Smartphones are, without a doubt, the most successful gadgets of the new millennium – so far, of course, as we are at its very beginning. In the first decade of their existence, they have become an integral part of everyday life for billions of people all over the world, and their spread continues each year to new territories. Over the last decade, many innovations in the world of tech have tried to repeat the smartphones’ trick – and were heralded as the “next big thing” by the media – and failed at doing so. Smartphones were a combination of innovative concepts and the right marketing, launched at the right time to be a big success. The technologies below seem to have missed their moment – for now, at least.
Connected wrist wear has been around for quite some time before all the hype but it hasn’t become “cool” until the rise of Pebble in 2012. The crowdfunded product has become very popular very quickly – by December 2014, the one millionth Pebble smartwatch was sold. The next year, a second generation was announced – unfortunately, not even the more than $20 million pledged by the more than 75,000 Kickstarter backers was enough to keep the company afloat. It closed down in 2016, with its intellectual property being taken over by Fitbit.
Samsung, Apple, LG, and many other major and minor manufacturers were quick to jump the bandwagon in 2015. Smartwatch sales have grown slowly last year to reach 21.1 million units (compared to 20.8 million in 2015). The market was also flooded by software to run on smartwatches, with even Vegas Palms the top Canadian casino online getting its Android Wear games. But not even the Vegas Palms’ adoption of the platform was enough to boost the smartwatches’ popularity to live up to the hype surrounding them.
Comparatively, over 100 million units of the much humbler fitness bands were sold in 2016 alone.
Oculus Rift made all gamers’ heart miss a beat when it revived the idea of virtual reality in 2010. The press was filled with news about the product – and the many others that followed – and a variety of companies, both hardware and software developers, were quick to jump the bandwagon. This includes the developers behind the Vegas Palms, pioneers in their industry, and their “VR Roulette” that impressed players and critics alike. Last year, the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the PlayStation VR were released (these are currently the only “proper” VR headsets that are commercially available). And their sales failed to impress: although their prices are similar to that of a mid-range to high-end smartphone, only 6.3 million units were shipped in 2016.
The hype surrounding VR headsets was massive – and the sales failed to live up to the expectations based on media reports. VR is here to stay, of course – its adoption rate depends on the improvement of the technology as well as the “Wow! factor” that turned the smartphone into what it is today – but it’s a marathon rather than a sprint.
Remember Google Glass? It was a product with an insane amount of media coverage back in 2013. The praise it received from the media was matched by the amount of criticism, especially due to safety and privacy concerns, which determined Google to shelf the product for a few years. The hype was huge once again, and determined the launch of a series of similar products – some include Microsoft’s HoloLens in the same category, which is a bit far-fetched if you ask me – but once again, no mass adoption of the technology was seen.
Perhaps it’s the fact that smart glasses are currently functional rather than stylish that hampered the spread of the technology to the masses. Last year, only 150,000 units of smart glasses were sold.
Make no mistake: it’s not the products’ fault that they failed to impress. The media, in turn, that wouldn’t stop reporting about these innovative – and, let’s be honest, very cool – products that made us, mere mortals, believe that they will go viral, which they ultimately failed to do. We shouldn’t be mad at the products and their producers for our disappointment – it wasn’t their fault that we dared to hope.