High-Wire Flops of the Big Wireless Show
The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the wireless industry’s biggest annual festival, where companies tout all that's new and hot. This year, Samsung Electronics expects to present its latest Galaxy handsets, while the likes of HTC, Sony, and Huawei unveil new offerings aimed at unseating Samsung and Apple from their perch atop the industry. Some will surely flop like the products below, all introduced with great fanfare at MWC in years past.
The Hype: MeeGo combined Nokia's and Intel's nascent touch-screen operating systems to challenge Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The companies predicted it would be "widely adopted."
The Hard Truth: Expensive Intel hardware and scant interest from other phonemakers hobbled MeeGo. Nokia used it only on its N9 phone and soon switched to Microsoft. Intel embraced Android and Samsung's Tizen.
Windows Phone 7
The Hype: Microsoft said its new mobile operating system could finally beat Apple, Google, and BlackBerry with a shiny new interface and better integration with social networks, Zune music, and Xbox games.
The Hard Truth: Only Nokia fully committed to the OS—and then Microsoft had to buy Nokia’s handset business to stay in the market. Microsoft's smartphone share has fallen from 7.9 percent in 2010 to 3 percent last year, according to the research firm Gartner.
The Hype: This smartphone, capable of recording 3D images and showing them with no need for glasses, was meant to herald a new world of fun for buyers and propel LG into the vanguard of a hot new trend.
The Hard Truth: Slow performance, restricted viewing angles, short battery life, and scant 3D content spurred LG to abandon the idea within two years.
The Hype: BlackBerry still had a reputation as the smartphone pioneer, and its long-awaited tablet heralded superior computing power, multi-tasking, and cameras front and back.
The Hard Truth: Reviewers and consumers hated the PlayBook. It lacked an e-mail app, and its battery was feeble. BlackBerry wrote down more than $1 billion in unsold inventory and gave up on tablets.
The Hype: Teased in a Super Bowl ad, the handset was going to bridge the gap between Angry Birds and Grand Theft Auto with a slide-out control pad and the ability to run PlayStation games.
The Hard Truth: It cost as much as the combined prices of an Android phone and a handheld gaming console such as Sony's PSP. Consumers balked at paying $10 a pop when smartphone games cost $1 or less.
GSMA (mainly Vodafone, Telefónica, and Deutsche Telekom)
The Hype: Phone carriers banded together to let users make video calls and send photo messages with a service aimed at winning back customers who had strayed to WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber.
The Hard Truth: Carriers struggled to bring the app to market, and users didn't bite. Executives say Joyn is dead, while WhatsApp last year was sold to Facebook for $22 billion.
The Hype: Mozilla promised $25 smartphones that would win devotees at the farthest corners of the earth. Also, it's cool not to be beholden to Apple, Google, or Microsoft.
The Hard Truth: The operating system hasn't caught on so far, partly because Android phones are getting cheaper. It remains relegated to a few developing countries and has less than 1 percent of the market.
The Hype: The tiny Swedish company showed off this buttonless touchscreen phone, a successor to its 2004 N1. The iPhone, which had its debut in 2007, "follows the lead set by Neonode," it said.
The Hard Truth: The first batch of phones was recalled a few months after release because of "reception problems." Neonode's handset arm went out of business, and the company now licences touch-screen technology.
The Hype: A business-card-size phone that you could wrap into an unlimited number of different bodies to give it a vast range of features. The idea even attracted Google to talks.
The Hard Truth: Industry partners didn't buy the concept, and neither did customers. Modu went bust in 2011. Google bought its patents and is preparing to release a modular phone dubbed Project Ara (so named because "our lead mechanical designer is named Ara. And we like him. And we also like his name").
The Hype: In the age before the iPad and 5-inch smartphone screens, smaller was always better. This was an e-reader you could fold and carry in your suit pocket, made by a Philips spinoff.
The Hard Truth: Turns out people don't mind lugging big slabs for reading. Despite a distribution deal with Telecom Italia, Polymer went bankrupt in 2009 and shut down for good three years later.