia's watch. — Andrew E. Freedman
Lenovo Skylight (2010)
This stunning device was supposed to be Lenovo's entry into the nascent "smartbook" market. Meant to combine the best features of phones and laptops, smartbooks like the Skylight were lightweight systems with long battery life, optional 3G connectivity and ARM processors.
The 10-inch Skylight was built in eye-catching "glossy lotus blue" and "earth red" colors. and It had a unique rounded shape that made it look a bit like a baby grand piano and a metallic ring around the edge for added style. It was to run Lenovo's colorful and attractive Skylight OS and featured a special slot above the keyboard with a removable USB stick that contained all of your data.
Unfortunately, Lenovo pulled the curtains on Skylight in spring 2010, just a few months after it was announced and before any models shipped. However, ARM-powered Windows 10 machines with constant 4G connectivity are coming within the next six months. — Avram Piltch
Razer Concept Project Christine (2014)
At CES in 2014, Razer showed off Project Christine, a conceptual, modular PC held together by a single spine with a motherboard. RAM, GPUs and storage could all be swapped in individual pods, and the whole thing would be cooled by mineral oil. Razer claimed it wanted other companies to partner on the system, but no one bit. Razer hasn't officially canceled the concept, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Razer or another company release something like it someday. — Andrew E. Freedman
Lenovo CPlus Bendable Bracelet Phone
We've been hearing about bendable smartphones for years, but back in 2016, Lenovo actually showed one. At its Tech World conference, the company displayed a working model of a fully functional smartphone that turns into a bracelet when you bend it. YouTube celebrity Meghan McCarthy even demonstrated the CPlus prototype in front of an audience. Unfortunately, we may never see anything like it come to market. — Avram Piltch
Infinium Phantom (2004)
In 2004, the Infinium Phantom was billed as a console that could bring PC gaming to the living room, complete with a digital subscription service that would eliminate the need for discs. However, after multiple delays and failed attempts at funding, the box was ultimately shelved. Still, the promise of the Phantom has finally been realized by today's gaming desktops, as console-style computers such as the Alienware Alpha and the MSI Trident make it easier than ever to kick back on the couch with your favorite PC titles. —Mike Andronico
OLPC XO-2 and XO-3 (2009)
Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, One Laptop per Child (OLPC) was a popular cause among techies. The nonprofit built and distributed its own line of colorful, low-power laptops targeted to children in developing countries. The original XO was a bright-green 10-inch laptop that looked as though it were made by Fisher-Price, but when it came time for a successor, the organization shared images of a clamshell with a touch screen where the keyboard might be.
Unfortunately, before it could build any of these laptops, OLPC canceled the XO-2 and moved on to the XO-3, which was a tablet that ran the company's kid-friendly sugar OS. XO-3 prototypes were shown to the press, but that device never came out. However, an XO-4 clamshell laptop, with and without a touch screen, came out in 2013. — Avram Piltch
Coleco Chameleon (2015)
The Coleco Chameleon stole many a nostalgic heart when it was first announced in 2015, as it promised to play some of our favorite pixelated classics of all time while also supporting new, retro-inspired games. We even got to play it at last year's Toy Fair. Unfortunately, this video-game time machine proved too good to be true — once Coleco started investigating the questionably shoddy hardware created by developer Retro VGS, the project was put on ice. —Mike Andronico
Saygus V2 (2015)
The Saygus V2 smartphone was the belle of the ball back at CES 2015, but two and a half years later, it still hasn't shipped. The handsome handset has a nearly edge-to-edge display, a 21-megapixel camera, dual microSD card slots and Harman Kardon speakers. It's also water-resistant — a feature that seemed amazing two years ago but is now commonplace on flagship devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S8.
As recently as spring 2017, the company was still promising to ship V2 pre-orders in the near future. If Saygus does deliver the V2, early backers will get a handset that now has an outdated processor. But Saygus says backers will get a free upgrade to a model with a new Snapdragon 835 processor when those are available. — Avram Piltch
TechCrunch CrunchPad (2009)
Before the iPad changed everything, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington thought he could be the first to build a revolutionary tablet. The journalist partnered with a small company called Fusion Garage in an effort to develop the CrunchPad, which was supposed to be a browser-centric tablet with what was then an unthinkably cheap price of $200.
Unfortunately, after a year and a half into the device's development, Fusion Garage and Arrington had a falling out, and Fusion Garage decided to market a tablet on its own, called the JooJoo, which cost a whopping $499 and got very poor reviews when it finally shipped in small quantities in early 2010. — Avram Piltch
Microsoft Surface Mini (2014)
A passion project for Surface boss Panos Panay, the 8-inch Surface Mini was reportedly canceled at the last minute in 2014, possibly with thousands of devices on trucks headed to stores. It would have run Surface RT on a Snapdragon 800 CPU with 1GB of RAM. Leaked photos showed it in black and red. — Andrew E. Freedman
Sega Neptune (1995)
The Sega Neptune was meant to combine the Sega Genesis with its bulky 32X add-on into a single machine that would be the sleekest, most powerful Genesis ever. However, by the time the time a prototype was built in 1995, Sega was already gearing up to release the Saturn, which would go on to compete — and lose to — the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Still, the Neptune deserves props for exemplifying Sega's dedication to console innovation, which endured until the death of the Sega Dreamcast in 2001. —Mike Andronico
Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid (2010)
Today, 2-in-1s are everywhere, but back in 2010, when Lenovo announced the IdeaPad U1 hybrid, the concept of a computer with a detachable screen was brand-new. Unlike today's detachables, which put the processor and most of the key components in the tablet section, the U1 hybrid was literally two computers in one.
When in clamshell mode, Lenovo's device was an ordinary Windows 7 laptop, but once you popped off the screen, it turned into a tablet that ran a special Linux-based operating system; the base remained a functioning PC that you could pair with an external monitor. Lenovo was ahead of its time, announcing and canceling the IdeaPad U1 hybrid in 2010. — Avram Piltch
Did you know that the Super Nintendo could have almost played discs? A collaboration between Nintendo and Sony (!), the SNES CD-ROM was a peripheral that would have let Nintendo's flagship console play powerful CDs in addition to cartridges. However, as a result of some business drama, Sony went on to work on a stand-alone version of the disc player — and thus the Sony PlayStation was born. —Mike Andronico