Best product flops and missteps from history: How many of these blunders do you remember?

There have been plenty of tech failures over the years with various different launches of products resulting in utter failure, disaster or just a complete lack of interest.

Some of these products were simply launched before their time, others were poorly thought out and proved unpopular at launch. Other products seemed to do ok at first, but then needed to be recalled due to safety problems. 

We’re summing up the best (or is it worst) from over the years. Which of these classics do you remember?

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7

  • Launched: 2016
  • What happened? Explosions and lots of them

The Note range of Samsung’s smartphone line-up was always highly thought of, even by us. But in 2016, things went horribly wrong with the launch of the company’s latest device. Many of the phones purchased by consumers at the time caught fire or exploded. Not an uncommon occurrence in the smartphone world, but it happened so much that Samsung had to recall the devices. 

This might well have been Samsung’s worst and most embarrassing period in its smartphone history. 

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Triumph Dolomite

  • Launched: 1972
  • What happened? A design flaw meant the car would be undrivable after a minor crash

In the latter half of 1973, Triumph had to recall several models of its vehicles including the Triumph Toledo, Triumph 1500 and Triumph Dolomite.

Over 103,000 cars had to be recalled after it was discovered that a flaw in the design meant the car would become impossible to control after a minor crash. All it would take was a crash into a kerb at around 10 miles per hour to render the vehicle unsteerable. Not ideal. 

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Google Glass

  • Launched: 2013
  • What happened? People weren’t too keen on the potential privacy invasion

Google first announced Google Glass to the public in 2012. The device was remarkably pricey though and people were unenthused. There were also plenty of concerns over privacy with users being labelled as “Glassholes” and the product was also banned from many public spaces. In the end, Google Glass was doomed. 

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Ford Pintos 

  • Launched: 1978
  • What happened? The car was found to be likely to explode in a deadly fireball

If you thought the Triumph recall was bad, Ford’s was worse. In 1978 the company was forced to recall 1.5 million vehicles after it was discovered the fuel-tank was likely to cause the car to bust into a deadly fireball as the result of a rear-end crash. 

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Apple Pippin

  • Launched: 1995
  • What happened? Apple launched a games console in the time of the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, things did not end well

Back in the hazy days of 1995, Apple collaborated with Bandai to release the Apple Pippin. Essentially an expensive console, it was doomed to failure as it had to compete with the incredibly popular Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64. This was a distinct flop in Apple’s otherwise fairly successful history

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Microsoft Windows Vista

  • Launched: 2006
  • What happened? The new operating system launched to negative reviews and poor user experience complaints. 

Windows Vista was meant to come with several enhancements and a brilliant design overhaul that would wow the masses. Instead, it had various issues with security features, shocking performance problems and no end of driver support issues that left users frustrated and bemused. 

Windows Vista was generally loathed and not widely adopted. As a result, Microsoft quickly released Windows 7 just a couple of years later. 

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de Havilland Comet 

  • Launched: 1949
  • What happened? Several fatal crashes and disasters lead to a bad start for the first jetliner

In the late 1940s, in the wake of World War II, De Havilland created the de Havilland 106 Comet – the first commercial jetliner. It was unfortunately plagued with problems and the planes suffered several fatal crashes. 13 crashes were fatal, resulting in the tragic loss of 426 lives. The company’s reputation took a bad hit and while it was reeling from the disasters, Douglas and Boeing took the lead in the industry. 

Lee Haywood [CC BY-SA 2.0] ; Bull-Doser, via Wikimedia Commons;Best Product Flops From History How Many Of These Blunders Do You Remember image 9

DeLorean DMC-12 

  • Launched: 1981
  • What happened? Despite the cool association with Back to the Future, the car was a little too unusual and proved unpopular.

The DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) was an automobile company perhaps most well-known for the DeLorean DMC-12 sports car that was featured heavily in the Back To The Future film trilogy.

However, despite the fame, there was a lack of demand for the car and costs of manufacture as well as other problems harmed the business which went bankrupt in 1982.

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Apple Newton

  • Launched: 1993
  • What happened? Software problems meant it wasn’t as good as other PDAs released around the time

The Apple Newton was a PDA that launched in the early 1990s and is seen as the first PDA to be released. It didn’t do well though as the software didn’t live up to the promise and it was overpriced. The Newton MessagePad didn’t sell well and was discontinued a few years later. 

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Facebook Home

  • Launched: 2013
  • What happened? Facebook thought users would like to immerse themselves fully in Facebook. It was wrong. 

