The Biggest Tech Disappointments Of 2012

Lots of fun, good and exciting things happened in our world this year. But there were still so many things that could've been truly great but flopped. Broken promises. Awful gadgets. Here's what broke Gizmodo's heart in 2012.

Microsoft Surface RT

Surface is a bundle of terrific, brave ideas about what a computer should be, bound together with old twine and sloppy execution. As a concept -- the best of a tablet mixed with the best of a laptop -- it's terrific. As an actual thing you can buy for $559, it's a total failure, hamstrung by a weak OS, a dearth of apps and overall mediocrity. This isn't what Microsoft told us it'd be -- just an awkward half step -- and that's a shame. But we can still keep hope alive for the Pro version.

Google TV

Google TV still doesn't know what it's supposed to be, and it's still entirely unpleasant to use. Search is overly complex, nobody wants shoehorned Android apps on a 50-inch screen, and almost all of the remotes are dreadful. After all the setup, your TV becomes more complicated to use, not more enjoyable. Sony gave Google TV a good shot this year, but it's not a product anyone should even be tempted to own. A year will come when TVs are "smart" and even more fun to use than they are now, but this ain't that year, and it doesn't look like Google will make that TV.

Apple Maps

Apple made a name for itself, in part, but making the most beautiful, clever software in the world. No need to regurgitate months of frustration -- we all know that Apple Maps ended up being pretty far from beautiful or clever. But at least we can stop thinking about it.

Google Nexus Q

The black ball that was supposed to transform your entire living room into the future of home entertainment by connecting everything to everything ended up so crappy that Google had to stop selling it. This thing should've never made it out of Google R&D.

Mattel's Back To The Future Hoverboard

Mattel said it would hover. It doesn't hover.

Sony SmartWatch

Finally! A gadget that's not another phone or tablet. This could've been old school Sony at its new school best: a watch that hooks into Facebook, Twitter and all sorts of other great pixelated stuff. Thinking about it was enough to spark giddiness. Until you tried it on, and realised that it was garbage.

The iPad Mini's Screen

The iPad Mini is a good tablet, but it's screen is unforgivably primitive for the price. When was the last time Apple put out a product packed with tech that's worse than something it produced earlier? It's downright regressive -- and until the inevitable retina iPad Mini drops, a lot of people will be (rightfully) looking towards the Nexus 7 instead.



    Where's the iPhone 5 on that list?

    It's an iPhone 4S in a new body. Which is an iPhone 4 with Siri not blocked on it.

      If you started listing phones because they were just an improvement on the previous model then this article would be way too long.

      The iPhone 5 may not be ground-breaking but it is thinner, lighter, faster and now features 4G. All of those are legitimate improvements.

      The hardware is significantly upgraded from the previous models Ed. If anything, iOS 6 should be on the list, not the hardware.

      Same argument can be used for the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4. It's a spec bump in a new body ...

      Not that there's anything wrong with that? Although that's what you seem to be implying.

      The iPhone 5 is a good phone. Not revolutionary. But hardly a "disappointment".

      But, any chance to attack Apple, hey?

      Agreed, sick of the dribble fed updates.

      iPhone5 should definitely be on that list as a huge let down - Nexus4 prob makes the list due to Google relying on LG to manufacture a device people will actually want to own


    Same site.... different author.... Surface is one of the most important gadgets but also the biggest disappointment?

      It can be both... its an important step in the right direction it was just a disappointment from all the hype and promise it was given by MS. Like they said, we'll see what the PRO is like.

      I think that's possible - It's important because it potentially links WP8 and Windows 8 - giving you complete synchronicity across platforms. But it dissappointed because so far it's not delivering on even a 10th of it's true potential.

      Peronally I was holding off on a tablet for surface - but now I'm just thinking about grabbing a fully fledge laptop with a touch screen. It's heavier and won't travel as well but at least it will do everything I'll ever need.

        You might want to consider the Surface Pro then, its a bit thicker Surface with a full ultrabook inside it

          Yup it's on the list to be checked out in the new year - as well as the half a dozen other tablet/laptop crossovers that are out or coming out.

