Tech turkeys: Apple and Google dominate the year's menu of failures

In the spirit of Festivus here is our full list of the worst technology products and services of the year.
By Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer
1 of 26 ZDNet

Google Project Nightingale invades patient privacy

Google's "Project Nightingale" hoovered tens of millions of patient records at Ascension hospital facilities in the US, earning our friends at the Googleplex top billing for the absolute worst technology vendor of the year. And it only bolsters our argument that the company should face massive fines and intense US government and EU regulation. 

Google also makes our Turkey list for other reasons...

2 of 26 ZDNet

Google's purchase of Fitbit will result in privacy issues

Fitbit's current customers have expressed grave concern over Google's $2.1 billion purchase of the wearables firm because of the company's loosey-goosey attitude toward privacy. It hasn't yet made a commitment to strong governance over its cloud-based health data and how the company will use it after the acquisition. If I were a Fitbit customer, I'd be looking at Apple or Samsung's products right about now. 

Our next Google Turkey is a hardware fail...

3 of 26 ZDNet

Google Pixel 4 is a failure and Pixel 3 was a flop

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Google breaks Works with Nest ecosystem

Google should be held responsible -- as in, subject to enormous fines  -- for making customers waste their money like this and for misleading its partners for all this time. Yes, I think a class-action lawsuit, as well as antitrust proceedings, should be considered. And it isn't the first time Google (and Nest) has pulled this sort of thing with breaking IoT promises, either. It's a proven pathological liar when it comes to IoT. 

Google fared no better when it came to software...

5 of 26 ZDNet

Google Android Q/10 bugs and the never-ending toxic hellstew

There is no way to delicately put this: The Android operating system is, at best, a hot mess.  And, at worst, it's a toxic hellstew. Android is a highly resource-intensive system that chews up large amounts of RAM, which leads to poor application design. Never mind all the Android 10 bugs and all the third-party apps that cannot correctly utilize its APIs. It's continuously resource-constrained in my day-to-day use, with the mix of applications I need. But the absolute worst? The Play Store is the Wild West of malware and viruses, and the entire platform has way too many entry points for vulnerabilities. 

Google's software failures don't end there...

wear os new design.png
6 of 26 ZDNet

Google Wear OS is a failure

As a wearables platform, WearOS can be classified as a total failure, with approximately a 4% market share (based on sales of its largest partner Fossil), as of Q2 2019 according to Canalys, trailing Garmin (7%), Samsung's Tizen (10.6%), FitbitOS (24.1%), and Apple's WatchOS (37.9%), respectively. 

One more Google turkey before we move on to the year's other big offenders...

7 of 26 ZDNet

Google Pixel Slate is a failure

In June, Google announced that it would no longer build Chrome OS and Android tablets and would be solely focused on building Chrome OS-based laptops going forward. This came less than a year after releasing the Pixel Slate, which had lackluster sales. That's no surprise to us. 

At least Google wasn't in the business of profiting from racism and bullying...

8 of 26 ZDNet

Facebook and Twitter disappoint spectacularly

Facebook continues to demonstrate that, like Google, the company is utterly untrustworthy in every aspect of its business, so why should we introduce its surveillance hardware into our homes, riding atop platforms like Amazon Echo?  Twitter finally had to draw the line by banning political advertising on its platform, but it still allows racism and ad hominem from bullies with tens of millions of followers.

But one company delivered more turkeys than Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined...

9 of 26 ZDNet

Apple AirPower flew too close to the sun

With AirPower, Apple flew too close to the sun. On March 30, 2019 -- 1.5 years after AirPower was first announced (in September of 2017 in conjunction with the rollout of iPhone X and iPhone 8) and after months of speculation about its absence at the most recent Apple hardware events -- Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering, Dan Riccio, confirmed that the company would cancel the product. In an e-mail letter sent to the technology website TechCrunch, he wrote that AirPower would "not achieve our high standards." 

Would you believe that Apple earned eight more turkeys? Guess what's next:

10 of 26 ZDNet

Apple iOS 13 bugs aplenty months after release

iOS 13 still has many performance and stability bugs months after its release. Memory, multitasking, call dropping and battery utilization are all serious problems with the mobile OS.

11 of 26 ZDNet

Apple iPhone 11 no USB-C

While the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro/Max phones have been successful launches, Apple's inability to bring current USB-C charging and interface standards to its flagship smartphone remains hugely disappointing and frustrating to many of its users.

12 of 26 ZDNet

Apple MacBook butterfly keyboard was a monumental failure

13 of 26 ZDNet

Apple cooperates with China to censor globally

Apple continues to capitulate to the Chinese government when it comes to censoring Chinese citizens. The company makes standing up for security and privacy part of its pitch unless you are under the yoke of an authoritarian communist government. The hypocrisy of the company and its policies in China continue to come under intense scrutiny.