In 2013 Facebook released an app for Android smartphones that was designed to transform the home screen into a direct portal into a user’s Facebook newsfeed. The company hoped that since over a billion users were logging into Facebook from their phones on a daily basis, they’d be keen on further immersing themselves in the social platform. But a clunky, unfriendly interface made for a frustrating user experience and the app never really took off. 

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Microsoft Zune

  • Launched: 2006
  • What happened? Microsoft’s attempt to compete with the Apple iPod was doomed from the start

Although it might not be fair to call the Zune a flop, as it was highly thought of and a decent choice for consumers, it struggled to compete in the market due to Apple’s dominance with the iPod. The problem wasn’t just competition though, other issues plagued the device, like a bug in 2008 that stopped numerous Zunes from working because of an error in the code that had failed to account for the extra days in leap years.  

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Google+

  • Launched: 2011
  • What happened? Google launched its own social network to compete with Facebook but with very little to stand out

Google has had plenty of failures over the years. One of which lingered around for a few years before finally being killed off. That was Google+, the company’s attempt at a social network designed to compete with Facebook. It was interesting and had several useful features, but nothing that stood out enough to get people to move away from Facebook. In the years the followed, Google+ saw a steep decline in user engagement but it wasn’t until 2018 when the system was hacked – exposing user data – that the company decided to put an end to the platform. 

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Nintendo Virtual Boy 

  • Launched: 1995
  • What happened? Nintendo launched a product way before its time. 

In 1995, Nintendo took a bold leap into the world of virtual 3D gaming with the Virtual Boy. Alas, the concept was way ahead of its time, but the design was not. 

The console used black and red shades that were not easy on the eye. The Virtual Boy also came with a controller that was attached for playing games like Mario’s Tennis. But with just 22 games released in its lifespan and a less than warm reception from critics and users alike it failed to sell well. The Virtual Boy went down in history as one of Nintendo’s biggest failures and it cost them dearly at the time. 

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Intel Pentium processors 

  • Launched: 1994
  • What happened? A bug lead to calculation errors in the original Pentium processors that rendered them inaccurate

In 1994, Intel was forced to recall the original Intel Pentium processors when it was discovered that there was a bug (known as the “Pentium FDIV bug“) that meant the chips “might return incorrect binary floating-point results when dividing a number.” 

Intel was dismissive at first and was criticised for not handling the situation properly. Eventually, it recalled the processors at a cost of around $475 million. 

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Hot Wheels computers

  • Launched: 1999
  • What happened? Mattel made a push to market both Hot Wheels and Barbie computers that went horribly wrong. 

In the late 1990s, Mattel partnered with the Patriot Computer Corporation to create and sell Barbie and Hot Wheels branded computers. Unfortunately, the PCs had several design flaws and the costs of repairing them was so high that it drove Patriot Computer Corporation into bankruptcy. 

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Burger King Poké Balls

  • Launched: 1999
  • What happened? Burger King released Pokémon themed toys with kids meals but the toys came in a container that was deemed a choking hazard.

In the late 1990s, Burger King engaged in a promotional campaign which cost somewhere in the region of $20million. This saw 57 Pokémon themed toys being included with kids’ meals. Those toys were held in these containers. In December 1999 one child, unfortunately, suffocated while playing with the container. The Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed the container to be a hazard to children and Burger King was forced to recall 25 million of them. 

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LaserDisc

  • Launched: 1978
  • What happened? LaserDisc was set to replace VHS but was too expensive and failed before it started.

LaserDisc lays claim to being the very first optical videodisc format, it was essentially the precursor to DVD and offered better quality than VHS tapes that were available when it arrived to market. 

Like several other flops on this list, LaserDisc proved too costly. It struggled to compete against the likes of VHS and Betamax and only 16.8 million discs were ever sold.

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The Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway toys

  • Launched: 2007
  • What happened? Thomas the tank engine toys had to be recalled after lead was found in the paint

In 2007, a range of Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway toys had to be recalled after it was discovered that lead paint had been used in making them and children might fall victim to lead poisoning while playing with the toys. 

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Friendster

  • Launched: 2002
  • What happened? Despite some success, Friendster failed to innovate and keep up with Facebook

Friendster is another social media site that had lofty aims but failed to gain traction. The site claimed it had millions of users, but slow load times and problems with the site when user registrations increased lead to troubled times for Friendster. It continued for a good few years after launch, but never really made any waves and eventually drowned in a sea of discontent. 

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Curious George plush dolls

  • Launched: 2005
  • What happened? Marvel Toys was forced to recall thousands of Curious George toys due to the risk of lead poisoning

In 2007 it was the turn of Marvel Toys to recall toys that had been decorated with lead paint. Around 175,000 Curious George dolls had been sold between the end of 2005 and 2007 and they all had to be recalled due to “excessive levels of lead” being used in the construction. Children were at risk and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary product recall. 