    The iPad mini screen is not as bad as people think. I find the screen on my iPad mini fine. It seems with Apple doing the whole retina screen thing people where a bit thrown at why they didn't put one on the mini.

      Agree. I've played around with a friend's and it looked fine.

      I think the point is that for a company that seems to be always pushing the boundaries, the iPad Mini is the same old thing. The screen is fine, but it's just the same iPad in a smaller form, there's no innovation in that.

        why does everything Apple sell HAVE to be innovative - They released the mini in direct response to a trending market area. Product that sells = profit. Simple.

          Because apple continually market their products as "innovative", "revolutionary", "magic" etc.
          Their ads would have you believe they invented everything, so when their product suck, which the ipad mini does, they set themselves up to be ridiculed for it.

      I still use my iPad 2 everyday with no real issues. Only when I see my housemates Retina I am dissapointed. I suppose its the same thing

      they have to leave some features out - how else will they get you to upgrade in March

    That's the funny thing, the iPad mini screen isn't that bad. Yes it SHOULD have been retina, but the iPad resolution squeezed down into that size makes it look sharper anyway. So it's not the end of the world.

    As to the Surface, I wonder how many people have actually used it.

    It's an awesome product.

      I've used it, and it's not awesome. The hardware is nice, but that's about it. The Pro should be better, though.

        Yes, it is awesome. But any excuse to bash Microsoft right? Windows 8 is Windows 8. The RT is a tablet. Not a computer. In competition with other TABLETS it's superior. It can do more.

        I can add a Micro SD card, I can plug in a USB drive and move files around, I have a REAL version of office, I can get an extra 7GB of storage via Skydrive that is shared with other Windows devices, and then still do everything I can do on my iPad. Browse the web, play games, listen to music, watch videos.

        So remind me what's so wrong with it?

        You're right about the Android phones. Spec wise, they are almost all exactly the same, the difference being, thet they're the same phones from different manufacturers.

        But the Galaxy S3 is a fair leap from the S2. At the very least, more than the 5 is to the 4S. But my biggest issue with the 5 is that given how shockingly the same the 4 and 4S are, the 5 SHOULD have been a bigger jump than it actually was. Hence, why it should be considered a disappointment. Not because it's not a good product, which I never said.

          I'm not attacking Microsoft - I love what they're doing here. Just from my experience with using one, I wasn't blown away by it. Like I said, the hardware feels really nice, and solid. The stand is very satisfying. The keyboard cover, is okay, not great.

          It's how it runs. I didn't find it snappy enough, I move very fast throughout UI's and was finding myself waiting for the device, rather than it waiting for me. This may not be an issue for everyone, but it was for me. Connecting to a WPA2 Enterprise wireless was an absolute chore. You need to go to the backend of the OS (the "classic" desktop) and go through the network settings using the normal Windows UI, which is not touch friendly - accuracy was finicky, the main "metro" interface is great for touch, though - then after configuring the security settings and certificate settings it still wouldn't connect. Their approach to using icons over text also became a problem. Just trying to figure out some settings was difficult, as the icons didn't always accurately represent what it was trying to convey.

          I'm sure if I spent more time with it, I would have learned the ropes and enjoyed it much more. But I'm looking at it from a consumer perspective, if I picked it up at a JB in consideration of buying, I wouldn't have been blown away.

          Also what you listed, nearly all tablets can do (with exception of USB and SD cards on the Apple devices). The problem is that yes, it's a tablet, but MS are marketing this towards a laptop replacement. The Pro version should succeed at this, with hope (really, I want this to take off).

            Do they advertise it as a laptop replacement though?

            I've seen 2 or 3 different ads for the Surface and they do nothing to make me think this thing is a laptop replacement. They focus on the design of the unit (which is stunning) more than anything. I think it's the tech sites that TELL us that Microsoft is pushing this as a laptiop replacement despite the fact that Microsoft has done nothing of the sort in their real world advertising.

