Technology we hate with a passion

Hate is back in fashion again. Tech is no exception when it comes to being the target of our anger and frustration -- but this stuff truly deserves it.
By Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer
1 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Tech we hate

We've found some technology to direct your bile at -- because every single one of these things deserves it. If you were even partially responsible for any of the design, implementation, or marketing of these turkeys, you should thank your lucky stars we don't know who you are.

2 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Insanely Bad iCloud restores

Look. I'm just gonna come right out and say it, Apple's iCloud restoration process is unreliable and horrible. More often than not, the company's cloud resources are overtaxed, the connectivity is bad, and the restores fail.

Perhaps… we need something akin to Time Machine for iOS. Yes, I know we have iTunes on Windows, but nobody likes it. And I know we have a Mac backup facility, but not everyone uses a Mac. 

Give us a better offline backup and restore method, perhaps one that uses another iOS device as a host, or a cable-connected flash drive.

3 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Ancient iTunes

In 2021, why must we continue to be saddled with this utterly awful, legacy piece of trash? Bloated and buggy, this remains the only way to access and archive your music library and iOS device on Windows -- Apple created MacOS backup for their own customers, and it is way better. So, unless you are committed to hard resets, we're all stuck with this thing. It needs a total rewrite, or a distributed cloud services replacement.

4 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Awful printers

They used to be not so horrible -- 30 or 40 years ago. Prior to WYSIWYG and wireless computing, they usually just worked when you plugged them in and sent a job to them.

Businesses and end-users are finding fewer reasons for having hard copy. But today's printer devices are so complicated, including their support software, it makes it often a frustrating and self-defeating experience on the rare occasion you need to get a printout, scan, or fax with one of these things. And it doesn't seem to matter if you are dealing with a $50 inkjet or a $4,000 workgroup color laser.

Whether it is the bloated and buggy driver software, badly implemented firmware, expensive and proprietary refill cartridges, constant jams, or unhelpful error messages, printers just plain suck.

See: Best printers for your home office

5 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Clunky auto navigation systems

It doesn't matter if your car is made by Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda, or one of their premium brands -- built-in automobile navigation systems are crummy. Not only are they outrageously expensive options (which you are usually forced into buying if you want a particular vehicle trim), but they are expensive to update and have complicated user interfaces that are frustratingly difficult and slow to use. They are so awful that many drivers opt just to use their smartphones for navigation, using apps like Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps instead.

Some companies such as General Motors are now offering in-car entertainment systems that support Apple's CarPlay and Android Auto. But if you own an older vehicle, you can't update these cars to accommodate this software unless you replace the entire AV stack -- which may not be possible on your car.

6 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Unreliable Wi-Fi devices

Wi-Fi -- can't live without it. And as our homes and lives become more and more connected, integrating Wi-Fi with just about everything seems to be a curse we are all going to have to live with.

But how many of these Wi-Fi devices behave properly and stay reliably connected? How often do we find ourselves plugging and unplugging to "reboot" some of the simplest devices to make them work again? Or constant firmware updates to keep them from disconnecting? When does this end?

See: Best Wi-Fi routers

7 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Crappy cables

We hate poorly implemented wireless stuff, but we may hate bad cables even more whether it is flimsy connectors like USB Micro-B, or TOSLink with the fragile "doors," or easily-frayed/destroyed-with-regular-use, overpriced Apple OEM Lightning cables. Perhaps it's the cheap power "bricks" that every router or set-top manufacturer bundles with their product that takes up more than one power receptacle on a strip (rather than supplying one that has a simple cord with the brick in the middle), we are utterly plagued by these things. And they go bad at the worst possible time, too, requiring us always to carry spares.

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Wasteful IoT

With the rising popularity of connected devices, we also find the ever-increasing piles of e-waste that litter our cities because we have no easy way to reclaim the components or dispose of them efficiently. How many of your devices do you think are going to last more than a few years before they either go bad, the manufacturer abandons and stops supporting them, or some kind of incompatibility is introduced into your environment because an integration standard isn't being followed? Maybe it's just plain stupid to rely on smart devices.

See: Recycle, trade-in, or keep: What to do with old tech gear

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Bad device web and app UXes

A device or application can have the best usability and utility objectives, but if the manufacturer phoned it on the user experience, it ruins the entire product. Confusing web UIs or flaky, unreliable configuration apps are enough to make you want to discard a device or product entirely.

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Gratuitous proprietary standards

If you have to introduce a proprietary standard because that is the only way to introduce value or differentiate with your product -- you're doing it wrong. You are doing everything wrong.

Apple is one of the notorious companies for doing this, but it's not the only one. Sony, Keurig, Nespresso, all the inkjet printer companies, and anyone who makes "refills" or accessory connectors or specialized file formats or any technology that attempts to validate a connector or add-on or consumable as coming from the originating manufacturer: You suck.

