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Rest in pieces: The biggest tech demises of 2017

tech that died in 2017 vertu feature 004
Image used with permission by copyright holder
It’s the holiday season, the happiest time of the year, so it’s only natural that our thoughts should turn to death and decay. Sadly, 2017 has given us a lot of fodder. While it’s been a great year for some tech companies and products, others have fared less well — succumbing to mismanagement or just plain sad old user indifference.

Well, light your candles and ready your handkerchiefs because here’s our list of the tech startups, products and (in one case) ideal that won’t make it to 2018.


UP24 by Jawbone Image used with permission by copyright holder

In terms of the sheer amount of money poured into it, Jawbone’s collapse in 2017 makes it the year’s biggest death: the equivalent of a Prince or a David Bowie, if Prince or David Bowie made so-so fitness trackers instead of classic albums. Having been valued at $3.2 billion in 2014, Jawbone stopped producing its fitness trackers in 2016, but struggled on to this year before liquidating its assets.

Company founder and CEO Hosain Rahman has now started a new company called Jawbone Health Hub, which will supposedly focus on software, but is its own distinct entity. The Jawbone that we knew and kind of liked has gone to Silicon Valley heaven.

AOL Instant Messenger

Old AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) Sound Effects

Some of you younger whippersnappers won’t believe it, but there was a time when AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was as crucial as WhatsApp and Snapchat for communicating with your buddies. Admittedly, that time was in the late 1990s, when we were busy fearing the Millenium Bug, and America was spent by a mass hysteria convincing us that Fred Durst was cool.

After a slow descent into obscurity, AIM finally had the plug pulled on December 15. Unless CD-ROM-based free trials of the internet miraculously come back in vogue, we can’t see it making a return.

Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition

Nintendo NES Classic Edition Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ah, Nintendo Entertainment System. You came, went, came back again, and then went for a second time, leaving an 8-bit hole in all of our lives. The all-in-one, HDMI-compatible NES Classic Edition was the “must have” Christmas gift of 2016, coming preloaded with 30 classic games.

Almost impossible to find early on, Nintendo stopped producing the NES Classic Edition in April 2017, just six months after it launched. We got a SNES Classic Edition to replace it with, but this little gaming gem clearly had a bit more life in it. If we ask Santa really nicely, maybe Nintendo will produce a few more in 2018.

The original Lily flying camera drone

Image used with permission by copyright holder

It may have been handed a Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation Award in 2016, and racked up $34 million in pre-orders and $15 million in investments, but the Lily flying camera drone so many of us were hankering after couldn’t make it out of 2017. A smart action cam you could supposedly launch by tossing it in the air, the Lily was one of the most eagerly anticipated crowdfunding projects around.

Unfortunately, it announced its bankruptcy in March, meaning that customers will never get the version they were promised. Another company, Mota Group, later bought the Lily trademarks and put out a less ambitious drone under the same name. But it’s not really the same thing.


Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If people will spend $20,000 on a watch, why won’t they spend that much on a mobile phone? This was the somewhat spurious thought process that launched Vertu, a British brand of luxury phones which sold for prices that would have even the folks behind Apple’s iPhone X pricing mumbling about wealth inequality.

Unfortunately, the blinged out, but surprisingly low-spec phones hit a stumbling block in 2017 — in the form of a $178 million debt. It collapsed in July, leaving 200 staff members unpaid and out of a job.

Net neutrality

net neutrality ajit pai header
Bill Clark/Getty Images

The concept of net neutrality, the idea that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers the same connection speeds no matter what you choose to do with it, is as baked into the internet’s identity as free cat pictures. Or, rather, it was until December 2017.

That’s when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially repealed the 2015 net neutrality regulations by passing the Restoring Internet Freedom declaratory ruling, thereby opening up potential sweeping changes to the way ISPs have to deliver services in the U.S. Since nothing definite has changed yet, calling net neutrality dead might be a slight exaggeration at this point. But the doctors would definitely be a bit concerned.

Yik Yak

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Yik Yak was a controversial messaging app, built around the promise of sending anonymous messages for college students, which made it feel all a bit Gossip Girl. With an extra dose of trolling thrown in for fun.

Sadly for its creators, 2017 turned out to be the year in which people stopped being anonymously nasty to one another online. Actually, that’s not true at all — but despite once being valued at $400 million, Yik Yak announced its closure in April. A pivot to group messaging failed, and the service was sold off for just $1 million.

3D televisions

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Perhaps our first high profile tech death of 2017 was the 3D television. A format that never really caught on beyond a niche group of avid fans, 3D TV’s memorial service may as well have been January’s CES 2017, where none of the major manufacturers — Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic — had a new 3D TV model to show off.

People have written off 3D multiple times over the years, so we’re sure that the concept will have another go-around a few years down the line. For now, though, this is technology we’re not expecting to hear about too much in the new year.

iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle

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There was a time when the iPod was Apple’s golden goose, every bit as important for the company’s bottom line as the iPhone is today. That time was not 2017. While the iPod brand continues to limp on in the form of the iPod Touch (essentially a stripped-down iPhone for people not trusted to make phone calls), it suffered two bereavements this year — in the form of the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle.

Sales of the once great devices have continued to drop, as more of us listen to music on our phones. The iPod Touch, which hasn’t received a hardware update since 2015, must live in fear of receiving a phone call with a California area code.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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