It’s been an up-and-down year in the tech world. We’ve seen a lot of really amazing things happen, and we’ve also dealt with our share of disappointments. Here’s a look at a few of the things that had us burying our heads in our hands this year.
Amazon Fire Phone
Expectations were lofty for Amazon’s long-rumored smartphone. The people staring at it out-of-frame in the teaser video looked pretty amazed by it! Ultimately, though, its high price tag, carrier exclusivity, and gimmicky user experience caused it to trip at the finish line. Amazon was left with millions of phones they couldn’t sell and ended up slashing prices, but Jeff Bezos assured everyone that the Fire Phone wasn’t a mistake. It was just the first iteration; there will be others, and they’ll be a lot better.
Underwhelming NSA reforms
In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, there was a glimmer of hope that the Obama administration might do something to reign in the NSA. What actually happened was more like a minor tweak. Bulk surveillance data aggregation was still fine, it was just ever-so-slightly tougher for the NSA to access that data. Access requests still pass through the FISC after the “reform,” however, and to date they’ve only rejected about .03% of those requests.
Net Neutrality remains elusive
Net Neutrality was talked about a lot in 2014, particularly by Netflix who had to grease the palms of some U.S. Internet providers in order to make sure their viewers had access to good-quality streams. There was some very public sparring with Verizon, pressure from the White House, and a massive grassroots campaign this year. Yet as 2014 winds down, it doesn’t look as though we’re any closer to a resolution. It might help if the people in charge of managing all the public comments could figure out how to keep some 600,000 of them from mysteriously disappearing.
This was a massive year for solar power, but all the expansion came with a couple notable downsides. In March, pilots reported being forced to fly blind thanks to glare from the massive new Ivanpah facility near Las Vegas. And that was after previous trouble had been reported in February: the garage door-sized mirrors had already been cooking hapless birds as they flew by.
Corporate IT security still sucks
2014 was a year riddled with payment processor hacks, corporate data theft, and DDoS attacks. Target, eBay, Home Depot, Staples, P.F. Chang’s, and J.P. Morgan were all victimized. In the case of J.P. Morgan, the breach was ultimately pinned on a single server being missed during a two-factor authentication rollout. And then, of course, there was the Sony breach. Passwords stored in a password folder. Gigabyte after gigabyte of sensitive data stored in the clear. And then, to make things worse, they still haven’t figured out how to fend off a DDoS attack on PSN.
Privacy-minded geeks opened up their wallets and pledged like crazy to back this pocketable Tor router. After the Reddit community started digging, however, the project’s claims were found to be riddled with false claims. Kickstarter ended up giving the project the boot, declaring it fraudulent. But like that irrepressible cat that kept coming back, Anonabox slinked on over to Indiegogo to try again.
The real disappointment here is that they’ve racked up another $40,000 in funding. It’s too bad people didn’t just use that cash to buy TP-Link pocket routers, flash them themselves, and donate the extra dollars to Tor and the EFF.
Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch
If you were hoping that 2014 would be the year that someone finally offered up a smartwatch that was really worth getting excited about, well, you’re probably still hoping. Though the current generation showed definite signs of improvement, designs are clunky, quality software remains elusive, and battery life continues to be a problem; full-color Android Wear watches still aren’t anywhere close to delivering the kind of endurance that the e-Ink Pebble does.
On a good note, poor sales have led to some heavy discounts… So you can at least pick up current-gen smartwatch pretty cheaply now if you really want one.
Don’t get us wrong: higher resolution displays are definitely a good thing. Content, however, is painfully slow to arrive, and it looks like most of your current devices aren’t going to be able to stream it once it’s more readily available anyway. Of course, you may not want to — 4K video is going to burn through your data cap in no time.
Rumors about Microsoft adding a Surface Mini to their hardware roster swirled for quite some time, and a lot of folks would have preferred seeing it launched instead of a follow up to the Surface RT. That never happened, of course, but NeoWin eventually confirmed that the Surface Mini was real. In fact, they even got their hands on one of the devices and thought that Microsoft would’ve been better off killing off the Surface 2 instead.
Got another piece of tech news that left you feeling particularly disappointed this year? Why not get it off your chest and share it with your fellow Geek readers in the comments.