10 biggest gadget let-downs of 2012
31st Dec 2012 | 12:00
You wanted the best. You didn't get the best
Being a gadget fan can be saddening sometimes. Gadgets you've waited for for years turn out to be less than you expected, or don't turn up at all.
Much-hyped hardware turns out to be merely okay rather than mind-blowingly brilliant.
Developers decide not to bother with a particular platform. Or firms who know better just release something expensive and weird. We saw all of these things and more in 2012 - so here are our nominations for the ten biggest gadget disappointments of the year.
10. Sony PlayStation Vita - great but poorly supported
Do we still need handheld consoles in an era of smartphone gaming? Sony says yes, and its PS Vita is a great bit of gaming kit. Unfortunately, it's also a bit of gaming kit that's screaming out for decent things to play on it: Sony says that third party support has been "surprising and disappointing", and it's definitely affected sales: in August, the PSP was outselling the Vita two to one.
9. Microsoft Surface RT - where are the apps?
Good, but not great - that's the consensus on Microsoft's first tablet, Surface, which shipped without many big-name apps, didn't run very smoothly and was described by us as a "solid tablet", a phrase that doesn't exactly make the heart sing. Maybe it just took too long between the announcement and the shipping date, or maybe Microsoft overhyped it a teensy-weensy little bit.
8. Google Nexus 4 - supply delays
We like the Nexus 4 a lot, and so do you - and that's unfortunate, because Google's really been struggling to get them out the door, disappointing scores of Nexus-crazed phone fans. Google has apologised for the delays, but it says that "supplies from the manufacturer are scarce and erratic".
7. Apple iPad mini - old tech sold as new?
To some, the iPad mini is a triumph, the full iPad experience in a package that's smaller, more elegant and a lot more affordable. To many others it's a massive step backwards, an old, non-Retina iPad crammed into a new box because Apple's ran out of ideas and needed something to battle Amazon and Google (but for more money). For the latter camp, it's the iPad meh-ni.
6. Apple EarPods - not that good
As we explained back in September, "In its unending search for perfection, Apple has decided to completely redesign its iconic white earbuds." Shame it didn't bother listening to them. The new earbuds are better than the old ones, but that isn't saying much: they're only worth getting "if sound quality is not something you are bothered about."
5. Pentax Optio VS20 - hit and miss
Imagine if a camera had not one, but two shutter buttons - and two zoom levers, and two tripod attachment screws. Now imagine that the rest of the camera was hopeless. Congratulations! You've imagined the Optio VS20, which delivers "hit and miss" picture performance, "occasional white balance issues, an inability to determine what it should be focusing on, and familiar compact camera bugbears". Apart from that, it's brilliant.
4. Nokia Lumia 900 - teething troubles
To gain significant sales in the massive and massively competitive US smartphone market, you need something truly astonishing. For all its joys, the Lumia 900 wasn't it. It's not a bad phone by any means, but we could probably name everyone in America who bought one - and initial teething troubles, traced to "a memory management issue", didn't help. Nokia's big US comeback turned out to be a rather damp squib.
3. BlackBerry 10 - still waiting
At least you could buy a Lumia, which is more than you could say about BlackBerry's long-awaited BB10, first announced in 2011 for a late-2012 release. In June, BlackBerry admitted that the new OS was taking a bit longer than expected, and that BB10 wouldn't now ship until 2013.
2. Apple iPhone 5 - a bit longer
The original iPhone transformed smartphones. The iPhone 5 was like its predecessor, but slightly longer. You can see why many people were disappointed: for all its clever engineering the iPhone 5 wasn't a great technological leap forward. That and the maps fiasco unseated the iPhone from its position as the world's best smartphone.
1. Nexus Q - explain please?
We're not entirely convinced that "the world's first social streaming media player" is dead, but the Nexus Q certainly pretended to be for most of 2012. After a glitzy launch it soon dawned on the world that Google expected people to pay huge sums for something that could only stream content from Google Play and YouTube, and which only worked with Jelly Bean devices. The initial reaction - "it's a ball!" - quickly became "it's balls!"