The smartphone fails and flops of 2019

The smartphone fails and flops of 2019
In general, 2019 was a pretty good year for smartphones. However, with so many manufacturers, devices, new technologies, and a race to be the best new thing on the block, we are always bound to get a fail or two every now and again. So, what were the flops in 2019? Let's check them out:

Nokia 9 PureView

A hotly anticipated device, which heated up our anticipation with every leak. Equipped with a total of 5 cameras placed in a weird pattern on the back, the new PureView was supposed to be an amazing cameraphone. Nokia also praised its capabilities when presenting the device on stage. The phone uses five 12 MP sensors that fire off at the same time when you press the shutter, and then stitches the photos together to supposedly achieve great detail and exposure.

Well, we got to use the Nokia 9 PureView. And the experience wasn't really all that. For one, the camera app was slow and processing the pictures you take took some waiting. To top it off, sometimes, the stitching would fail miserably, creating oddly misaligned shapes in the photos. And when it did work, the Nokia 9 PureView's photos didn't look all that better or different than any other mainstream flagship. And at night, it's actually worse than its competitors.

Samsung's ultrasonic fingerprint scanners

The first generation of in-screen fingerprint scanners that came out in 2018 was of the "optical" type — the sensor was located under the glass and whenever the user would place their finger on there, a small part of the screen would light up to allow the scanner to "see" and read the print. These are still in use today by various brands and have gotten quite good when it comes to speed and accuracy.

Samsung, however, chose to go a different path, which is why it arrived a bit late to the in-screen fingerprint scanner game. Sammy's tech is an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, utilizing a complex combination of components to send a sonic pulse, bounce it off your finger, and then read a 3D map of the scanned print. Reportedly, it's more secure than the optical tech, and it should also work consistently whether your fingers are wet, greasy, or smudged up.

In reality, however, the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 lines was a mildly infuriating letdown. It often fails on the first scan and usually takes a couple of beats too long to actually register the fingerprint. We hope that a second generation would improve on those issues in 2020, but for now, ultrasonic fingerprint scanners were a disappointment.

The foldable future

The year started pretty strong with not just one but two major companies finally revealing their upcoming foldable phones. Those were the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X. Both devices had us on the edges of our seats and we braced for their launches. And that's where disappointment came.

The Galaxy Fold was just about to ship when major structural issues were discovered. See, a small number of units were sent to reviewers and influencers for early content, reviews, and promotion. It wasn't long before, one by one, these units started giving out. At first, Samsung said it's just a fluke and that the Galaxy Fold's release will proceed as planned. But when the first broken units were returned and inspected by Sammy engineers, the release was halted. We had to wait another 5 months until the Fold was re-released with a few improvements to reduce its weaknesses. But still, the hype was killed and users weren't as confident in buying the super-expensive phone. It seems that even Samsung knew this because you can't customize the colors of a re-launched Galaxy Fold — that's something that was available on the original pre-orders.

As for the Huawei Mate X... by now, we have no idea if we will ever see this phone. It was supposed to launch in September, then it was delayed all the way to November. To top it off, Huawei is having trouble selling in international markets thanks to being barred from using Google's framework on its Android forks. Reportedly, the Mate X did launch in China — it was a short, online-only flash sale, which ended as quickly as it began with the Mate X labeled as "sold out". We have no idea how many of them are out there and whether we'd ever get to see one.

Worth noting: the Motorola razr (2019) has launched recently and, thus far, there are no fails. In fact, the phone is widely praised for its construction, compactness, and nostalgia points.

Touchless navigation

Project Soli: What was promised vs What was delivered from r/GooglePixel

Both LG and Google took a stab at air gestures this year. The LG G8's "Z Camera" on the front was used to detect a user's hand when it hovers over the display. From there, you can flick your wrist left or right to launch apps or control media, or twist your wrist in a knob-rotating motion to control volume. Sounds like a feature that you'd appreciate when your hands are wet or otherwise messy while cooking, for example. Unfortunately, the G8's Air Motion feature rarely activates when desired — it's generally a hit-or-miss, mostly miss.

