Business is a game of winners and losers. And unfortunately, some of our most popular tech products end up on the “losers” list. After decades of watching products disappear, it’s time to shine a light on the most disappointing failings of modern technology.
Microsoft Fitness Tracking
Let’s start with something weird. During its awkward “Metro” years, Microsoft launched a fitness tracker called Microsoft Band. And it was an impressive product for its time, offering smart features like Cortana voice assistant functionality, integration with Microsoft services (health, calendar, Outlook) and a design that falls squarely between “cool” and “dorky”.
At just $199, the Microsoft Band had a lot of potential. But it launched in October 2014, just six months before the first Apple Watch. The upcoming Microsoft Band 2 received virtually no fanfare when it arrived in late 2015.
Microsoft stopped selling its Fitness Band in 2016 or 2017. We don’t know how many units the company sold, but it offered a $175 refund to remaining users after Microsoft Band services shut down in 2019.
Noveto’s Bizarre “Invisible Headphones”
Of all the products we saw at CES 2022, the Noveto N1 speaker left the biggest impression. This Kickstarter-funded desktop speaker uses beamforming technology to create a quiet audio bubble around your ears. Basically, it’s a pair of invisible headphones.
But Noveto descended into insolvency shortly after CES 2022. It’s run out of money, it hasn’t filled a single Kickstarter order, and unless a rival company comes along for an acquisition , the Noveto N1 will never come out.
We’re disappointed with Noveto’s failure, but somehow we shouldn’t be surprised. This company managed to burn tens of millions of dollars in just one year. Check out our full article on Noveto’s failure if you love a tragedy.
The SmartDry laundry sensor
I have two problems with laundry: first, I always forget that I’m doing laundry. And second, my dryer’s moisture sensor is a pile of garbage, so I have to constantly check my clothes and see when they’re dry.
An inexpensive product called SmartDry solved these problems. It’s just a humidity sensor that uses your smartphone or voice assistant to tell you when laundry is dry. But man, SmartDry works great and can save you from over-drying your clothes and wasting electricity. We gave it a 9/10 in our review!
But SmartDry and its parent company, Connected Life, are in trouble. These sensors will stop working on September 30, 2022. Shut up, I’m not crying.
LG’s weird and wacky smartphones
We didn’t appreciate LG’s phones enough. Of all the boring phone companies, LG has made some of the wackiest and most innovative Android phones ever. Products like the swing-screen LG Wing, dual-screen V60 ThinQ, and a never-before-seen foldable were just the tip of the iceberg for LG.
Our friends at LG have ditched smartphones to make indoor gardening gear. But for what it’s worth, LG offered three years of updates for its discontinued phones. That’s better service than you get from companies that keep making new phones!
Automatic’s smart add-on for stupid cars
Turning a “dumb car” into a “smart car” seems like a monumental task. But just a few years ago, you could get the job done with a cheap OBD-II add-on. The Auto Smart Adapter has unlocked features like GPS tracking, collision detection, and mileage tracking to see how much you’re spending on gas during rides.
The auto adapter was really excellent. There was even a cool app that could notify you of any issues with your vehicle or remind you where you parked. But after Sirius XM bought Automatic in 2017, it all went downhill.
Automatic was decommissioned in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least, that’s the excuse. It seems that Sirius XM lacked real interest in the product, with the quality slowly declining in the years leading up to 2020.
Pebble, the original connected watch
Before the Apple Watch, we had the Pebble. Not only was Pebble the “first smartwatch”, but it was the first project to generate tens of millions of dollars on Kickstarter. Heck, three models of the Pebble Watch still rank among Kickstarter’s most funded projects.
Pebble did all the basic smartwatch stuff we enjoy today. But more importantly, it had a week-long battery life thanks to its E Ink display. No modern smartwatch except the Fitbit can match the humble Pebble’s battery life.
The original Pebble launched in 2013, two years before the Apple Watch. Our sister site, How to Geek, wrote a very nice review of the Pebble in 2016, highlighting its smart home integrations and attractive price. But Pebble closed later that year – our review didn’t really help I guess.
We would do anything for a Windows Phone
Are we giving Microsoft too much love? Well, the Windows Phone deserves its flowers. For a few years, Microsoft offered a third option for smartphone buyers stuck between Android and iOS. And those were a few glorious years, minus the poor selection of apps.
The Windows Phone was doomed. But it introduced several features before Android or iOS, including a dark mode, apps in the form of widgets (in the form of Live Tiles) and a native song identification function.
Oh, and the Windows Phone hardware was excellent – Nokia Lumia devices were built like bricks and had surprising cameras, compared to competing products, at least. Additionally, Lumia phones gained wireless support in 2015, two years ahead of the iPhone. (Nokia Lumia devices would also put a dent in your pocket because they had such sharp, crisp corners. Windows Phone loses a few points for that.)
But Windows Phone managed to shut down pretty quickly. Basically, Microsoft found itself in a feedback loop; Windows Phone did not have a large user base, so app developers shunned the platform. And without important apps like Instagram and Snapchat, customers wouldn’t buy Windows Phone.
The original MoviePass
When was the last time you stopped to think about 2018? It’s been one of the weirdest years of our lives, and oddly enough, MoviePass manages to encompass that weirdness. Here’s the gist – a guy convinced movie theaters that a $10 monthly subscription for unlimited movies could make a profit.
MoviePass was not a profitable business. Corporate morons assumed that people would only use it to watch one or two movies a month. Yes indeed.
Shortly after launching its $10 monthly plan, MoviePass was forced into self-destruction. Movie theaters wanted to increase attendance and, ironically, their biggest increase in patronage was unprofitable.
Today, MoviePass is relaunched as a privacy-fueled crypto nightmare. It probably won’t last.
Google Reader, or whatever Google app you like
The list of good products killed by Google deserves its own article. But for now, we’ll highlight Google Reader. It was a great little RSS app with a traditional “inbox” style layout – mostly text, no oversized images or wonky design quirks. It was also free, and lacked one of the dumb “learning” algorithms that modern alternatives force users to use.
But after years of neglect, Google Reader died in 2013. People lost their decade-old RSS feeds because of this shutdown, and they were forced to abandon RSS or switch to a service like Feedly. It looks like Google killed off Reader in favor of algorithmic aggregators, such as the modern Google Discover page (which seems bent on showing crap you don’t care about).
Now you might think that the days of RSS are over. After all, they don’t stick those little orange buttons on websites anymore. But I still use RSS every day as an editor at Geek Reviews. And let me tell you, I’d kill for something simple like Google Reader.
Dishonorable Mention: Wink Smart Home Hubs
Some defective products simply won’t die. Wink was one of the best smart home hubs out there, offering great service and features in a reasonably priced package. But it’s practically a zombie these days.
The problems started in 2015, when the original owner of Wink (called Quirky) filed for bankruptcy by throwing money into R&D. Wink was then passed on to Flex before ending up in the hands of Will.i.am’s company, the company with the creative name i.am.plus.
Wink now charges a monthly fee and does not manufacture new products. And every 30 days, customers keep their fingers crossed in the hope that Wink actually pays his bills. The company has experienced several serious unannounced outages, which last several weeks at a time and always seem to fall on the first of the month.
We don’t know how Wink is still in business. It treats customers like garbage and has one of the worst track records of any smart home company. Maybe we should wait until Wink dies before putting him on this list, but hey, there’s no sign of this brand improving.