14 of 26 ZDNet

Apple News Plus was a failure

The subscription news service was intended to be a huge win for publishers and bring in a ton of revenue. Still, reports over the summer claimed most publishers only see a fraction of the income Apple promised. Users also complained of a bad UX and difficulty in finding and prioritizing desired content on iOS and MacOS.

15 of 26 ZDNet

Apple Card credit algorithm discriminates against women

Apple Card issuer Goldman Sachs is facing an inquiry following claims that Apple Card is being offered with substantially higher credit limits for men than women. In November, co-founder and CTO of Basecamp David Heinemeier Hansson published a series of tweets calling Apple's new Card program "sexist" due to his spouse receiving only 1/10 of his credit limit on her Apple Card.

16 of 26 ZDNet

Apple TV Plus has crummy content

Since its November 2019 launch, Apple TV Plus received truly crummy reviews for its unique show content. So much so that it has caused its head of programming, Kim Rozenfeld, to resign his position as head of scripted programming at the service.

17 of 26 ZDNet

Apple bans vaporizer apps, negatively impacting medical marijuana patients

Apple decided without warning to remove all vape-related apps from the App Store, including devices that are used by patients who vaporize medical marijuana. This decision is reportedly in response to a health crisis under investigation by the Center for Disease Control, in which 42 people have died in connection to vaping illicit nicotine and marijuana vape cartridges. This is a sickness related only to the use of Vitamin E acetate in illegal/black market products -- not regulated medical or regulated recreational marijuana in states where these connected devices are used. 

18 of 26 ZDNet

Amazon Alexa and Ring privacy concerns

In July, Amazon has also confirmed that the voice recordings produced by customers of the Amazon Alexa smart assistant are held forever unless users manually remove them.  In August, the Washington Post reported that over 400 partnerships between the connected video doorbell maker Ring (which is owned by Amazon) and local law enforcement branches across the US exist, potentially granting them access to homeowner camera footage. 

19 of 26 ZDNet

Amazon's Kindle and Echo Buds had no USB-C

Like Apple, Amazon utterly failed this year to transition to the superior USB-C charging standard, releasing its Kindle and Echo Buds devices with the older, more fragile and lower-power supplying MicroUSB connectors.

20 of 26 ZDNet

Windows 10 patch insanity

The fiasco with the never-ending Windows 10 updates and patches that broke countless end-user and corporate PCs has earned Redmond yet another place on our annual turkey platter.

21 of 26 ZDNet

Samsung Galaxy Fold aborted launch

What can we say? This $2,000 Android phablet that uses super-expensive and bleeding-edge foldable screen technology has an embarrassingly low mean time between failure rate and resulted in canceled pre-sales when review units sent to the technology media broke within days of use. That may even top Apple's AirPower for a pre-launch trainwreck because people put money down on them. 

22 of 26 ZDNet

Samsung fingerprint reader flaw

In October, Samsung Electronics acknowledged a security flaw in its Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 devices -- where the fingerprint reader could be bypassed by using silicone screen protectors and promised a software update to fix the problem. A British owner of a Galaxy S10 told The Sun that her phone could be unlocked using a screen cover over the fingerprint sensor regardless of the biometric data registered to it.

23 of 26 ZDNet

US Government: Huawei entity list inclusion was unnecessary

There was absolutely no good reason for Huawei to be added to the Commerce Department's Entity List, preventing the company from doing business with US technology firms like Google, Qualcomm, and Microsoft and making its excellent products practically unobtanium in North America. It has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with trade, as President Donald Trump made abundantly clear. But, hey, it looks like the President is going to allow Huawei to buy its way off the list. How nice of him.

Internet of things IoT
24 of 26 ZDNet

Internet of things (IoT) failed miserably

The entire category failed miserably on privacy, systems integration, and interop from every single vendor. Google has been especially bad with its complete ruining of Works With Nest. Still, all these ecosystems have fallen flat -- except Amazon. But, even here, a lot of partner-integrated devices fail on continuing support and integration.

Best cord cutting devices
25 of 26 ZDNet

Cord cutting subscription fatigue

Streaming service subscription insanity has replaced the cable bill, with no actual savings realized. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney, ESPN, HBO, Apple TV Plus, and -- despite how much I love Star Trek -- yes, that includes CBS. How many of these do we need to feed our content habit, and how much money do we have to pay until we've managed to spend more on video content subscriptions than we did when we had lousy old cable?

26 of 26 ZDNet

Moviepass shuts down

The downfall of this service was an utter financial catastrophe, but it was virtually ensured from the very beginning. AMC and Regal ran with the concept, too, launching two theater subscription services. They appear to have become very popular with moviegoers. As to whether these services can make money for the two companies, by putting butts in seats and increasing concession revenue, is anyone's guess.

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