You know, the touch screen isn’t new. It was actually developed for the first time in 1965, and one of the first companies to ever use the technology on a mobile device was Apple with their first Newton PDAs. Sadly, as you remember, that didn’t work so well and Apple killed the project just a couple of years later. Still, even after one company failed in making it a mainstream, along came Palm and Microsoft and completely shaped an industry that now powers the reason for being of this website. Who would’ve thought that a technology that was so cool even back then would fail until somebody else found a smarter way to use it?
Some technologies are sadly ahead of their time. All great ideas when conceived and developed, but sometimes just too cumbersome to ever garner consumer praise. Whether it was the Tablet PC that Microsoft invented but could never push out of a gimmick until Apple released the iPad, or the use of wireless charging in a way that Palm did well, but could never make a standard, some technologies are either not ready, or simply not thought-out well enough.
2012 has been an amazing year, but that’s both a good and a bad thing. Just like it happened to computers and even vehicles at a stage, companies are still experimenting with what problems the smartphone and the tablet should solve for the end user. And just like car makers understood that the car is best designed with four wheels and not three, and that not all vehicles should be trucks, there will come a time for smartphones and tablets to settle down. Now that said, what makes 2012 amazing is that a lot of things have been figured out. The slide-out keyboard is dying in favor of a slate device, and it’s becoming clear that devices just can’t be too small if they plan to be enjoyed.
Sadly there is still much room to improve. Lots of technologies that were either pushed or rehashed this year have failed. Whether it’s because they’re simply ahead of their time or not is for you to judge. We’ll start with our ideas of what we cared less about this year, and we’d love for you to chime in later in the comments.
This year I really didn’t care about NFC. I tried using Google Wallet on an Android but found it far more cumbersome than taking out my credit card to pay. I tried using NFC stickers to switch my phone’s settings in different scenarios but found it far more cumbersome than downloading an app like tasker, which does it automatically, based on time and location. And I tried using tap-to-send to beam a picture to a friend that also had an NFC phone but found it far more cumbersome than just emailing the photo. Overall, NFC misses the point.
Unfortunately I don’t care about RIM’s plans, nor BlackBerry 10. I already think Windows Phone was late, let alone BBOS.
The Galaxy Camera from Samsung is indeed an innovation but in a world where we tend to have a one-device-suits-it-all I just can’t see it being picked up in our mobile world, maybe the camera world.
Sadly, Windows RT makes it to this list. Windows 8 tablets are another breed but RT is just something that never managed to grab my attention.
Bonus entries: Cheap Androids with low-end specs might address a certain chunk of the market, but a slow CPU, low RAM and a poor resolution leave me untouched.
Sadly, as much as I liked the Padfone, nobody seems to have cared as well.
Even with Google’s strong push of NFC since they launched Ice Cream Sandwich, it fails to make anything easier. I have yet to find a specific usage scenario where using NFC for anything is better than the current solution we already find. Honestly, I completely forget that Android Beam is a thing, and that’s not good.
Wireless Charging is my second pick. Man have companies tried this and tried again. If the wireless charging pad is going to be bigger than the tip of a charger, and still require a wire to the wall, it misses the point of being any better than just connecting the phone to the same charger. And once they plan to charge me extra for it, it’s dead. It would probably take off if it came bundled for free.
The Galaxy Camera would be my third. Who in their right mind would pay the price of an unsubsidized smartphone for a camera with better software but lesser optics and then have to pay every month for a data plan to keep it. Good idea, very badly executed.
Last, Windows RT. If you sell something that requires apps to succeed, but you don’t offer any apps when you start selling it, who’s to blame, the market or the company’s approach? Seriously this is the perfect example of something that is beautifully designed but so badly executed that even the average geek gets confused since it tries to be everything, but wasn’t really intended to be everything. Sounds like the product of two company departments that couldn’t come to an agreement.
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Projectors on phones. It’s a great idea; even with screens getting larger and larger, sharing content with a number of people on a 4.7-inch screen is still a struggle. Problem is, the technology just isn’t quite there to make it happen in an impressive way. Samsung took a stab at it this year with the Galaxy Beam, but its effort failed to make any kind of an impact. There are a number of technical issues keeping such pico-projectors from shining (no pun intended), with brightness up at the top of the list. Maybe in a few years some of those factors will begin to be mitigated by new higher-output LEDs and more capable batteries, but 2012 was just too soon.
We started telling you about inductive charging two years ago. Since then it’s suffered a chicken-and-egg problem: which needs to come first, phones or chargers. We now have three top-tier phones that all support the same wireless charging standard (the Lumia 920, Nexus 4, and Optimus G). The problem? Wireless chargers are very hard to come by! Some of us will passionately shout from the rooftops that the time for wireless charging is finally here — but others will still simply shrug, never having experienced the convenience that wireless charging brings.
The Bottom Line
There are projects on this list that we wish could succeed. I mean think of it, wouldn’t it be cool if wireless chargers became the standard? Or if we could use NFC for everything we do and not have to carry our wallets around. Some of these ideas are the product of real genius thinking, but that sadly haven’t found 2012 to be their year of glory.
Do you agree with our thoughts? Would you add any more technologies to the list? Leave us a comment and join the discussion.