Then, we have Google's Pixel 4 — the phone that has a huge forehead specifically because it has a teeny tiny radar chip in there, supposedly meant to detect hand motions with intent around the phone. It's the result of Google's Project Soli — a long-running effort to develop a touchless interaction interface. Well... what we got on the Pixel 4 is far from the concepts Soli set off with. Basically, the Pixel 4's radar helps you change songs and cancel calls by waving in front of the screen. Oh, it also helps with faster face scanning because the radar will detect when you are about to pick up the phone.


Honorable mention: Google Stadia

While not strictly a smartphone thing, half of Stadia's appeal is the ability to play AAA games on your phone. Well, the potential ability, because you probably can't do it right now. Not only is Stadia running only on the Pixels right now, it isn't doing great. Google was adamant that there would be absolutely no latency issues with Stadia on launch. However, the many people that pre-ordered a Founder's Pack might want to argue that — some have reported input lags of up to 4 seconds (not milliseconds). So, it's safe to say the Stadia launch wasn't exactly a booming success.

Add to that some controversies around the picture quality — users were promised 4K but got upscaled 1080p on some games — and the weird pricing model, which will also ask you to buy your games specifically for Stadia, and we have a very shaky product. Google wants to be confident in Stadia's future, but we sure aren't.



1. User123456789

Posts: 1358; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

You dont see people complaing about the fingerprint scanner of s10e. In-screen has no advantage over physical. Just an excuse to keep dual edge/waterfall screen. What if the sensors stops working and need replacement? Can it be changed without damages to screen?

2. michaelny2001

Posts: 355; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

a waterfall with a hole in the screen. not cool.

45. PartTimePhoner

Posts: 55; Member since: Jun 03, 2019

They actually do. I can unlock my A50 with my fp when its just resting on the table. No need to pick it up

3. darkkjedii

Posts: 31764; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Samsung ultrasonic FPS is crap to me. Go optical in 2020.

8. mrochester

Posts: 1043; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

Even better they should put proper 3D facial recognition in their phones! They are already more than 2 years behind now.

9. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

"They are already more than 2 years behind now" I dont think Samsung want to use 3d face scanners like Apple and Huawei do its not about being behind they did the Iris Scanners and now given up. They will keep using FPS sensors under the display because that is the end goal. Heck even Apple are thinking of removing Face ID. In 2-3 years there will be no Face ID on Iphones only under display FPS and thats when Apple will charge you more for something that Samsung is doing right now.

11. mrochester

Posts: 1043; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

I doubt we'll see the return of FPS in the iPhone. The future is facial recognition which is why I'm wondering when Samsung are finally going to include a proper 3D facial recognition feature.

14. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017


13. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

” Heck even Apple are thinking of removing Face ID.” Where you’ve heard this? I only heard that they might add FPS too for their iPhone, not removing Face ID. ”In 2-3 years there will be no Face ID on Iphones only under display FPS and thats when Apple will charge you more for something that Samsung is doing right now.” I don’t except this to happen. Why would they go backwards? Face ID is lot better in everyday use than fps and i’m using both daily

36. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017 " A separate new investor note from Credit Suisse in China suggests that Apple’s screen suppliers are “actively developing full screens” without notches along the top. The report corroborates Kuo and says that by next year, Apple will have at least one new iPhone without a notch… [it also] says by 2021, three new iPhones are likely to use in-screen fingerprint as opposed to Face ID.”" Thats 3 new devices that will be using in screen fingerprint OPPOSED to Face ID Let's see what happens ;)

15. joshuaswingle

Posts: 754; Member since: Apr 03, 2018

Apple aren't thinking about removing Face ID. They are looking at adding in-screen Touch ID to devices but Face ID isn't going anywhere. It'll eventually be upgraded with under-display technology too.

