Broken promises and unfulfilled dreams: The biggest tech flops of 2017

Snap Spectacles
Snap fans pose with their Spectacles when the Snapbot rolled into Seattle last February. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Technology has its ups and downs. Sometimes new gadgets and tech devices are revolutionary and change the way we live. But sometimes, they just plain flop.

That was the case for two of the gadgets we covered on Geared Up this year, our weekly gadget show. As we counted down the best tech of 2017 for our final episode of the year, we thought it was only fitting to give a shout-out to some of the worst tech of the year as well.

Listen to our conversation about the flops in the player above, starting at the 20 minute mark.

First up: The Essential Phone. This smartphone was billed as a stripped-down, high-quality alternative to the iPhone and other flagship phones. It comes from Android creator Andy Rubin. The hype around it when it was announced in May was huge.

But the phone suffered several setbacks, most of them stemming straight from Essential’s handling of the launch. There was repeated confusion for those who pre-ordered the device about when it would be shipped, and even when consumers got the device, there were some obvious problems in the features Essential had promised.

The Essential Phone, a product of Android creator Andy Rubin, was promoted as a premium, stripped-down smartphone alternative. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

We followed up with one Seattle techie, Aaron Bird, who decided to sell his Essential phone on Ebay after preordering it with high expectations. Although he liked the hardware, the software just wasn’t up to par, he said.

All in all, the Essential Phone fell far below expectations and didn’t find the kind of market success its creators hoped for. Just in the past few months, the phone’s price has been dropped twice as the company tries to spur sales.

GeekWire reporter Kurt Schlosser braved the Seattle rain to snag a pair of Snap Spectacles. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Our second flop of the year: Snap Spectacles. These flashy accessories have a built-in camera that lets wearers send photos and video via Snapchat. It’s the first piece of hardware from Snapchat parent company Snap Inc., which has been working to brand itself as a camera company.

Needless to say, the Specs didn’t particularly impress. One setback was their quirky launch: The high-tech glasses were only available through vending machines, one in New York and another that popped up for short amounts of time in cities around the country, including Seattle.

Another limiter was the device’s tie-in to Snapchat. In the past year, Instagram has been rivaling Snapchat with features that mimic the popular photo-sharing app. The specs being tied so closely to one service makes them less interesting to the average person.

Snap finally started selling the Spectacles on Amazon months after they launched, but by that point, it was too little too late: The Information reported in October that the company is sitting on hundreds of thousands of unsold units.