For many, 2017 has been a year to forget, and we're betting a lot of companies who made this year's list of tech fails similarly hope you'll forgive and forget these duds. We're not talking just about products that flopped or had serious bugs, but rather the worst data breach of all time, a cartoon avatar's tour of a hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico (seriously) and Uber being, well, Uber.
When it comes to gadgets, though, Google has the not-so-distinctive honor of making our list three times, with its new earbuds, mini smart speaker and flagship phone. Actually, it's four items if you count the YouTube Kids fiasco. Next year would be a great time to focus on quality control.
Without further ado, these are the biggest tech fails of the year.
Where to start with this one? How about the fact that the names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers exposed in the Equifax breach are exactly what you'd need to steal the identities of the 145 million people affected? Or that many of those people had never consented to Equifax holding their vital details in the first place? Or that Equifax left its websites unpatched for months after a serious flaw in its software had been publicly disclosed?
Or that company executives sold nearly $2 million in Equifax stock after learning of the breach? Or that the CEO blamed the breach on a single employee and not on a demonstrably lax corporate security culture? Or that the website Equifax set up so people could see whether they were affected didn't work? Try as we might, it's hard to find anything but grim humor in this story. Equifax deserves to be sued out of existence. — Paul Wagenseil
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is still pushing the possibilities of virtual reality — after all, he's gotta make something good come from that Oculus purchase. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the company's VR tie-in was decidedly out of touch.
Zuckerberg used Facebook's live video feature to stream footage of a cartoon avatar of himself against a backdrop of video of the devastation in Puerto Rico. Why? The use of VR was ostensibly to share an update about Facebook's hurricane-relief efforts in a way that showed the magnitude of the storm's effects. But the video fell flat with viewers, who wondered why Zuckerberg was talking about what a big week it was for virtual reality against a backdrop of suffering.
"When you're in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real," Zuckerberg said in a post apologizing for the video. "But that sense of empathy doesn't extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen. That's something we'll need to work on over time."
To say the least. — Caitlin McGarry
Google Tango is a fail because it was overly ambitious. While the rear-mounted tri-cam system was indeed a big step forward for phone-powered augmented reality, the technology launched on only two midtier phones: the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone AR.
Before Google could push the technology any further, Apple announced its ARKit technology, which essentially turned most iPhones into AR machines without the fancy three-camera system.
Not surprisingly, Google scrapped Tango in favor of the company's own ARCore. This technology will bring augmented reality apps to a wider range of phones, including the Google Pixel, Pixel 2 Devices and the Galaxy S8. — Sherri L. Smith
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For a hot minute — less time than it takes to figure out Snapchat — the company's brightly colored Spectacles were the hottest thing on the block. Sold exclusively from a roving pop-up booth that looked like one of the Minions, the circular video-recording specs were impossible to find.
The hype around the glasses — which sold on eBay for more than seven times their retail price (marked up to $1,000 from $129) — evaporated once the specs became widely available.
Now, the big question has become what Snapchat will do with hundreds of thousands of unsold pairs of glasses, which have even popped up in the most basic of retailers: college supply stores. Why did this product fail? Probably because you can't post directly from the glasses (which send video clips to your phone) and because they can't apply the app's popular face filters. — Henry T. Casey
Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty
This was yet another year in which GameStop struggled to maintain relevance as digital games become more and more popular. In October, the company launched Power Pass, a rental service for used games, which seemed like a forward-thinking idea and even a good deal.
For $60, you'd get to check out used games from your local stores one at a time for six months, and, when time was up, you'd get to keep one of those titles. In November, the company shelved the Power Pass because of "program limitations."
A report on Kotaku suggested that the company's computers weren't set up to handle the program. We don't know if or when Power Pass will resume, pushing any chance for GameStop to become relevant again even further back. — Andrew E. Freedman
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Google promised a lot of machine-learning-powered smarts for its Pixel Buds wireless headphones. But the company should have applied some intelligence to the hardware and design, too.
There's no denying that these $159 wireless earbuds boast some impressive skills. Tap on the right earbud, and you can summon the Google Assistant. Say, "Help me speak German," or any one of the 40 other languages supported by the Pixel Buds, and the Assistant will tap into the Google Translate app on your Pixel phone. Then, Google Assistant will offer real-time translation, so you can carry on conversations in different languages.
The trouble is, the Pixel Buds aren't all that comfortable to wear, and they can be a hassle. Just placing them in your ear can inadvertently activate the Assistant. And then there's that cable connecting the two earbuds, which either drapes down on your neck or dangles under your chin, depending on which direction you like your superfluous cords to hang. Sound quality is so-so — not a thing you want to hear if you've just shelled out $159 for an audio accessory. — Philip Michaels
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In late 2016, LeEco looked poised to take on the biggest names in tech. The company was China's answer to Netflix and was making smartphones and TVs, developing an electric car to compete with Tesla, and working to acquire Vizio. LeEco even announced plans to set up a new global headquarters in Silicon Valley with more employees than Facebook.
Boy, did things change in 2017.
In the last 12 months, the company's bid for Vizio fell through, CEO Jia Yueting was ejected from the company and had his assets frozen, and one competitor publicly accused LeEco of being a Ponzi scheme. By July of 2017, LeEco was cutting its workforce and shutting down most operations. The few remaining businesses that were spun off from the main company have been desperately trying to rebrand to distance themselves from the LeEco name.
What went wrong? Taking on the biggest names in tech, with your own competitors to Netflix, Apple and Tesla, is an ambitious goal, but doing all three at once stretched the company mighty thin. — Brian Westover
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