26. Vokilam

Posts: 1448; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Apple wants to remove Face ID? Not until android manufacturers implant proper Apple version, then Apple will be moving on to something more advanced than FP and Facial Rec.

33. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Exactly, future is touchless security, not something which you have to touch everytime when you need it. Face ID is already very good example about it when you use apps which are locked by fps or face scan and with face scan you just open them without feeling they are locked.

34. Mexx81

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 09, 2019

Face ID lets be real ,is one big s**t,and nothing more than that. Just give good FS,dont care is it on back,or front. Face ID lol

40. Vokilam

Posts: 1448; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

You have never used iPhone Face ID if you say that. I switched to iPhone from Samsung specifically for Face ID!!!!

18. darkkjedii

Posts: 31764; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Yeah, but they're ahead in everything else. Should I mention all the areas Apple's iPhone is behind? That will be a long list.

32. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

"Yeah, but they're ahead in everything else. " Apple is already ahead in things which MATTERS for big crowd "Should I mention all the areas Apple's iPhone is behind? That will be a long list." No you shouldn't give your silly list about niche features which hardly no-one cares.

4. inFla

Posts: 220; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

The Pixel 4 qualifies as fail and flop.

5. adeelzsoomro

Posts: 37; Member since: Jan 07, 2019

Personally I'm using galaxy s10 and never facing any issues , for more accuracy register same thumb print twice and it's good to go

6. maherk

Posts: 7064; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

It's all about how you register your fingerprint on the S10 and Note 10. There's a tutorial on YT for this. There's no denying that the fps was terrible on the S10 when it was first released, but it has improved dramatically with software updates, and with Android 10, it is almost as fast as capacitive fps. I have no complaints about it at all.

16. joshuaswingle

Posts: 754; Member since: Apr 03, 2018

You really shouldn't need to watch a YT tutorial to learn how to input a fingerprint probably

17. maherk

Posts: 7064; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

True, I'm just saying that the fps scanner isn't bad, it's just that Samsung's tutorial needs to be updated.

21. Tizo101

Posts: 644; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

But even their optical fingerprint scanners have issues... I think they should work on the whole biometrics software it's failing them somewhere

24. wickedwilly

Posts: 776; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

In the same way that on other phones it takes a while for the user to get used to how the biometrics work. It took me a few weeks of use on the iPhone to get the face-ID to consistently recognise me. On my S9 and 10 after a day it was fine. I always invest a little time learning how a new phone works and setting it up, it pays dividends over its life. It is not a disadvantage at all.

27. Venom

Posts: 3981; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

I agree. If you have to watch a video on how to use a FPS, then that's an automatic fail imo.

7. meanestgenius

Posts: 22815; Member since: May 28, 2014

I use a Nokia 9 PureView as one of my daily drivers, and the biggest let-downs are the in-screen fingerprint sensor (it's CRAP), the slow processing time of photos (that is solely attributed to the the amount of information that gets processed from each photo. The Xiaomi Mi 10 faces the exact same problem and it captures an insane amount of information just like the N9PV), and the slow switching between camera modes. The photos themselves are amazing (especially with what you can do with the photo in Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, etc due to the sheer amount of information captured), and the performance is on par or better than flagships using the SD845. The battery should have been of a higher capacity due to how much faster it drains when taking a large amount of photos, but adaptive battery has really helped a lot. The update to Android 10 has made the in-screen FPS much more accurate, but it's still too slow.

10. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

I have a Note 10 5G model and have had zero issues with the FPS its just as fast as the Note 9.

23. Tizo101

Posts: 644; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

That's hard to believe... I like Samsung but this is the one flaw they have, otherwise their recent phones are pretty good

12. pimpin83z

Posts: 622; Member since: Feb 08, 2019

The smartphone fails and flops of 2019 Aka The Let's Pick on Samsung & Sprinkle in a Few Other Fails & Flops of 2019.

19. Charlie2k

Posts: 176; Member since: Jan 11, 2016

How about iPhone 11 bugs? Buggy as hell.

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