It’s hard to argue with the conveniences tech has bestowed upon our modern lives. Ubiquitous Internet acess via smartphones gives us answers anywhere we happen to be, we never get lost anymore thanks to GPS, and we have face-to-face discussions with people thousands of miles away – for free- using webcams. Technology’s uninterruptable march forward has brought us some pretty cool stuff.
But companies don’t always get it right. For every modern marvel we spot at trade shows and in the pile of press releases that hit our desks every day, we also manage to pick out some real losers that make us question what those freewheeling Web 2.0 folks in California and suits in Japan are thinking. At the risk of sounding like old timers, we’ve assembled a list of new technologies that just don’t make any sense to us.
There’s a reason this concept has been floating around since the 1950’s: Nobody really wants to sit down and watch 3D for hours on end. As most people saw with the 3D premier of Chuck following the Super Bowl this year, 3D doesn’t make jokes any funnier, plots any more compelling, or bad characters any less annoying. And the set of a sitcom isn’t all that dazzling in three dimensions, either. Just as the Playstation 3 failed to a gaming system with worse graphics, but that was just more fun to play, we suspect 3D will fizzle when people realize how much more it will cost, and get over its novelty value pretty quickly.
Panasonic 3D TV
We’ll give Toshiba credit for being the first company to call out this trend at CES 2009, when Scott Ramirez posed the question: When has anyone ever complained their TV was too fat? Give us brighter whites, darker blacks, more colors, faster response times, bigger screens, and cheaper prices, but another half inch off the side? Who cares.
Slim TVs seem even more absurd during our current climate, when consumers might actually have to balance the benefit of spending several hundred dollars more for the luxury of a TV that sits a little closer to the wall. Thin is thin. After switching from three-foot-deep CRTs to three-inch thick LCDs, most of us are pretty content.
JVC’s 7mm thick TV
Back when digital cameras first debuted, this was an important metric for measuring the relative quality of different cameras. Now, buying a camera based on resolution is like buying a car based on how high the speedometer goes. Unfortunately, consumers still haven’t quite caught up, and marketers continue to exploit that by packing more and more resolution into awful cameras, which cough up images that look like security-cam footage from a 7-11. There’s a reason big cameras take great photos, folks. Don’t be fooled into thinking an 8-megapixel camera phone will ever challenge the real thing.
Samsung Pixon 8-megapixel camera phone
Gloss Black Electronics
We hate to rehash, but this trend has to get on the list. Glossy black plastic is to computers in the 2000’s as chrome was to cars in the 1950’s – except we doubt anybody will look back on this phase with any nostalgic fondness in half a century. It’s chintzy, impossible to keep clean, and just plain overused. Suddenly, half the gadgets we unbox here at the office come out looking like museum pieces and go back looking like used kitchen utensils. Can we move on, please?
Sonoro Cubo Design Clock Radio
From a purely hypothetical perspective, having every button appear digitally on a screen you can touch instead of as a hard button wired into a box is brilliant. It’s the most flexible of all designs. But in everyday use, it’s just not always practical. Even the most stalwart iPhone users here at the office wish it had a few hard buttons for mashing during gaming sessions, or a real keyboard that doesn’t get one out of every 10 letters wrong. Touch screens should be one part of an interface, not the whole thing. Because no matter what Apple says, there’s no shame in buttons.
Overpriced Fashion Gadgets
We’re all for conspicuous consumption on private jets, Lamborghinis, Ducatis and whatever other exotic goods you may find yourself purchasing after selling your startup to Microsoft. But those all do something amazing. If you’re going to spend $2,000 on a cell phone, it should too, not just look snazzy. You could make the same argument with jewelry, of course, except it will hold its value – or even appreciate – with time, while your Aura will be a laughable relic of 2008. The fact that anyone manufacturers or buys these things just baffles us.
It’s taken a decade to push record companies into finally offering their wares on the Internet, and losing their death grip on that outdated method of physical delivery known as the Compact Disc. Now SanDisk wants to pedal backwards and replace the CD with a microSD card so you can still pay $15 for a single album and go to the store to buy it. How is this progress? We like the SlotMusic players for their affordability, but the method of distributing music is totally backwards.
Selling Virtual Copies for the Same Price as the Real Thing
When many new games come out, you can buy them for $60 at the store, in a box with a case, manual, DVD, sometimes even with posters and other extras. Or you can buy it for $60 online and get… the game on your computer after an hour or two of downloading. How do manufacturers justify this, given all the additional cost that goes into a hard copy? We’re all for virtual distribution, but companies need to get real and begin passing savings on to the consumer.
Virtual Copy of Dawn of War II
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
Blame the catch-phrase “convergence.” Today, everybody wants a device that’s the Swiss Army Knife of electronics. This mentality touches everything from the smartphones to GPS systems, PMPs, and even picture frames. But in the rush to include more and more features, many manufacturers seem to completely lose sight of quality. Much like the impossibly tiny scissors on said pocket knives, many of these features are virtually useless. They’re handy in concept, but when it comes down to it, you would rather have a nice pair of shears for cutting. Give us a phone with amazing voice quality, reception, and a killer contact list, and a separate MP3 player that runs for days, delivers quality audio, and makes it easy to organize music. Not a clunky box that tries to do both and fails.
No Universal Connector for Mobile Devices
This one might finally be coming to an end, but in the mean time it’s worth wondering what took so long. If you’ve own five different cell phones, you’ve probably owned five different chargers and data cables. In their infinite wisdom, cell phone companies can’t seem to settle on which of 583 different-but-nearly-identical variants of USB are best. It creates a tangle of different power bricks, cords and adapters that clutter up every home they accumulate in. Somebody managed to make all those wall outlets look the same, guys. Let’s figure it out for mobile electronics, too.
Different USB Connections
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