25 Worst Gadget Flops of All Time

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There are gadgets that change everything (the iPhone, the first Intel Centrino laptops, Bose's noise-canceling headphones), and then there are devices that are so spectacularly bad that they should be immortalized in their own way. The last few decades have seen all kinds of flops, from a not-so-world-changing scooter to Nokia's attempt to beat Nintendo and Sony at their own game.

More recently, we've seen a smartphone that’s likely the fastest to go from $99 to 99 cents and a Death Star-like media player that doesn't do much other than look menacing. To make our list of all-time gadget flops, the product had to do more than fail to execute. It had to have serious hype behind it—enough to help make that crash and burn all the more satisfying. Here are our Top 25 Worst Gadget Flops of All Time.

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Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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38 comments
  • Bob Webster Says:

    Your most famous bad predictions of all time missed my favorite. Watson (head of IBM) once replied to the question of what the market for computers worldwide would be. After a moment's thought he said "6".
    (Of course this was back when their only use was to compute the aiming angle of cannons.)

  • Carl Smith Says:

    Barbara, that's so awesome. I wish I'd thought of the smart watch. I'm shocked Nokia didn't appoint you CTO.

  • Carl Smith Says:

    This article is a bit boring. There's loads of much more fascinating choices you could have made, if you'd done a few hours homework.

  • Don108 Says:

    The CueCat Barcode Scanner may have been a financial flop, but it's still effective to inexpensively scan barcodes..if that's what you need to do.

  • Barbara E Bj Says:

    I gave them my ideas for free; one would think with that price, they wouldn't be able to resist... nooooo.

  • Barbara E Bj Says:

    With the bluetooth technology, they could have made small, pocket peripheral "monitors" to the device, also, that would allow users to pull out the bigger monitor -- no bigger than a regular handheld phone screen possibly or all the way to the larger types of monitors, too, made with bluetooth accessibility -- for easier viewing of things other than phone, like the news or email. But, for that expanded viewing to really be useful now, they would have to get rid of the blocks to receiving "live" netcasts through bluetooth. Then, the "monitor" wouldn't have to be connected by wires but could connect fully through remote wireless.

    That would be something *I* would use.

  • Barbara E Bj Says:

    sorry... got the ngage confused with the msn watch --- the latter did the news, per se. But the idea of my post is still the same. I sent my idea to Nokia, but the device was an MSN device. Not that I didn't like MSN at the time, also, but that was way too basic and the news services alone on a watch were already outdated -- people wanted MORE and had MORE in phones that looked like phones. A phone watch is the ticket for those who don't mind a very small screen and bluetooth phone use. I loved bluetooth phone at the time.

  • Barbara E Bj Says:

    I came up with the idea of something similar to the smart watch not all that long before MSN created it, but I sent the idea to Nokia, not MSN. If they had included all that I suggested, it would have done a lot better than it did. My idea was for the watch to BE a smartphone with all of the features of a smartphone, but primarily a more easily carried and less obvious PHONE that wouldn't look like a phone. I was inspired by "Inspector Gadget" and James Bond sorts of surreptitious gadgets that did more than they appeared to do. With bluetooth, answering the phone would have been a breeze with any number of ear pieces.

    Gaming gadgets that did nothing but gaming were on the way out if not virtually useless anymore by that time. The smartphone as a watch is still an idea worth pursuing.... except of course for the fact that, now, users are totally enamored with the larger screens on phones. I was thinking smaller rather than larger, and more concealed than a phone.

  • Edward Wolcott Says:

    I'm not sure why several of these products were on the list, including the Sharp RD3D. At the time, the RD3D was quite innovative and while the price was high, it wasn't marketed to the mass consumer...it was sold to professional users for use with CAD, medical imaging, and molecular modeling programs. Yes, the case was bulky and the Pentium 4 chip ran a bit hot, but the Sharp engineers did a total redesign for their 2nd gen 3D laptop, the AL3D, and they sold every one they made.

  • John Says:

    Not agree with the Playbook being a flop...as compared to HP Touchpad.
    The Playbook still exists...for sure it was hi-priced and targetted primarily to BB users, but since v2.0 OS, Playbook has native email, calendar, and so on....*** and runs flawlessly ***.
    And with the current prices, it's a bargain.

  • MasterDisaster Says:

    I laughed so much when I read at slide 19, joojoo pad: ..." thanks to a confusing interface that literally had a map to show you where you were." I mean, is someone so hard tripping to need a pad to show you where you are? Hilarious, as 99,3% apps available for any mobile device, they all do nothing you couldn´t do without them, well they actually do, they steal your valuable and limited time to live.

  • R.B.McKEEVER Says:

    I have heard that G.Bush fell off the Segway when it was OFF! It's not suposed to "balance" when it's OFF.Talk about getting a bad rap.

  • Seederman Says:

    I sure wish slide shows masquerading as articles were on the list.

  • martina eleizabeth Says:

    Re the segway and quote from the article - " The final insult came when President Bush fell of a Segway in 2004."
    That is so unfair! This was hardly the failt of the machine! Bush was probably so drunk and/or so high at the time. that he could have fallen off the ground if he had been lying on it! The company should have sued Bush for damaging their reputation

  • Mike C. Says:

    You really must at least *try* to get writer's who have actually lived more than 22 years...

  • JDE Says:

    "A $499 price tag and an executive decision to revive Palm's then aging mobile platform would relegate the Foleo to collector's item status."

