I’m a glass half full kind of guy. Which is why I’ve insisted on the best of the Android landscape of late, giving you the ecosystem’s top picks this Christmas, the cream of the crop in the sub-$100 tablet niche, a list of outstanding low-cost smartphones, the superlative five 10-inch slates and the handhelds most likely to keep up with you while on the move.
But that’s enough. No more Mr. Nice Guy for me. Everything is not peachy in Android world and it’s high time we wagged our fingers at some of the year’s biggest losers. Without further adieu therefore, here’s who disappointed, deceived, disillusioned and disenchanted us in 2013. The Google-powered flops, duds, bombs and lemons:
7. Motorola Moto X
As if odds weren’t already against me, with the article bound to be a hate magnet regardless of the flop selection, the list begins with what’s destined to be an extremely controversial choice. Was the Moto X a failure or not?
Well, I’ll tell you what it wasn’t: a revolutionary, groundbreaking, game-changing device, as the hype preceding its launch may have suggested. And yes, sales probably picked up recently, thanks to Moto Maker’s spread, discounts and more discounts, yet with 500,000 units shipped in August and September, you can’t possibly call the thing a box-office hit.
But why did it fail? In a nutshell, it was overpriced when it first went on sale, the US exclusivity was also a mistake, not to mention the highly anticipated customization options were simply not that great. And those that were, landed too late or didn’t land at all.
6. HTC One and One max
Another controversial choice? Believe it, as the HTC One, though stunning on paper, did… not… sell. More importantly, what was supposed to be the OEM’s saving grace failed to turn around its financial woes, causing – though not single-handedly – additional losses.
As for the One max, there’s nothing controversial here. It’s too focused on gimmicks, late to the phablet party, modest performance-wise and, oh, pricey like a “limited edition” 50-dollar Gucci t-shirt.
5. Samsung Galaxy S3 mini, S4 mini, S4 zoom
Everyone makes mistakes, and that applies to the Samsung money-making machine based in Seoul. Their GS4 sold like hotcakes, the Note 3 is hands down the best Android out there, however the S3 mini, S4 mini and S4 zoom are… pointless.
And they’re not worth separate attention, as together, they serve a sole purpose, signaling what could be Sammy’s demise. Stop with the brand dilution, stop with the sub-par, diminutive, far-too-expensive variants of flagships, just stop. Unless you want to become the next HTC.
4. Google Glass
Alright, so the wearable computer is not technically a 2013 flop, as it debuted back in 2012. But the hope was Big G would improve the concept this year, make it more than a nifty futuristic idea with no real-life use today or at least, you know, finish it and roll it out in a consumer, as-affordable-as-possible version.
None of it actually happened and for that, the smart glasses that everyone loves to hate are well deserving of a spot on our list. Who knows, maybe next year Google will hustle up and propel the gizmo on the “top 7 Android hits of 2014” poll. The potential is definitely there.
3. Nvidia Shield
It may not have been as buzzed-about as, say, the Moto X or HTC One, so its ruin possibly didn’t sting as much, but make no mistake, the Shield was a colossal bomb. Too bad there’ve been literally no sales figures announced, because we’d have used a big laugh this time of the year, when money are as fleeting as the morning dew.
The sad thing is you can’t fault Nvidia for trying. There was a legitimate chance a “handheld game console” was going to make it and the pricing was not preposterous (after one or two discounts). Then again, the delays, meager hardware, weak gaming support and limited streaming capabilities led to a painfully unavoidable fall.
Oh, and it also “helped” that Nvidia made virtually no investment in marketing and advertising. Remember a single Shield commercial? Maybe a billboard promoting it? Exactly.
2. Samsung Galaxy Gear
Two strikeouts in one year? That’s certainly unexpected from the undisputed Android kings, yet there’s no reason to pity Samsung. Have you seen Galaxy S4 and Note 3’s sales numbers? Safe to assume they have a comfortable enough cushion to afford several mishaps.
Now, just like with the Moto X, some of you are bound to look at the Gear as a triumph. Or at least not a dud. After all, it sold 800,000 units in two months. No, it didn’t. It shipped them to retailers (totally different thing), whereas actual sales supposedly circled the 50,000 figure last month.
Let’s assume they’ve hit in the meantime 100k. That’s downright pitiful, considering how much wad Samsung poured into the smartwatch’s advertising budget. For crying out loud, they got LeBron James to promote it.
How about you keep things simple, neat and cheap next time you roll out a wearable piece of technology, eh, Samsung? Also, work on your device support, as not everyone can afford a $600-$700 S4 or Note 3, plus a $300 Galaxy Gear.
1. HTC First
Such fatidic branding, so many errors of judgment. Alex Roth of TechRadar described the phone’s custom Facebook Home user interface better than anyone, saying it’s a “glorified screensaver”. And even if it wasn’t, no one wants FB to control everything on their handhelds.
And those that want, don’t care for mid-range slabs of silicon. They want something their “friends” can’t afford. Like an iPhone. There, that’s your Facebook phone, the iPhone 5C. It’s overpriced, “cute”, has a “personality” (read flimsy and plasticky) and can upload selfies on the world’s number one social network in a jiffy.
But I digress and I wouldn’t want to forget about HTC First’s “stellar” box-office performance: 15,000 units sold the first month, probably about as much so far. Alright, maybe 20,000. So when’s the HTC Second supposed to see daylight again? Right, never.