11 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Endless Updates

In an age of constant security exploits and complex cloud-enabled device interoperability, it's natural that we now need to update our systems more often. But it seems like we get a major OS patch on our mobile devices and our laptops every week. And the more apps you have, the worse it gets. There has to be a more modular, transparent way of doing this without interrupting our work.

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Abandoned Androids

What is worse than spending top dollar on a flagship-class Android handset, only to find out that the next version of Google's mobile OS either isn't supported on it or the OEM plain refuses to update it in a timely fashion?

Mobile OS-wars aside, this has to be one of the worst aspects of Android. You could make the argument that the OSS community can always take up the slack if you "root" your device, but how many people are going to go through the trouble to do that? And you could brick your device in the process, with no manufacturer recourse if you do. Sure, you could buy a Pixel, but wasn't Android supposed to give us many choices, not just one?

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Stupendously Stupid Expensive Smartphones

Apple was the first to break the $1,000 barrier with the iPhone a few years ago, but now all the mobile handset manufacturers follow suit. Seriously, do these companies think your average Joe is made of greenbacks? We're just trying to check our blue-collar Facebook statuses, post a picture of our pizza slices on Instagram, and spend a few minutes on level 985 of Candy Crush. We're not Rockefeller, Silicon Valley!

See: 10 best phones 

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Application Abandonment

How often have you invested your time in learning and using a new app, only to find that the company that put some limited resources into it decides to pull the plug? The worst offender in this is Google, which has sent at least 45 different apps and services to the grave. Oh, you liked Google+ and Inbox? Sorry.

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Invasive notifications

With the "appification" of our lives comes the nonstop intrusion of notifications across every device we use. Whether it's that silly game you only play once a month, Facebook updates, sale deals from the local grocer, or reminders from your operating system software vendor's update notification service, it seems like we are constantly being prodded and peppered with these requests to inform us about what seems like minutiae. And we can't just turn all of them off; we have to set each app not to bother us individually unless we have a mobile OS like iOS 15 and Android 12 that can do "rollups." It seems like we have to spend an excessive amount of time keeping our devices and apps from irritating and distracting us than actually using them for what they are designed for.

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Useless near-field wireless

Nothing is worse than solutions without a problem that doesn't work as designed. Near-field Communications (NFC) promises mobile technology that never actually achieved what it set out to do, and it doesn't improve on the experience it was meant to replace.

Put a thick case on your smartphone, and NFC data transfer doesn't work. Update your Android, NFC doesn't work. Have your settings wrong, and NFC doesn't work. Attempt to transfer anything between different mobile platforms, NFC doesn't work.

Try to use an e-wallet standard at a store that uses a different one, NFC doesn't work.

"We don't support Apple Pay"

"We don't support Google Wallet"

"We didn't enable the terminals for this yet, even though we've had them installed for a year"

"Oh, sorry. We have our own app. You should sign up for it and get rewards!"

When it does work, it's awesome -- the pandemic proved it. But when it doesn't, it's so frustrating.

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Terrible texting

We get it -- Millennials and Gen Z love to text. But, now, every generation seems to be catching the disease by sheer association with them. There's no escaping it if you have a teenager or work with 20- or 30-somethings. Please don't call, and they don't want to hear your voice because the very thought of interacting with you in such a personal way scares the hell out of them.

Many articles have been written about the perils of this particular communication medium and how it has destroyed face-to-face communication and vocal conversation, how it distracts from the essential aspects of day-to-day life, etc.

All those aside, text -- as it is implemented using SMS on smartphones -- stinks because, unless you use a service like Google Voice or use a third-party app like Facebook Messenger, you can't retrieve and respond to your messages across all your devices. But even so, you have to contend with the dreaded "autocorrect" because of the oh-so-helpful text prediction algorithms these apps use.

How many ducking times do I have to tell you ice holes I want to speak on the phone?

18 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Non-replaceable batteries

Apple is primarily to blame for this trend, ever since the first iPhone was introduced -- but virtually all the mobile device manufacturers have now followed suit. As my grandmother used to say, just because everyone else is jumping off a bridge doesn't mean you have to as well.

Yes, we want our smartphones to be sleeker and lighter -- but not having field-replaceable batteries is a tremendous hassle. It requires people to carry huge supplemental battery bricks to augment the daily charge routine or, worse, having to visit your wireless telco provider to replace or repair the phone for what should be a fairly simple process. And it is increasingly frustrating to see that these integrated, non-removable batteries are not holding their charge only a few months after the device purchase, even from premium device manufacturers like Apple and Samsung. And this isn't just limited to smartphones -- tablets and laptops are now unfixable, too.

