2018 was a great year for tech! Sort of. This year has seen a multitude of great new products, especially in the PC space with a plethora of new laptops entering the scene. However, as with every year, there were some tech companies and tech products which failed to impress or live up to the hype. Here are my top five tech disappointments of this 2018:
Apple was on a huge upward trend back in April and July. With new MacBook Pro’s, the new iPhone’s, and the HomePod, Apple became the first public company in the United States to reach a $1 trillion valuation. However, almost immediately after reaching this milestone, it all came tumbling back down. After reaching their 13-figure valuation, the company saw a drastic market correction, falling back to their original valuation at the beginning of 2018.
Apple’s innovations this year have failed to impress compared to previous years, with only minor updates to their hardware and software lineup keeping the hype alive. The new iPad Pro has failed to compete with the competition – despite its impressive 120hz screen – as iOS continues to hold back the tablet series from taking on Microsoft’s Windows platform. The new MacBook Air appears stunning at first, but is unable to recapture the magic of its predecessors or the power of competing thin-and-light laptops. The HomePod is awkwardly wedged between Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, with both companies offering cheaper and more advanced personal assistant devices than Apple’s large expensive speaker. While the Apple ecosystem remains ever-slow to change and ever resilient, 2018 was not their best year.
4. The PlayStation Classic
Sony really enjoys copying Nintendo, especially if it brings the promise of free money. Enter the PlayStation Classic — a small retro device that emulates (literally!) the feelings of the original PlayStation in a tiny form-factor for $100. While it does a great job impressing customers with its cute design and USB controllers, the Classic’s multiple shortcomings fail to capture the same magic that the NES Classic managed to grip users with.
Firstly, Sony doesn’t give you an AC adapter in the box. Great. Pretty much everyone has a USB Micro Type-B connector lying around, but it still feels scummy for a purposefully under-powered device with such a high markup to not contain the single thing that’s required to make the device power on.
Secondly, the game selection is alright, with games such as “Crash Bandicoot” being mysteriously absent from the Classic’s catalog. However, with games such as “Metal Gear Solid,” “Final Fantasy VII,” and “Twisted Metal,” it ain’t no slouch either. But how does it play these games? Well, unlike Nintendo, who developed their own emulators to accurately emulate the NES and SNES’s graphics, Sony have decided to use the PCSX Reloaded emulator, an open source PlayStation emulator. Because of the availability of the open source emulator online, there is no real difference between playing on a PlayStation Classic or just loading PCSX Reloaded onto a Raspberry Pi 3 and putting that in a 3D-Printed shell, which many people have already done. With little exclusive or interesting technology and a high price tag, the PlayStation Classic disappoints, with Sony once again failing to capture the same lightning in a bottle as Nintendo.
3. The Google Pixel Slate
Ever since Microsoft unveiled the Surface lineup in 2012, Tablet-PC hybrids have slowly become more and more mainstream, as Apple and other OEMs begin to expand their lineups to include thin and light tablets with keyboard attachments. Now, Microsoft has become one of the largest PC hardware producers in the world after just a few years, with the Surface Pro leading their lineup.
Also as a new company in the computer hardware space, Google have gained more and more traction recently with their Pixel phones, with cameras that blow nearly every other phone out of the water. But, in the PC space, Google has struggled, remaining dedicated to their Linux-based Chrome OS — or Android, a la the Pixel C. This includes their Pixel Slate, their flagship Chrome OS tablet. While Chrome OS has made strides in recent years, the platform remains in its infancy, with shaky Android app support struggling to make up for the platform’s lack of versatility and legacy software. Laggy animations and a lack of serious innovation have caused the Pixel Slate to fall flat, especially considering the high price tag on the tablet itself and its $200 keyboard.
2. The new Palm
The Palm brand used to be one of the largest and most innovative in the smartphone space, with intuitive gesture controls mixed with a signature hardware keyboard providing one of the best mobile navigation experiences of the 2000’s. However, following a sale to HP and the subsequent death of the Palm platform to Android and iOS, Palm has practically faded out of existence.
However, a small startup in San Francisco has revived the Palm brand with the inelegantly-named new Palm phone. The concept of the Palm phone is great in theory: a small phone running Android that you can use when you don’t want to carry your big, bulky, and powerful phone all day. With how large phones have gotten in the past few years, it makes sense to go back to basics with a small 3.3” phone akin to the older Palms that people adored so much.
But unfortunately in execution, the Palm phone falls short. The small phone falters with poor battery life and a non-intuitive interface, spitting in the face of the Palm legacy, which still resonates in the iPhone X and Android 9.0 Pie. But does that really matter? In a review for The Verge, Dieter Bohn states that “this is not a phone inspired in any appreciable way by either PalmOS or webOS. This company took the name.” But even taking that into account, the phone barely stands on its own, with all this compromise bringing a $350 price tag. Adding to that, you cannot buy it on its own; only as an add-on with Verizon Wireless.
Nothing quite gets the blood flowing like speculative currencies. Cyptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum saw a huge boom late last year, peaking in December of 2017. However, as the calender moved into 2018, cryptocurrencies fell back out of the mainstream along with their value. Thousands of cryptocurrencies now exist, but few are actually worth investing in or buying. Many were even ousted as Ponzi schemes, with scam artists seeking to profit off the ignorant and eager investors that sought to get rich quick off the Bitcoin boom.
But as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies continue to fall in value, the truth about them comes more and more into light. Originally a decentralized platform meant to empower the people and enable the anonymous and independent passage of money, cyptocurrencies have become what was originally feared the most. Private companies such as those in China and Russia have developed large GPU cryptocurrency farms that exist solely to mine cypto. With these large farms, mining with consumer hardware has become inefficient, with the few profiting still from cryptocurrency being rich entities that can afford to buy enough hardware to efficiently mine it.
Especially considering the high energy consumption from Bitcoin mining that could accelerate climate change, cryptocurrencies are not at all what they were hyped up to be.