Three Big Smartphone Misfires Of 2012


With 2012 rapidly running low on remaining days (only 35 to go), you had better believe that you’re about to start seeing a ton of year-end lists everywhere you go online. We’ll be having a number of such posts in the coming weeks, as we think back on what 2012 meant for smartphones and tablets, but I though I’d start things off early by recounting some of the biggest blunders of the year.

Everyone’s experience with smartphones is different; maybe you’ve been especially upset with your carrier for not being timely with the updates you were expecting, or perhaps you had a particularly hard time getting your hands on the new phone you wanted. As a result, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to completely miss something you might think was a huge smartphone mistake of 2012.

If that’s the case, and you feel like sharing, please don’t hesitate to tell your own story in the comments. Before you get to that, though, I’ll take a stab at hitting some of the big ones, not necessarily because they had the largest impacts, or were the most embarrassing for the companies involved, but because they stand out in my mind as the sort of missteps we just shouldn’t be seeing from some of the biggest players in the smartphone game.

Apple & Samsung’s Rapid-Fire Releases

I do not envy the smartphone executive tasked with making the decisions about his company’s release schedule. You want to have the hottest devices around, sure, but release too many updated models, too quickly, and you’re going to end up with a lot of customers who are upset that their brand-new phone is suddenly outdated.

Apple’s probably the most obvious example of this mistake, not with the iPhone 5, but with its third- and fourth-generation iPad. The iPad 3 was a big step up from the iPad 2 when it went up for sale on March 16. Just over seven months later, Apple already had a new, faster iPad ready to go. While we heard that Apple was offering exchanges for customers who had just picked up the tablet, those who bought it in the previous six months were stuck with some already-dated hardware.

Samsung’s gaff along these lines isn’t quite as bad as Apple’s, but it still bugs me. While the original Galaxy Note went up for sale in Europe in October of last year, it didn’t arrive in the US until February. The problem is that while the Note II hit the international market in October of this year, a respectable twelve months after its predecessor, there wasn’t the same kind of delay before the Note II’s release in the States. As a result, the original Note was only available in the US for eight months before its successor arrived.

Maybe I shouldn’t be mad at Samsung for doing the Note II’s release so much better than what it managed for the original Note, but that doesn’t make the sting felt by owners of the comparatively underpowered (and still in their minds new) first Note any easier to bear. When I heard in late August that T-Mobile was canceling its version of the Note, I initially through the decision to be pretty odd; in retrospect, that was an incredibly smart move.

Motorola Won’t Get Its Android Update Act Together

If there’s any one OEM that should have streamlined the Android update release process, it’s Motorola. Heck, Motorola can’t even get out of bed in the morning without seeing Google’s face right next to it. So, why is it then that Motorola has bungled its 2012 updates worse than nearly anyone else out there?

It all started so promising, with Motorola publishing a detailed listing of which phones were on-track for updates when, and in which markets. If the company would have just followed-through along those lines, things would be golden, but instead it started missing deadlines and going back on earlier promises. Things got so bad that one of the new VPs even reached out to users on Google+ to apologize for how crummy things had been, calling Motorola’s treatment of its customers “a raw deal” and promising to do better… it was about a week before we learned of the next Motorola Android that wouldn’t be getting a previously-promised ICS update.

Maybe that’s what makes Motorola’s failures so profound: it seems acutely aware of what it’s doing wrong, yet is helpless to act any differently.

HTC Can’t Seem To Stop Making Mid-Range Phones

Remember back in January when we heard that HTC had this grand new scheme for finding its place in the mobile market, concentrating on a limited number of high-end smartphone models, rather than the sort of dime-a-dozen middling devices it has released in years past? Wouldn’t it have been nice if the company seemed able to remember that strategy throughout the year? True, we haven’t seen a glut of really low-end hardware, but models like the One V, and more recently the Windows Phone 8S, are pretty far removed from the top of the pack.

Like Motorola and its updates, it would be one thing if HTC kept cranking-out models like this without seemingly knowing any better, but HTC referred back to its commitment to high-end devices throughout the year. Either it has some big disconnect with reality when it comes to what constitutes a high-end handset, or all these 2012 models were already in the pipeline when it decided to take this new approach. Maybe 2013 will actually be the year of HTC flagships; the Droid DNA is a good start.

Like I said, I’m positive I’ve missed a lot of very-well-deserving mistakes that should be on a list like this, but I think these are a good assortment of the kind of clueless managerial decisions that ended up making 2012 the year it was for smartphones. Feel free to chime in below with any other serious goofs you think are worth discussing. Apple Maps, the long-delayed ATIV S… take your pick.

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!