    This implies someone would actually want to collect it.

  • Justin Says:

    You left out a bunch.
    How about the apple Lisa? The Mac portable? The Newton? Performa? The pippin? The g4 cube? Apple TV? The new version of Final cut? Snow leopard? The iphone 4/4s? I just noticed you forgot to list one Apple failure of which there are hundreds.

  • Matt M Says:

    I noticed that only one gadget on this list was pre-2000, and even that one was 1998. There were many, many gadgets before that, and certainly some very big failures. The mini-disc player and format comes to mind. As does the laser disc. Maybe I'm misremembering and those were not as bad of failures as I remember, but I'm sure if we put a little thought into it, we could come up with many others. So, while I'm not saying that the devices on this list don't deserve to be here, it seems like this is a very skewed and incomplete list.

  • Dale R Says:

    The Segway may not have been a "failure" per se, but it was in relation to what was expected. If you remember the ads before the Segway was revealed (there was great secrecy to what it even was), they were saying things like "in 30 days, prepare for the world to change overnight" or some nonsense like that. The Segway was interesting, but...a world changer? Hardly.

  • CueCatFan Says:

    CueCats were also available for free at your local Radio Shack, and some stations (such as those owned by Belo) broadcast signals that would travel the audio out from your TV to internet-connected PC with CueCat software to bring up related websites.

    In the era before smartphone cameras and QR codes, this was actually a genius idea.

    The problem with the CueCat was the software, which kept an unsecure database of products scanned. When the privacy issues came to light, that's what killed the CueCat.

    There is even a hack to convert the CueCat's scan into input for your computer, far cheaper than the typical handheld scanner/wedge. :)

  • Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Hi Joe

    Thanks for your comment. The reason most of the gadgets on this list are more recent is because we focused on mobile gadgets, which is what we focus on in terms of coverage.

  • Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Hi John,

    This error has been corrected. Thanks for your note.

  • Gordon Daily Says:

    I had a BlackBerry Storm and I loved it. I eventually moved on to a Droid Razr because there were more apps available, but I never had any issues with the touchscreen as described above.

  • SueB Says:

    I see Segway's all the time at many businesses. I'll agree that in the personal market they bombed, but in the business world they seem to be very popular for getting around large buildings and complexes.

  • Bill Says:

    One of the things that killed the Rokr was that Cingular stopped carrying it and it was picked up by another carrier - but there were updates to it after Cingular dropped it, that you couldn't get if you were a Cingular customer... It was orphaned -

  • Bill Says:

    I had a Rokr and really liked it - I didn't want an ipod that would make calls - I had a phone that would store a few audio files to play - when I wanted some music or some inspiration (Zell Miller's speech to the RNC - it was awesome!) - it doesn't compare to my iphone 5, but times have changed since the Rokr came out.

  • victor Says:

    For a tech website...this one loads really slow...I can't make it through the show...do you really have to load the whole page to see the next slide? annoying man....

  • Juan Rodriguez Says:

    Add Google Glass to the list.

  • MBauer Says:

    Really the biggest tech flops of ALL TIME all come from the last 5 years? Color me unimpressed with this list, what about laserdisc format, etc.

  • John Says:

    Interesting article. Maybe you should check your facts about the Blackberry Playbook...
    -When was it ever a 10" screen? NEVER. Sheesh, even your picture shows a different measurement.
    -And such a small tablet was such a bad idea that...hmmm...amazingly...Apple copied the the idea and made an iPad MINI.

    You were correct that the Playbook did not sell well at all, and lacked very essential features...

    You could have mentioned, though, that the Playbook can both truly multitask and run Adobe Flash, unlike Apple products.

    Too much of an iFanboy slant in this product description. Epic fail. Go work for BGR.com

  • wcatesjr Says:

    Segway a flop?? I know it hasn't been as successful as they would have liked but they are still making Segways!!! I look at the whole list and as far as I can tell none of the other flops are still in production. Keep in mind that the Segway has also led to other innovative applications that has kept that company in business. I would strongly disagree that the Segway has been a flop! If anything it has been a stepping stone to success.

  • Joe Says:

    This should be renamed "25 Worst Gadget Flops of the Last 12 Years" since that's all the farther back they went. There were "gadgets" before that, FYI, unless "gadgets" is very narrowly defined. Who wrote this, a 20something kid?

  • Bryon Says:

    All time? More like the last 10 years.

  • Jason Says:

    Interesting picks, I could see a few others that are missing. Also, around slide 23, looks like the text and the pictures are out of sync. There is a discussion about the Newton, but the photo is wrong. Continues for the rest of the show.

  • Brandon Says:

    Your list started out as intriguing when it included the Segway, but then it just turned into computing / mp3 fail whales. I guess I should have expected such blandness from "the pulse of mobile tech."

  • Andrew Says:

    I'm lost on why the CueCat Barcode Scanner was a Gadget Flop as it (and the concept behind it) was the predecessor to the QR code. This is one of the most used, non-text mass communication devices currently used on the open market.

  • Dave Says:

    How can you call the segway a failure? Have you noticed the number of police departments using them? Or security.

  • Amritaansh Verma Says:

    IMO the Nokia N-Gage was NOT a failure, I owned the ngage-2 and was revolutionary at the time, and had sold like hot cakes worldwide. The design was very innovative and was in many ways ahead of the monolithic blocks of glass we are seeing on every phone these days. Some of the ngage exclusive games were classic and are still fairly popular amongst emulator users.

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