While there were some good things in technology released this year, there were also quite a few let downs. From detonating devices to damp squibs, these are the biggest let downs of 2016.
LG G5 and modular smartphones
The LG G5 promised so much, but delivered little. As a smartphone, it is a decent if not spectacular entry, with dual cameras on the back and solid specifications. But it was the slot in the bottom of the smartphone that got the hype cycle churning.
It was the first modular smartphone from a big-name brand. The G5’s chin and battery could be swapped for fresh cells, a set of speakers, a camera control and extended battery grip and a few other so-called Friends.
The trouble was the “friends” were few and far between and those that actually arrived weren’t that great. On paper it was great, in practice it didn’t work. But the G5 wasn’t the only modular smartphone to fail last year, Google also pulled the plug on its Project Ara modular phone while Lenovo’s Motorola released the Moto Z with add-ons that slightly more elegantly magnetically attached to the back. Whether anyone bought the add-ons though remains to be seen.
Apple MacBook Pro
After four years of waiting for anything more meaningful than a specification bump, the new 2016 13in MacBook Pro arrived. It was thinner, lighter, had a better screen and was slightly more powerful than the last one released in 2015. It had a new-fangled “Touch Bar” instead of traditional F and control keys. It even had Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner, a headphones port and a starting £1,749 price tag.
What it didn’t have were any data ports other than USB-C - no traditional USB, no ethernet, no Mini DisplayPort, no HDMI or even a MagSafe power connector. There were four USB-C ports ready to accept a plethora of dongles. Any of them could also be used for power, which is a good thing as the battery life was pretty poor.
It’s certainly beautiful, but after four years in the making, style without substance didn’t cut it for even some die-hard Apple Mac fans.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Life for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 started so promisingly. It was a cutting-edge device, worked brilliantly, garnered praise from all sides and even had an iris scanner - one of the first smartphones to do so. It was predicted to sell in the millions, to propel Samsung to even higher heights and cement the South Korean brand’s lead in big-screened smartphones.
That was until one exploded. Then another and another. A halt to sales was called for safety concerns around the battery. It was pulled from shelves and the UK launch was cancelled.
A fix was applied and the offending batteries taken out before being relaunched. The problem was that the replacement Note 7s started catching fire too. The numbers were small, but the risk was great. Eventually Samsung pulled the plug and terminated the Note 7. Even still some users refused to give up the phone. Samsung was forced to hobble it before rendering it inoperative with a software update.
There the sad tale of the Note 7 ended. Pushing boundaries in design and technology can win you plaudits and sales, but Samsung pushed too far this time.
It was heralded as the best VR for normal people. PlayStation VR promised to bring great virtual reality experiences only possible on a desktop-class system but without the need for a £1,000 PC to run it.
The trouble was that it lacked the best-in-class controllers that really made VR in 2016. It was cheap and provided a cheap experience. And a cheap VR experience just didn’t cut it. Whether that will be enough to see it go mainstream in 2017 remains to be seen, but it certainly wasn’t the rip-roaring success many hoped it would be.
Apple iPhone 7
The highly anticipated 2016 edition of Apple’s flagship smartphone, the iPhone 7, was meant to set the world alight. It was waterproof, had a much better camera and its Plus edition even had two cameras on the back. The physical home button was gone, instead using force touch and so was the headphone socket. But what the iPhone 7 will be remembered for will be its terrible battery life. Less is certainly not more when it comes to how long it lasts in a day, and constantly having to hunt for a charger gets old really quickly. Especially when you can’t even listen to a wired set of headphones and charge it at the same time.
Snapchat. It’s an app. You share pictures with it, draw stupid things and can even discover news on it. It’s biggest asset is a younger audience than most other services, the untapped market so many are after, including Facebook, which keeps trying to clone it after failing in its attempt to buy it.
Facebook has tried to clone Snapchat, copying features and launching apps not once, not twice, not even three times. 2016 saw Facebook try to clone Snapchat for the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth time.
It’s getting old. Maybe Facebook should direct some of that engineering talent to working on more pressing matters.
The Dyson Supersonic took the humble hairdryer and infused it with the vacuum-firms technology. A high speed fan in the handle for weight distribution, it’s trademark air multiplier head to blast air in your face, magnetically attaching nozzles and a round of digital buttons for controlling temperature and air speed. It looked like the hairdryer finally dragged kicking and screaming into the gadget age.
Sadly in group tests up against hairdryers half the Supersonic’s price it was found to be a lot of hot air. Attach a nozzle and all that fancy airflow dropped to a level “akin to blowing through a drinking straw”.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Friday 30th December 2016 07.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010