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Top 5 smartphone flops of 2013

Top 5 smartphone flops of 2013

The last 12 months saw some phone purveyors go from strength to strength, with profitable devices that racked up garlands from reviewers and huge sales in equal measures.

But it wasn't so rosy elsewhere. 2013 was also the year that long-time players' long-time problems (stand up BlackBerry and HTC) brought them closer than ever to the tech graveyard. While in some cases, even the year's winners came to market with devices that dented their otherwise saintly reputations.

Here we'll be looking at the failingest fails from 2013's blooper reel.

1 Samsung Galaxy Gear

samsung galaxy gear official orange

Way back at the front end of last year, someone somewhere decreed that 2013 was the year smartwatches were really, really going to happen. But while they did appear to make major inroads, fast forward 12 months and they’re still a long way from being mass-market devices.

The reason for that? Well, the absence of the iWatch to snare the interest of less committed tech fans is perhaps the main one. But it also didn’t help that Samsung dropped the ball with the Galaxy Gear.

Debate rages over how many it sold. Some insiders claim the figure was as low as 50,000. Samsung reckon that the real number was a much more impressive 800,000.

But what we do know from its reception in the tech press is that the Galaxy Gear wasn’t the device the world was waiting for. As our review testified, it was too glitchy for that, with dire battery life and a chunky, cumbersome design. We were also unimpressed with its limited functionality and the fact that the small screen made texting a bind.

For Samsung’s part, it seems to have viewed the Gear as a canny way to convince the public that it’s leading the smartwatch charge and not Apple.

That’s fine and dandy. But what’s not right is expecting the public to shell out £300 for a half-realised gadget.

Let’s hope take two, which is supposed to land early in 2014, is better.

2 BlackBerry’s entire year

blackberry logo new

Ailing RIM’s decision to rebrand as BlackBerry was supposed to herald a new start and represent the first step towards the phone-maker’s return to the smartphone elite.

It was, of course, anything but.

After a series of mediocre handsets and loss-making quarters, this year's great black hopes the Q10 and Z10 also failed to win favour with consumers. In turn, that led to the company’s decision to seek a buyer.

But when a potentially equitable deal fell through and BlackBerry took itself off the market, even that didn’t go according to plan.

The sole ray of light for the company was how readily iPhone and Android users took to BBM when it was finally made available for third-party platforms.

BlackBerry now faces 2014 with fresh investment of £1 billion and a new CEO. How much difference all of that makes remains to be seen.

3 iOS 7 iMessage bug

ios 7 imessage

That iOS 7’s design split the iFaithful is a given.

But we’re not going to get into that right now. After all, whether you like its look or not and where you stand on skeuomorphism is a matter of personal taste.

What’s not a matter of opinion is that iOS 7 was ridden with annoying bugs. Not least lockscreen issues that meant that security could be easily bypassed through the camera app.

Battery life was also a problem for iPhone owners who updated their handset, as was motion-sickness due to the phone’s whizzy animations.

Worst of all, though, was the iMessage bug. This meant that missives simply just hung around for ages until a ‘Not Sent’ warning eventually appeared.

Perhaps more egregiously, though, is that iMessage didn't default to SMS in these cases.

The result of this was that messages weren’t delivered and that Apple handsets couldn't deliver on a functionality that’s been taken for granted in even the dumbest of dumphones since the late ‘90s. That, even Apple apostles will agree, is just not good enough.

4 Android 4.4 on Nexus 4

lg nexus 4 large

For years, tech heads have made Nexus smartphones their handset of choice.

That’s partly because they run a fuss-free, unadorned version of Android that dispenses with novelty UI features and bloatware, such as, the option to turn eBook pages with your eyes.

And it's partly because their stripped software makes them supremely easy to update, with the result that Nexus phones get new versions of Android before anyone else, with none of delays and glitches that affect other manufacturers’ handsets.

Except that’s not always entirely true. Not in the case of Google’s Nexus 4, anyway.

When Google upholstered its last-but-one flagship phone with Android 4.4, the results were a bit of a car crash.

Although not all phones were affected, faults reported by users included issues with the phone’s setting toggle and glitches with the camera.

Worse was some users were also saddled with a home button that didn’t work and a broken dialler that meant that your phone, erm, no longer actually made phone calls.

Of course, the Nexus isn’t the first phone to be borked by fresh software. But it’s a pretty shaming episode for Google even so.

After all, Nexus devices are supposed to set standards for OEMs to live up to.

If Google can’t get Android updates right for its own phone, you’ve got to wonder how it ever plans to get a grip on the fragmentation problems that continue to blight Android.

5 Samsung Galaxy S4 launch event

samsung galaxy s4 launch

In March, jazz-hands-crazed Broadway performers mugged their way through that must rank as one of the oddest launch events in tech lore. And it was all in aid of the arrival of the Galaxy S4.

The showcase was campy and corny in equal measures. Whether that was intentional, as Samsung claimed, isn’t important.

What matters is that it went down terribly with tech fans, baffled mass-market consumers and had womens' groups frothing with ire.

It might be overstating things to say that the launch contributed to what appears to have been a lukewarm public response to the Galaxy S4. But it certainly won’t have helped.

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