These were supposed to be the superphones of the future, but all they ended up being was an epic fail


“The next big thing is here”, “#Hype”, “the next generation of personal computing”, “bridges the gap for a new generation of smartphone users”: this is just a small selection of hyperboles thrown around new phones that pump up expectations around new phones.

Sometimes, companies live up to them: Apple’s iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones are consistently selling in tens of millions of units, but other times, those words wear off in just a few months and looking back from the perspective of time, look like nothing more than a joke.

It hurts particularly bad when a hyped up phone that took years of development fails spectacularly. But it’s also a good thing: after a few of those cold showers, we’ve seen much less of those spectacularly epic fails so far this year. With all the big smartphone launches still coming up this fall, though, here is a quick look back at the devices that overpromised, but under-delivered: the supposed superphones of the future that ended up being nothing but an epic fail, all arranged in a chronological manner.

Amazon Fire Phone


Release date: 2014

The Amazon Fire Phone is the brainchild of none other than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos himself. A massive effort that took some three years in research and development, the Fire Phone touted the idea of an effortless 3D interface that was supposed to look cool, but ended up being perceived as a useless gimmick with a heavy Amazon skin that limited Android functionality. It didn’t help that the Fire Phone launched with a sub-par hardware, yet a flagship-grade price. Amazon cut its price and bundled it up with its super-successful Amazon Prime service, but nothing helped and less than a year after its launch, the Fire Phone is a discontinued and costly nightmare that we hope the company won’t ever repeat.



HTC First


Release date: 2013

The so called ‘Facebook phone’, the HTC First came with an aggressive Facebook launcher (the app still has one of the lowest ratings among launchers on Google Play) that took over your whole phone. Strangely, despite more than a billion people across the world wasting hours of their lives on the social network, the idea of a Facebook-only launcher with crippled other functionality was (thankfully) denied by the public and the phone ended up being a failure, and a lesson Facebook would remember for a while.



Ubuntu Edge


Release date: never released (planned for 2013)

The Ubuntu Edge announced itself as a geek dream of a device: a phone with top notch hardware (it promised 4GB of RAM in 2013, and we still rarely have phones with 4 gigs of RAM in 2015!) and the possibility to juggle between two operating systems - Android and Ubuntu, for a complete experience. Mark Shuttleworth, the millionaire behind the Ubuntu Linux distro stood behind the project, but despite all the coverage, the Ubuntu Edge could not attract even half of the $32 million funding it needed in an IndieGogo campaign. The dreamy concept showed how hard it is even for such an immensely ambitious idea to be perceived as realistic in the fiercely competitive market of Androids and iPhones. Microsoft will try something similar with Windows 10 this year with the ‘Continuum’ functionality, and it might just work this time around.



LG Optimus Vu


Release date: 2012

Sometimes companies rush to be the ‘first’ one and take particular pride in achieving this status. Samsung, for instance, was first with phablets, and this success inspired others to follow. LG, however, did not seem happy with its follower situation, and decided to also pull off an ‘exclusive’ and a ‘first’ with a device unlike others: the LG Optimus Vu. A big screen phone, the Vu comes with a 4:3 aspect ratio making it a huge, extremely wide brick of a phone that doesn’t fit in many pockets and is a pain to use with a single hand. Naturally, this hyped up phone ended up being an epic fail in most of the world (it had some traction with opportunistic and experiment-friendly markets in Asia), but resilient LG manufactured a second and even a third generation of the phone before finally giving up.



HP Veer


Release date: 2011

Palm’s Pre (a device that you’ll read more about below) was not the market success Palm expected and Palm’s troubled financial situation pushed the company in the not-so-friendly arms of HP. That is where former Apple exec turned-Palm-mastermind Jon Rubinstein conceived the HP Veer, an extremely awkward phone that bucked the trend of large screens and came with a claustrophobically small 2.6-inch screen. Moreover, the HP Veer was announced before the HP Palm Pre 3 in a strange turn of events - rather than focusing on its flagship phone, HP pulled a weird miniature phone. This, along with the failure HP TouchPad a few months earlier, ultimately resulted in HP pulling the Pre 3 practically right after its launch as well.



