#Asia Falling short: The top 9 biggest tech blunders of 2016

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The losers of this 2016 are going need to write a long New Year’s resolution list

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2016 has proved to be an exceptionally turbulent year: a slew of high profile celebrities deaths, and two acrimonious and drawn-out major political events that have flipped the world on its head, to name a few.

This tech world was not spared either. Earlier this year, there were speculations of a funding winter. Many tech companies saw their profits dipped; some collapsed; some resigned to the easier path of getting bought out; others saw their long-fought dream come to an end. Then there were scandals borne out of falsehoods.

Of course, there were many wins too. Space X landing on a drone ship, the first trial of driverless cars in Singapore, and many companies raising funds and making major acquisitions.

But in this article, we at e27 would like to take a broad overview of the unpleasant headlines that have pockmarked the tech landscape  – we present to you, the 10 tech blunders of 2016 (global edition).

Chinese elevated bus probably a pipe dream

China transit elevated public bus-2

A public transport system that aims to ease traffic jams by running above cars, this was what China’s Transit Explore Bus (TEB) was designed to do – if it had succeeded. Unfortunately, although a prototype (which could seat up to 300 passengers) was dcreated, the project never got passed the trial stage.

The developer, TEB Technology, was reportedly facing financial troubles, and its future continues to be uncertain. Today, the prototype sits at the test site, gathering dust. Ironically, the large test site has constricted its surrounding roads in the city of Qinhuangdao, causing traffic congestions.

World’s cheapest smartphone accused of running a scam

Ringing-Bells-Freedom-251

If something sounds too good to be true, one should exercise extreme caution. India-based company Ringing Bells made headlines this year when it announced the launch of its US$4 smartphone Freedom 251 – the world’s cheapest smartphone.

Its specifications were fairly decent too. The Android Lollipop 5.1-powered smartphone packed a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 4 inch (10.2 cm) qHD IPS display, 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage memory (and expandable up to 32GB with an external MicroSD card), 3.2 megapixel rear camera and 0.3 megapixel front camera.

But controversy followed almost immediately when it was discovered the company was being dishonest about their product. The original logo of phone – Adcom – was found covered with an office whitener. They were also accused of running a ponzi scheme.

Adcom said that it sold the phones to Ringing Bells at Rs. 3,600 (US$54) each, and had no knowledge of its plans to repackage and resell them. Ringing Bells was subsequently brought under police investigation.

Despite all of this, the company claims to be doing well, shipping over 70,000 units to date, though it has ways to go before it can wash off the stain of its earlier blunders.

Coolest cooler burns through all its funding

Coolest_cooler

Coolest cooler was going to be the perfect companion to any camping/picnic trip. You could use it to charge your phones, play music, store cutlery, store and crush ice, and a whole lot more.

In 2014, it score well past its funding, raising about US$13 million on its Kickstarter campaign page. Backers were not just attracted to its features but also its affordable price tag – US$185. Unfortunately, like many ambitious consumer product startups, the manufacturing and delivering process proved to be a herculean task.

Unfortunately, like many ambitious consumer product startups, the manufacturing and delivering process proved to be a herculean task. And with a demand this high, Coolest cooler only managed to deliver to less than half of its 56,000 backers. Manufacturing delays and other problems continued to dog the company, to the chagrin of backers whose patience were wearing thin.

At one point, Coolest cooler even proposed backers foot an additional US$97 so that they could get the product shipped within three months . Those who refused to pay would have to wait for the company to reap profits from sales through Amazon before getting the product.

Obviously, the backlash was swift and furious – some even sent death threats to the team. Overall, the whole experience left a bad taste in the backers’ mouths – and to some extent, tarnished the name of crowdfunding.

Facebook’s first satellite launch goes up in flames

FacebookSatellite

Mark Zuckerberg had a dream of delivering internet access to remote areas of Europe, Middle East and Africa. But his first shot at it went up in literal flames when the Spacecom AMOS-6 satellite perished in the explosion of its SpaceX rocket carrier.

The US$200 million satellite was built by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and operated by Spaceom. In October last year, Facebook, along with satellite provider Eutelsat approached Spacecom with a US$95 million deal to lease AMOS-6’s broadband capabilities to deliver internet signals. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket then took on AMOS-6 as its payload.

Unfortunately, during its launch in September, Falcon 9 malfunctioned during fuel loading, triggering a massive explosion that resulted in a four minute-long fire.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s catastrophic defect

Samsung Note 7 FINAL

Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s notoriety has become so widespread that it needs no introduction. Its hazardous exploding battery batteries problem launched two global recalls, a class action lawsuit, a ban on major airlines, the subsequent permanent discontinuation of the product, and most importantly, a collection of dank memes.