19 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Unreliable voice assistants

At first, voice-enabled tech was an exciting novelty. Now, it seems all of our devices, not just our smartphones, are getting it.

When the technology works, it's fantastic. But more often than not, the assistants have problems understanding us or have connectivity issues to their cloud processing centers, rendering them useless.

We've now been reduced to a bunch of screaming lunatics oft-repeating ourselves by telling a cylindrical-shaped speaker, which is always listening for that creepy wake word to turn off the lights.

See: The best voice assistant

20 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Toxic Twitter

Let's face it: Twitter has become an absolute sewer of racists, misogynists, homophobes, science deniers, politicians, and presidents. And the leadership at Twitter has barely done anything to try to curb it. Yes, Twitter can be an excellent tool for fast disseminating information, but do we have to wade through the oppressive stink and malaise constantly to get to the good nuggets of information and sweet furry puppy pics?

21 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Freakin' Facebook

Twitter is awful, but do you know what is worse? Facebook. This used to be a great way to share your family photos, your dinners out with friends with a side of food porn, and funny stuff your dog did. Groups about grandma's book clubs. Now it's an endless troll war against the other and voluminous amounts of toxic misinformation. On every. Single. Post. Maybe Myspace wasn't so bad after all.

22 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Crummy conference call technology

VOIP and video conferencing is double-edged sword. It enables remote work like never before, but it also comes with tremendous frustration by forcing people to attend conference calls with technologies that are ill-equipped to handle the strain of remote variable bandwidth as well as over-capacity hosting environments. Yes, Zoom saved us during the pandemic, but it doesn't always work in an overtaxed cloud.

Since we moved to digital multiplexing, sound quality has reduced dramatically, especially when the video is introduced or used over a wireless connection. Echoes, stuttering, voice interruptions, frequent disconnects, frustrating key codes: Welcome to the modern workplace.

See: Best video conferencing apps

23 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Full-page web popups

We've all had this happen to us: You click on a link that brings you to news or other content site using your smartphone or tablet. You see the first few lines of text -- which are immediately obscured by a full-page Javascript ad splash designed for a PC, not a mobile device -- and it makes you wait 15 seconds before you can return to the content. Worse, the script is so badly implemented you can't click the ad away. It makes you want to scream.

Would you please make these go away?

24 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Wretched Robocalls

Please, oh Great Maker, make these stop. It's estimated that thee spammy robocalls will account for over 50 percent of voice call traffic. Despite new technical measures being taken by wireless carriers to filter these out, it seems as if there is no good solution to this extremely aggravating phenomenon. Just do what I do, never answer the phone.

See: How to stop robocalls

25 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Insane Voice Response

For short, interactive Voice Response, or IVR, is an automated answering system that large companies use to screen and forward calls to the appropriate department. It's supposed to be more efficient and shorten wait times, but more often than not, we find ourselves wading through these menus and screaming at our handsets and mashing the "0" button, hoping to speak to a live human being. Insanity.

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Cuss-worthy captchas

First, they make you register to a content site by creating a password and filling out personal information. That's bad enough.

Then, they make you use this ridiculous technology to prove you're human, which would be fine if you could read the damn text or image they are showing you. But instead, you find yourself squinting and cursing under your breath by the tenth time you've had that page refreshed so you can try and try again.

This is not enabling technology. This is sadism.

27 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Mother-Freakin' Multi Factor Authentication

Look, we know security is a must. We know that we need additional safeguards against unauthorized access to all sorts of information systems, but that doesn't mean we have to like entering a nuclear launch code or take our rectal temperature every time we want to check our bank balance. 

They have got to make this easier.

See: How to use 2FA to improve your security

28 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Stupid NIST-compliant passwords

Passwords are a necessary evil in computer security -- and they require at least some level of complexity to be effective.

But we all know that website or corporate application that makes you change your password every 30 days, which has to be ten characters long, mixed case, with at least one numeric and a non-alphanumeric character, and cannot have any characters or word combinations from your 10 last previous passwords.

Oh, and yeah, you need to do this for multiple sites, not just for one primary authentication mechanism.

The guidelines for these passwords -- published in the National Institute of Standards -- have been around for 14 years. But the original creator of those standards, Bill Burr, now totally regrets writing those recommendations, because they cause more trouble than they are worth.

29 of 29 Jason Perlow/ZDNET

Worthless web slide shows

When did these things become the preferred content generation and presentation method for every news and entertainment website imaginable? What happened to long-form articles?

Oh yeah. Squirrel.

Look, we understand why in this day in age publications need eyeballs and that the key performance indicator for drawing ad revenue is page views. We get it, and we engage in it ourselves. You're reading one of these damned things right now.

But if you're going to do a web gallery/slide show, at least have the slides deliver some decent content. If you only have a hundred words of content, it doesn't need 29 slides, dammit!

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