Microsoft Kin


Release date: 2010

Microsoft is no stranger to failure in recent years: it wrote off two huge acquisitions - first, a $6.2 billion aQuantive write-off, and then Nokia just recently, an even bigger $7.6 billion write-off. What write-offs don’t account for, though, is time, and in terms of wasted precious time the Microsoft Kin is probably the most notable example of an overly hyped device that turned out to be a spectacular failure. The glorified feature phones (okay, they ran the limited Kin OS based on Windows CE) with a pop-up physical keyboard that were supposed to allure the youth ended up being a $240 million write-off. The bigger issue, however, was that Microsoft was focused on these short-lived devices when Apple and Google were setting the foundations of their iOS and Android ecosystems that Microsoft simply can’t reach at the moment.



Dell Streak


Release date: 2010

Ah, those silly days when we considered 5-inch phones to be gigantic! Can you imagine that time was just five years ago? The Dell Streak challenged the stereotypical small screens of the time with its large for the times 5” screen, but the market wasn’t ready and it took a couple of years until the Galaxy Note came. The Dell Streak was a device from one of the most successful computer makers and it could have started a successful family of Dell phones, but it was too bulky, slow and poorly designed, so instead of living up to the hype, it was a disappointment.



Palm Pre


Release date: 2009

The Palm Pre! How can it be in this category of failures when we ourselves ranked it an outstanding 9.9 out of 10 in our original review? The Palm Pre will forever hold a soft spot in our heart: its card-based interface laid the foundation for modern design languages, its gestures were ingenious, its platform was ambitious, its design was cute, and it supported the futuristic wireless charging tech that many phones lack even today. Yet it was slow. It didn’t work well. It was underpowered. Its marketing was a disaster. It was a promise that we loved, but a reality that we couldn’t live with, the sweetest failure in this list.



Nokia N97


Release date: 2009

Back in 2009, Nokia was the number one phone maker by a huge margin. Yes, the Apple iPhone had already arrived, but Nokia didn’t care: it sold tens of millions of devices and reaped the vast majority of profits in the industry. It was seemingly an unstoppable juggernaut, and the Nokia N97 was supposed to be a definite iPhone killer: a device with outstanding design, tons of storage (32 gigs was unheard of then), a physical QWERTY keyboard, and a camera from the best cameraphone maker. Yet there was trouble in paradise: Nokia had miscalculated how antiquated would Symbian look in 2009 in comparison with iOS and the nascent Android OS. The N97 was buggy, slow and it crashed way too often. It was the beginning of the end for Nokia, an overhyped failure.



BlackBerry Storm


Release date: 2008

BlackBerry was another seemingly bullet-proof company riding sky-high market caps in a market of ‘Berry addicts. The company king of email seemed to detect the danger coming from the iPhone earlier than many others and quickly came up with a device that was supposed to compete on Apple-esque terms: an all touch interface and a new UI, but BlackBerry used a weird ‘SurePress’ technology that complicated the experience and its BlackBerry OS 5 wasn’t a pretty sight, nor was it particularly fast. Ultimately, all of those negatives earned the BlackBerry Storm more hate from disappointed users than love, and it ended up as one of the biggest fails of the year, one of many failed ‘iPhone killers’.



Motorola Rokr E1


Release date: 2005

While we have spoken with a lot of respect about the importance of the Apple iPhone launch in 2007, we don’t forget that Apple tried making a phone much earlier: the Motorola Rokr E1 was a collaboration between Apple and Motorola. The main idea of the phone was to give users quick access to iTunes and music, but with limited storage and lack of functionality in comparison with the first smartphones (then called PDAs and communicators), it ended up a sore disappointment that did not live up to the high expectations.

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46 Comments

1. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

I had dell streak 5, it was nice phone for that time.

32. Mobilephile

Posts: 166; Member since: Nov 25, 2012

Owned as well and agree it was ahead of its time, but was in no way bulky or poorly designed. The build quality was solid with a sleek design & capacitive buttons though the software was a bit slow due to running 2.2 Froyo... Wow just looking back how far we've come.

2. Tomfromsouth

Posts: 87; Member since: Apr 02, 2012

Dragons

3. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

The Nokia N97 part claims the "iPhone 6 had already arrived" in 2009. They probably didn't release it because Steve thought it was too big...

8. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

LOL....

4. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I think there's a couple of phones right now to add to that list.

10. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

The Kyocera Echo comes to mind.

48. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

I was going to nominate the Echo as well. What a launch- Dave Blane underwater oing magic tricks and everyone at the time waiting on an Evo 2, and the Echo was launched to much fanfare.... and no sales or support. What a farce.

17. tedkord

Posts: 17356; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

The new iPhones aren't THAT bad.

20. Kary1

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 26, 2015

The 6 and 6+ are pretty good. I feel sorry for anyone who bought the 5S, unless maybe they like a small screen, no NFC, or buying a new phone each cycle. Actually on the screen topic, I wish someone made a flagship Android with a smaller screen, just to have that choice.

43. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I recommended my friend that still had an iPhone 4 (yes four)to upgrade to either the 5s or the 6 but the 6 was out of his budget and too big, so he is very happy with the 5s.... On the other hand I do have a proper android flagship that's small in size... The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact... Have you been living under a rock?

46. Kary1

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 26, 2015

I guess I should have specified what I meant by smaller. Yes 4.6" is smaller relative to a lot of flagship smartphones. But I was thinking even smaller--something in the area of 4". My prior phone was a Moto Droid 2 Global, and it had a screen smaller than 4" and I was fine with that. Larger screens are nice, but they also mean carrying around a larger device.

47. Kary1

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 26, 2015

As to your friend, he's apparently happy with a phone without NFC. I'm not a fan of mobile payment, but I wouldn't have bought a phone without NFC two years ago.

45. Phonewbie

Posts: 44; Member since: Feb 15, 2015

What about the Attrix?

5. hemedans

Posts: 755; Member since: Jun 01, 2013

How is dell streak 5 a failure? Many people today prefer phablets over tablet or normal smartphone and streak 5 was father of phablets.

9. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Yes but it wasn't successful, I guess, that's what they are saying.

29. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

It was a terrible phone and did nothing to actually interest people in screens of that size. It was such a miserable failure that Michael Dell, displaying a shocking lack of self awareness about his own company's quality control, blamed Android for the Streak's failure as a product and declared that Android itself was doomed to fail, or some crap like that.

33. Mobilephile

Posts: 166; Member since: Nov 25, 2012

Now thinking back if Dell continued to support the Streak/Mini 5 with updates and more iterations, and if they were smart enough to see the future, I speculate they would've been in the position where Samsung was with the Note. Think how big Dell could've become in the smart phone industry, but seems they didn't have the vision in their organization.

6. justsomeguy

Posts: 8; Member since: Apr 24, 2015

I am quite sure that the iPhone 6 had not launched in 2009.

7. Legnaldo

Posts: 63; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

I wish there was an android version of the HP Veer.

11. bucky

Posts: 3784; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

I wouldnt put android on it. The OS on that phone ran smoother than most new android phones...Hell you could even include older iterations of the iphone too.

38. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Of course you wouldn't you are just an Apple fan boy. Not some phone manufacturer. 8 out of 10 phone makers put Android into their phone because they don't have a choice to put iOS. Apple is a monopoly and they should to split into 3 companies, hardware, software and services.

12. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

It may be the nostalgia talking, but I think the Palm Pre has one of the best designs ever, even by today's standards.

16. mrmessma

Posts: 271; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Ok, Kanye...

21. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Nah I hate fishsticks.

15. skymitch89

Posts: 1452; Member since: Nov 05, 2010

I don't think that the Blackberry Storm was that big of a failure. I remember about 5 people I know that had one and liked it. Now, I can think of 2 phones that should be on there. The first, which has already been mentioned in the comments above mine, would be the Kyocera Echo. The second is the Samsung Moment. The only thing that was good on the Samsung Moment was the keyboard & the camera took fairly good images for the time.

28. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Coming from someone who worked in the warranty department for Verizon when the Storm was released, it was an incredibly massive failure. Blackberry even admitted that their return rate on the phone was 100 percent.

35. CanYouSeeTheLight

Posts: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

All the 3 friends that got one back in the days had to go through at least 2 or 3 replaced screens seeing as it would stop registering touch or the click wouldn't work. Interesting idea, flimsy execution.

18. DonkeySauce

Posts: 194; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

Honerable mention for the Kyocera Echo?

24. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

Definitely deserved it! We were thinking of adding it, but decided against in the last minute because there weren't all that high expectations about it in the first place. Still a failure though.

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