Pebble smartwatch winds up operations

Pebble_Watch

Smartwatch startup Pebble launched two successful crowdfunding campaigns, but in 2016, it announced it was getting acquired by wearables company Fitbit.

The deal sees Fitbit acquiring all of Pebble’s assets. All future software updates and manufacturing of Pebble’s smartwatches will cease. Pebble has also started issuing refunds to backers who have not received their rewards.

Its Kickstarter campaign update paints a warm fuzzy picture of a bittersweet ending along with the hope of a new beginning. But for current Pebble owners and other observers, there is nothing to cheer about.

Pebble is yet another salient warning about the perils of crowdfunding. Yes, Pebble owners may have got what they paid for, but with the company turning tail on them means that if their watches spoil or become incompatible with new operating systems, well, then, they are left in the dust.

No Man’s Sky fall from grace

NoMansSky

There were many gaming disappointments this year, none so spectacular as Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky. The Playstation 4 and Windows game was going to be revolutionary. Imagine, being able to explore up to 18 quintillion different planets, each containing a rich world of unique randomly generated flora and fauna.

An 18-minute gameplay demo fuelled the hype train, and expectations were, of course, sky high (pun intended). The objectivity of the game was to mine minerals, upgrade your spaceship, intervene in space battles, interact with aliens, all the way making your way to the centre of the universe – and the end of which a surprise ending will be revealed.

Unfortunately, the only surprise awaiting players was how lacklustre the game was. The actual game resembled little of the demo as players encountered sparsely populated worlds (Hello Games did make good on its promise of randomly-generated creatures though). Also, there wasn’t much to do in the game – vague objectives, uninspiring space battles, to name a few.

And the ending? Reaching the centre of the universe initiated a sequence that led to a new universe – with the same bland, randomly generated worlds.

Game reviewers were lukewarm, but the players, who had to fork out US$60 for the game, were out for blood. Gaming platform Steam received a flood of refund requests. And in August, Hello Games was investigated for false advertising.

No Man’s Sky did defy expectations of a normal game, and for a while, it was interesting. Perhaps if it was priced in the range of an indie game (about US$20), it may have escaped the firestorm of criticisms.

Apple fails to inspire

Apple_Macbook

Ask a room full of Apple fanboys and I will bet none of them can say, in good conscience, that they were inspired by Apple’s new Macbook series. The improvements are so minutiae that observers are worried Apple is losing its innovative edge (let us not forget that the iPhone 7, despites its sales figures, was not exactly pushing boundaries either).

The new Macbook Pros are lighter, and the only stand out feature is the touch bar, which lets you edit videos and photos quicker, and also assign emojis to it (though, honestly, the most interesting part of touch bar is the guy who hacked it to run Doom).

But the most baffling thing about these new updates is the removal of HDMI, Firewire and God-forbid, USB ports, SD card slots? Another act of “courage” after the removal of elimination of the audio jack in iPhone 7, perhaps?

By the way, the new Macbook Pro, oddly enough, has retained the audio jacks. An Apple spokesperson reasoned that some users have pro audio set ups and therefore require a headphone jack.

As someone who has worked in the video/audio production industry, I can safely say that line of reasoning is nothing but a load of bollocks. USB, Firewire and SD card slots are highly critical tools to any videographer, photographer, sound person or video editor.

Oh, did I mention that Apple TV now has a new video content service app, called simplyTV? Basically, it allows users to select from over 1,600 video content providers, except the two biggest ones, Netflix and Amazon Video.

Pathetic, really.

Facebook’s media objectivity problem

Facebook LIVE

Among the many oft-quoted catchphrases and terms used in the election, one that sticks out, because of its far-reaching implications, is post-truth. Several mainstream media outlets posited that a stream of misinformation may have helped propelled Donald Trump to victory.

And Facebook had a large role to play in this. Without going too much into the specifics, Facebook’s problem was that it relied on too much on an algorithm, instead of human editors (who were made redundant), to curate news.

As a result, stories with the highest engagement were automatically circulated, regardless whether it was fake or real. It was alleged that nefarious Russians operatives exploited this loophole, flooding the platform with a slew of fake news articles that favoured Trump and demonised Hillary Clinton.

Facebook’s algorithm also placed users in an echo chamber, meaning that supporters of either candidate would only receive relevant news articles agreeable to their viewpoints.

As you might have guessed, this deepened the division and animosity between both sides in an already heated election (made worse by a candidate with a penchant for crude and violent remarks). Whether Facebook wants to acknowledge it or not, it has played an important role in deciding the fate of the election.


Image Credit: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo

The post Falling short: The top 9 biggest tech blunders of 2016 appeared first on e27.

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