            If you use the Surface as a TABLET and not a PC replacement, it's basically the best pure tablet there is, and I was shocked at how fine I was using the touch keyboard. Giz made that keyboard out to be the biggest abomination known to technology, and I found myself typing perfectly fine with it, and that was with only a few minutes of typing. I'd get even better with time.

            The ONLY thing holding me back from the Surface that didn't hold me back from Windows Phone is the app store. There are apps I get on the iPad that I genuinley want now that I have a little one that I can't YET get on the Surface.

            Having said that, I'm trying to convince the wife to keep both. She and the baby can use the iPad while I use the Surface exclusively given I only ever use a tablet as a web browser 99.99% of the time.

              Surface is apparently a magnet . . . at least, that is what you would think from their advertisements because that is all that they demonstrate. I don't understand what message MS is trying to convey to potential customers, but their advertisments certainly make no sense. MS does nothing to convey a sense of desire for a product that is claimed to be chock full of innovation. IMO, their advertising needs to be strengthened to demonstrate the capability fo the Surface.

            What? If you want to connect to a network you go to Settings in the Charms Bar, then click on the signal strength indicator. You can enter passcodes or serial numbers or whatever you need to from there. My modem has WPA2 and I've had no problems at all. If you click on the wi-fi icon in the system tray it takes you to that UI anyway (and it is perfectly touch-friendly).

            And no-one is marketing Surface RT as a laptop replacement.

    This site is becoming quite a joke with it's mixed msgs and inaccurate understanding of tech. The Surface RT is NOT meant to be a Tablet/Laptop hybrid. It is a unique product that does a lot more than "overall mediocrity"

    It really would be great if these so called "experts" actually tried products for more than 15mins before casting their views onto the public.

    I agree it didn't do everything it could of but come on give some credit to microsoft for taking a big risk with new ideas and producing a piece of hardware that is 2nd to none in build quality and design.

    The Surface RT does not belong on this list. It has proven to be the fastest portable computer that I have ever used. It is easy to us, inside and out. It can even be used, with awkwardness, in direct sunlight. It is totally reliable and works seamlessly with files I create on any other Windows computer. The user interface is so easy to use that it surpasses all other attempts by a big margin.

    Not everyone likes Microsoft products, and that's fine, but if you take out the fatuous nonsense about the Surface RT you are left with many report of owner pleasure with the device. For me it better than I ever expected it to be.

      It's only on the list for page views. I've never used one my self so I can't judge. But they do look nice.

      I agree with this.

      The only drawback I was concerned with was the lack of standard PC application support in Windows RT. But I can safely say that I am not really missing it to the point where I might not be bothering with the Surface Pro.

      If they can get a Surface Pro with the battery life of the RT however.... then I'll be buying one on release.

      Don't worry, take anything Sam Biddle does/says with a grain of salt.

    So much Surface hate. Where's the playbook hate? Seriously. Give it six months and pretty much anything you want to do will be in the Windows 8 store. Being an early adopter doesn't get you everything straight away, it wasn't that long ago that most apps on the iPad were just giant versions of the iPhone apps meaning you had to do everything in the browser anyway. The difference is websites have come leaps and bounds forward in usability in the last couple of years compated to where they were at when the iPad came out, so most functionality is easy to come by anyway.

      PlayBook was last year but I actually think it is pretty good, much better than I expected it to be. And if you have a Blackberry phone it is even better. With the prices they are going for now - less than $250 for a 64gb model - they are great value and there are more apps for it than you might think (it can also run Android apps).

    I have to assume that putting Surface on the list is a deliberate bait to boost the comments. As such it is pretty transparent. Almost nothing the author has to say about it is anywhere near accurate. The version of Surface that will fulfill Microsoft's promise hasn't been released yet and only a complete idiot would have thought that MS could somehow overcome all of ARM's limitations when no-one else has been able to. SurfaceRT is exactly what anyone with a brain should have expected it to be - an attractive piece of hardware packing real innovation (TouchCover), containing an OS better optimised for touch than anything else around. No-one should have expected it to be cheap or to magically be able to run desktop applications from a RISC chip. Well, no-one with the level of understanding that a tech journalist should possess, anyway.

