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Biggest flops of the year in mobile

Join us as we discuss the epic fails of mobile tech in 2012. These are the devices, platforms, apps and features that promised much and delivered little.
December 10, 2012

2012 has been a great year for mobile tech. Competition in the smartphone market has reached fever pitch and the battle for your tablet affections has really sparked into life. Android has increased its lead at an impressive pace. We’ve seen epic courtroom brawls, another reboot from Microsoft, and a feast of new devices and apps. There have been highs and lows, stunning irresistible devices and ridiculous perplexing failures. We’ll run through the year’s successes elsewhere. In this article we invite you, dear reader, to join us for a little schadenfreude as we serve up the biggest flops of 2012.

Windows Phone 8

Is it too early to call Microsoft’s latest mobile reboot a failure? It probably is, but even with an increased market share and Ballmer’s recent revelation that November sales were four times higher than the same period last year, it’s pretty tough to paint Windows Phone 8 as anything other than a flop. Let’s face it – quadrupling a very low figure doesn’t equal success.

Microsoft got Nokia, HTC, and even Samsung, not to mention Huawei and ZTE, to develop WP8 devices, and the company has spent big on advertising. When you throw that much money at something you expect it to sell. IDC is optimistically predicting that the platform will limp into double figures by 2016. We’re not convinced. Let’s put it this way – do you know anyone who wants a Windows Phone for Christmas? Even if WP8 hits that target, can it really be called a success considering the money that Microsoft has poured into it?

Windows Phone 7

The death knell for Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 was sounded by Windows Phone 8 when Microsoft revealed that new apps would not be backwards compatible. How’s that for a thank you to the handful of customers who were persuaded to buy a WP7 device? The old platform was struggling to get a toe hold in the market and this was the final nail in the coffin.

Amongst Microsoft’s aggressive marketing campaigns was “Smoked by Windows Phone” which led to a pretty comical PR disaster for Microsoft when a Galaxy Nexus won a challenge and staff at the Microsoft store refused to pay out.

Nokia Lumia 900 and 808 PureView

The flagship Nokia Lumia 900 came out at the start of the year and Microsoft announced WP8 in June. It didn’t sell many Lumia 900 handsets. The saddest thing about Microsoft’s failure in mobile is the fact that it is taking Nokia down with it. It’s also worth remembering the Nokia 808 PureView, which had a 41-megapixel camera, but ran the Symbian OS. Then there was the embarrassing faked PureView demo which was supposed to be a video shot with a Lumia, but was actually shot with a pro DSLR as revealed in a reflection in the video.

Google Nexus Q

A futuristic glowing orb as part of Google’s Nexus lineup was a real surprise and it generated a bit of excitement until Google revealed what it actually did and what it would cost. The Android device was designed to stream media from Google Play and YouTube to your HDTV or home stereo using your Android smartphone or tablet as a remote control. So it was basically a really limited set-top box that cost $299. It was widely criticized and Google was obviously listening. You know things are bad when Google pulls it immediately after launch.

Apple Maps app

The release of iOS 6 brought a bunch of new features to Apple’s platform, but it also cut out Google Maps as a default service and replaced it with Apple’s own Maps app. As it turned out the new Maps app could have used a bit more development time. There were several stories about dodgy directions and Apple CEO Tim Cook made history by actually apologizing. Google Maps has still not made it onto the platform.

LG Optimus Vu or Intuition

Samsung surprised a lot of people with the success of the Galaxy Note, an oversized smartphone or an undersized tablet. LG decided to jump on the phablet bandwagon, but unlike HTC, LG got it wrong. The device looks like an experiment in rectangular ugliness. The reviews ranged from average to stunningly bad. My personal favorite was from The Verge which kicked off the wrap-up with “Don’t buy this phone.”


We’ve been wondering when NFC will take off for a while now, but we can safely say it won’t be 2012. Despite being around for years, the technology has been heralded as a new mobile payment solution and it has tons of potential uses beyond that. We are seeing more high-end smartphones supporting it, but it’s simply not a must-have feature yet and all that potential is largely unfulfilled.


RIM completely failed to capitalize on its early smartphone domination and the BlackBerry platform soon fell behind Android and iOS. At the start of the year RIM’s co-CEOs were ousted and Thorsten Heins took over. BlackBerry 10 was held up as the new hope for the ailing brand, but in the summer the release was pushed back into 2013. Early glimpses looked promising, but with lay-offs and a dwindling market share, BB10 really needs to be a hit when it finally lands.

2012 has been a bad year for RIM and there’s nothing more effective at dissuading your remaining fan base from buying a new BlackBerry than announcing a new platform that isn’t backwards compatible. If you then delay it by several months you can ensure a downward spiral.

Share your flops

That’s it for now – the biggest mobile tech flops of 2012. There were plenty of poor smartphones released this past year that sank without a trace, but these are the fails that were unmissable. We’re sure you can think of a few more so post a comment and share. Or maybe you don’t agree with the list? Post a comment and tell us why.