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Top 5 smartphone fails of 2012

Top 5 smartphone fails of 2012

5 Google Wallet

Google Wallet generic graphic (large)

At the back end of 2010, tech chatter was rife that 2011 would be the year of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. When that didn’t happen the same smartphone sages then nominated 2012 as the year when NFC goes mainstream.

Looking back over the last 12 months, it’s fair to say that it didn’t happen this year either. Despite a big push for the tech at the London 2012 Olympics where big-chain shops and eateries throughout the athletes’ village, the tech remains a niche concern.

But what really did for Google Wallet’s chances was the discovery of a major security flaw, which cleared the way for nefarious types to access users’ Google Wallet PIN and fill their boots with consumer durables using the credit card tied to the NFC chip.

Even before the story broke, the signs were there that the Google Wallet user base was tiny. But the alarmist headlines that the story attracted were just what NFC didn’t need at a time when people are sceptical over the technology, with the result that Google Wallet might have killed NFC for good.

4 Siri hearts Nokia

siri nokia lumia

Until recently, the Siri voice commands app that debuted on the iPhone 4S was seen as the most flawed bit of software ever to make it past the gates at Infinite Loop.

Unfortunately despite its many shortcomings, Siri was still clever enough to know a brilliant user interface when it saw it. Which, we’re guessing, is why in May 2012 it was discovered that if you asked the app “what is the best smartphone ever” it returned the answer: The Nokia Lumia 900.

Of course, Apple censored the response soon enough. But not before wags and Fandroids had enjoyed themselves heartily at Apple’s expense.

This wasn’t the first time this year that tech watchers used the phrase ‘it wouldn’t have happened on Steve Jobs’ watch’. And, as we’ll see later, it wouldn’t be the last time either.

3 Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Android Jelly Bean generic banner

Now that Android has caught up with its smartphone rivals, there’s no need to rush out new iterations of the software all the time, right? Right. That means that when freshly baked software does arrive it’ll be much less likely to be riddled with irksome flaws, right? Well, you’d have thought so.

Not if Android 4.2 was anything to go by. Among the many glitches it harboured were Bluetooth connectivity issues, rapid battery drain and random reboots.

Less serious, but somehow more shaming, was the fact that an oversight meant that a glitch in the stock People app meant that users were unable to input December birthdays or event reminders.

2 Windows Phone Challenge

windows phone challenge

The Pepsi Challenge, which took the form of a blind taste test and was the central plank of the drink's marketing back in the 1980s, seems pretty hokey to us now that we're all ad-literate and post-modern. But it was a campaign that lives long in the memory. And was pretty effective at helping the underdog eat into Coca-Cola's market share.

That's not something you could say about the Windows Phone Challenge, which encouraged tech types with phones powered by other operating systems to do something faster than they could with kits running Microsoft's OS. If they could a prize of $1,000 was up for grabs. So far, so bullish.

Except that not long after the campaign was launched a technology scribe's handset did outperform the Windows Phone kit by some distance. The fact that his position meant that he was brilliantly placed to draw attention to the PR fail was bad enough for Microsoft. But then they went and compounded the PR fail by refusing to pay him his prize.

1 Apple Maps

apple maps our price

When iOS 6 landed it brought with it an improved version of Siri that at last brought support for UK businesses to Apple's voice commands app-cum-digital assistant service. A much less welcome change, though, was that it also replaced the Google Maps mapping solution with the hugely inferior Apple Maps.

It was riddled with so many inaccuracies as to be laughable. Among them were listings for long defunct retailers, such as Our Price and Woolworths. Both of which were high-profile victims of the economic downturn, but of whose fate Apple's map-makers had heard nothing in the intervening years. Then there were misspellings, perhaps the most egregious of which took in Westminister, Upper Halloway and Shephard’s Bush Green. And then there was the complete omission of locations as historic as Stratford Upon Avon.

To compound matters, it later transpired that Apple's contract to use Google Maps had aeons to run. So there was no pressing need to replace the mapping solution. That means that Apple sacrificed its customers, who'd shelled out loads of cash for their handset, principally to cock a snook at its rival Google. For a company that makes such a fuss about how it puts user experience front and centre of its devices, that's simply unacceptable.

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