    Why not just say the iPad Mini? Why single out the screen as if that's the only issue with it? There's lots more wrong with the iPad mini besides the screen. Such as the fact that the N7 trounces its specs, and its ridiculous price point.

    Every other device on that list is listed as the device itself (Nexus Q, Sony Smartwatch, Surface RT) but you decide it's only enough to criticise the Mini's screen. It's as if you decided to include something Apple related (that wasn't Apple maps) in the list to try to keep those that don't like Apple happy, but it's had the opposite effect and just makes you look more biased than ever.

      Dude, did you see who the author is? Its a Sam Biddle article. I was going to point out the exact same thing until I saw your post. iPad Mini's screen? Come on Sam, you know there's a lot more wrong with the iPad Mini than just the screen. The specs and price are two other key factors, when compared to the competition justify why you should have put the iPad Mini itself on the list, and not just the screen. But then, you are an iFanboi, arent you? Credibility lost.

      Here we go with spouting specs, again. Guys, specs (processor, RAM) are irrelevant to a product like the iPad. Stop comparing them to Android devices. it's Apples (intended) to Oranges.

      Will agree on the price point, though. Nexus 7 has it beat by a mile. But as it's been stated, they offer completely different user experiences.

      iPad mini is just a small iPad 2, which in itself isn't a bad thing, but in this generation, it's nothing to be proud of. I think the reference to the screen is based on Apple's track record of including hi-res displays in their devices now. The device itself performs well.

        Here we go with spouting specs, again. Guys, specs (processor, RAM) are irrelevant to a product like the iPad. Stop comparing them to Android devices. it's Apples (intended) to Oranges.

        Why shouldn't they be compared? The iPad Mini was released to be in DIRECT competition with the Nexus 7. And you can certainly compare specs between them considering they are filling the same market and are competing with each other for that market share.

        Suggesting the specs are irrelevant makes you sound like an Apple fanboy yourself.

          Comparing specs between the two platforms is entirely irrelevant. If these were both Android based devices, then it's a plausible comparison. We're talking about two devices that handle memory and resource management completely different. If it's just a sake of title, then you're completely overlooking the most important factor of these devices. The user experience. You could line up the two next to each other to the average consumer, and through usage, they would not be able to say "yep - you can really see the difference that extra 200MHz makes".

          Remember, we're not talking about desktop computers here, we're talking about portable touch based tablets, designed for portability, battery life, and touch interfaces. Not for prime crunching and bench testing.

          It seems the whole specs mindset is stuck in the early 2000's when the Pentium 4 reigned clock speed champion, yet today an ARM processor will easily compete with these 4GHz heaters.

          Pick the device up, use it. For the average consumer, both get the job done perfectly fine. It's boils down to preference.

          I'm no fan boy, I'm a down to earth realist who enjoys using technology.

          The iPad mini can't be a DIRECT competition to the Nexus 7... Apple will never make a 7 inch tablet.

    I'd like to submit the "Nexus 4 Supply Debacle". I needed a new phone a week before it came out. Missed out when they went on sale, and now it's still not in stock. God damn it LG and Google.

    I am glad to see so many comments getting behind the Surface. I have got the RT version and I find it good at what I would expect a tablet to do. There are not the depth of apps that iOS and Andriod have, but there seems to be constant stream of new ones. I am yet to find any information that I can not get through websites anyway. The touchcover is really easy to use, and the USB and Kickstand make it stand out as a better utility than any apps I have used.

    You guys really hate that hoverboard... maybe send the review unit out to me?

    Surface RT definitely does not belong in this list. It is meant to be a tablet, not a desktop. As a tablet it is 1,000 times more useful than an iPad or a DroidTab. The iPad is just a toy compared to the Surface. The app store has everything I want or need to do the stuff I'm interested in. I can use it as a lightweight laptop when required (RDP, Citrix, Windows Explorer, USB port) or use it as a normal tablet for email and browsing.
    It is one of the best new products of 2012, if not THE best.
    I think the Pro will be far more of a compromise than the RT because it is intended as a laptop replacement, and I think the small screen will be too annoying.

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