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HD DVD

  • Launched: 2006
  • What happened? A new video disc format released in 2006 that began the so-called “format war” with Blu-ray

In 2006, Toshiba released HD DVD, a new format of optical disc that was intended to be the successor to DVD. This format offered higher capacity, better storage and the ability to play HD video content. HD DVD struggled to compete against Blu-ray, despite the support from several quarters including Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

Consumers were reportedly confused by the two different formats and both Best Buy and Wal-Mart decided to favour the sale of Blu-ray players. By 2008, Toshiba couldn’t sustain HD DVD and it announced that it was ending development, marketing and manufacturing of the players. 

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Fisher-Price massive recall

  • Launched: 2010
  • What happened? Mattel had to recall around 10 million toys due to risk of serious injury

In perhaps the biggest recall of all time, Mattel’s Fisher-Price had to recall 10 million toys in 2010 due to the risk of potential injury to users. It was found that several toys presented a danger of injury due to protruding parts that could hurt a child if they fell. Others would lead to choking hazards from small parts. 

As you might expect, the company’s share price took a hit but it wasn’t the first or last time Mattel would need to issue a recall. Like many other companies around the world. 

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Microsoft Bob 

  • Launched: 1995
  • What happened? Microsoft released a dumbed-down operating system for the masses that was too intensive for most home computers

In the hazy days of 1995, Microsoft released Microsoft Bob, a basic operating system with a supposedly easy-to-use interface. The desktop was a virtual home with items in the rooms representing different applications. Unfortunately, the interface might have been a bit too simple and it was also a bit power hungry, needing more processing power than most computers could manage at the time. 

Again, like other products on this list, Microsoft Bob was also overpriced and failed as a result. It was discontinued the same year and overtaken by Windows 95 anyway. 

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Sega Dreamcast

  • Launched: 1999
  • What happened? Somehow Sega’s dominance came to an end with the Dreamcast

In the 90s, Sega was a big deal in the video game world. The company had seen plenty of success with the Sega Megadrive/Genesis console and Sonic but when it launched the Sega Dreamcast things started going badly. Although the console was fantastic and in some aspects was way ahead of its time, it failed to sell well.

Sony was also starting to dominate with the PlayStation and the PS2 released in 2000. This was the end of Sega in the console world. 

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Apple Lisa

  • Launched: 1983
  • What happened? Apple released a computer with an astronomical price tag that was far too much for consumers to bear

In the early 1980s, Apple spent an estimated $50 million developing a high-end computer aimed at businesses. The Lisa came with an astronomical price tag though – $9,995 – far too much money for most people. The company still managed to sell around 100,000 units, but not nearly enough to keep it going and it was abandoned just two years after launch. 

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Betamax

  • Launched: 1975
  • What happened? Another format war that ended with a loser and a victor

Before the battle of Laserdisc and DVD or HD DVD and Blu-ray there was Betamax versus VHS. Sony launched the Betamax format in 1975 and to begin with it had the monopoly as it was the first format for consumer videotape. Betamax also boasted superior resolution and sound quality compared to VHS tapes. VHS launched a year later and it quickly thrived.

Betamax lost out because the company behind it (Sony) refused to licence its technology to other companies, while VHS was licenced to anyone who wanted it. The end result was the death of Betamax and the rise of VHS, at least until DVD came along. 

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Dell laptops

  • Launched: 2006
  • What happened? Dell had to recall millions of laptops due to defective batteries

Samsung isn’t the only company to have problems with batteries. In 2006 Dell was forced to recall nearly 3 million laptops due to problems with defective batteries that were overheating and leading to fires. One of the fires even happened at a trade show. The kicker was the batteries were manufactured by Sony so it wasn’t even Dell’s fault. Although no one was hurt, several fires caused by the laptops had lead to property loss and fire damage for unhappy owners. 

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Toyota floor mats

  • Launched: 2009
  • What happened? Toyota was forced to recall over 8 million vehicles due to a problem with the accelerator pedal getting stuck on floor mats

In 2009/2010, Toyota suffered some hefty costs of around $3 billion when it had to recall over 8 million vehicles. There was an issue with the design that meant that the accelerator pedal was getting stuck under the floor mat and leading to the car accelerating unexpectedly. An investigation found that the problem had probably lead to the deaths of around 89 people in the decade leading up to the recall. 

Toyota had to pay a hefty fine for covering up the fact it knew about the defects and other safety problems. The company’s share price took a hit around but bounced back in the years that followed. 

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