December 30, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
The year started off with a robotic bang as Android ruled CES with an iron fist. In early January, it became clear that Android would have a big year, and boy did it ever. But that great start didn’t prevent a number of missteps from happening throughout the year.
Though 2011 was kind to Android’s growth and overall success, there was still a fair share of shortcomings that tainted an otherwise incredible year. Here’s a look back at some of the biggest Android-related letdowns and fails of 2011. This isn’t a complete list of everything that went wrong, so add your own disappointments in the comments section.
11. Death of unlimited data
In 2011, 3 of the 4 major carriers instituted changes that did away with unlimited data. And we’re not just talking about the soft “fair use” caps that were in place, but a hard 2 GB cap or tiers that lead to throttling and fees if you go over. The last remaining holdout, Sprint, has also shown signs that it might follow the trend and get rid of its unlimited packages. Tablets and hotspots have already been capped, so it wouldn’t surprise us to see the same happen to phones in 2012. Strange that carriers would push us to watch Netflix and live TV, video chat with our families, listen to streaming music, and spend all day on our phones, then limit how much of that we can do.
10. Mobile 3D Devices
This was supposed to be the year. So was 2010. And by “the year,” I mean the time when consumers would finally embrace 3D technology. Despite 3D failing to obtain mass adoption in homes, phone makers thought they might succeed in mobile. The LG Optimus 3D and HTC EVO 3D tried to make mobile 3D cool, but both were gimmicky and not as groundbreaking as either company would have you believe. How often have you seen someone sharing a 3D photo or video? How many people really use the 3D feature on their devices these days? While the Optimus 3D/Thrill and EVO 3D are not disappointing devices, the 3D aspect that was their primary selling point certainly was.
9. Verizon Galaxy Nexus launch
Talk about a downer. This device was rumored and discussed for months on end, spotted in leaked photos, and then finally announced as an official product…that wouldn’t be out for a few more months. The GSM Galaxy Nexus was out for weeks before Verizon finally confirmed the Galaxy Nexus the day before launch with practically no advertising or promotion. The Galaxy Nexus was never going to be a runaway mass market hit – it’s designed to be a benchmark phone after all – but seeing it get no push from the company was sad. Then finding out that it doesn’t have Google Wallet and isn’t as “Pure Google” as people hoped was a kick in the knee. (At least it wasn’t an arrow!)
*Note: I’m talking strictly about the launch of the phone as a disappointment.
8. Verizon 4G LTE
Speaking of Verizon, what’s up with America’s Most Reliable 4G Network? You know, the “most reliable” network that has suffered nationwide outages 3 times in 1 month? Don’t get me wrong, I love LTE and will pay Verizon handsomely for the next 24 months for the privilege of it, but it was still disappointing to see recent and previous outages from the self-proclaimed most reliable. At least with 4G down, your battery won’t die as quickly as it does when the juice-sucking network is operational.
7. Apps arriving late on Android
2011 saw an influx of major brand names finally making their way to Android. A few upstarts even went Android first! But there were still cases of companies dragging their foot on supporting the hottest OS around. Netflix took forever and officially supported only a couple of devices, Plants vs. Zombies just arrived in the Market a few weeks ago, and Instagram has been repeating that “We’re working on Android” line for months with nothing to show for it. Maybe the economics don’t always match up, but companies need more sooner and less later with their Android arrival dates.
6. Skins & wait times are forever
Despite all the work that went into Ice Cream Sandwich, most people will never really see the incredible UI changes made in Android 4.0. Mathias Duarte said he hopes companies would innovate and make fewer changes to Android, but OEM’s aren’t having it. HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson have all pledged to support ICS, but they are doing so by simply re-skinning their existing UI’s and changes on top of it. It’s the same old story, folks. I actually don’t mind Sense/Touchwiz’s positive changes, but when you’re bloating up the software to the phone’s detriment and update cycle, what’s the point?
5. T-Mobile G2X
Of all the phones that I saw at CTIA, the G2X had me most excited. The phone was blazing fast, had a great build, and would surely get frequent software updates thanks to running stock Android. Who would have thought that the G2X would go on to become buggy and crash-happy given that resume? LG and T-Mobile could never figure out how to get the phone on track, which is sad considering that this was supposed to be the anchor of LG’s resume in the U.S.
4. Motorola Xoom launch
You coulda been a contender, kiddo! The Motorola Xoom was the first official Honeycomb tablet tasked with challenging the iPad, but it really never had a chance to put up a real fight. Google failed to foster a healthy number of tablet-specific apps, and Motorola and Verizon overpriced the Xoom to the point that there really was no incentive to purchase the tablet unless you were a diehard Android fan. Even among Android devices, the ASUS Transformer and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 seemed to gain more user attention.
3. “US Only”
Since patents were all the rage in 2011, I’ve been inspired to trademark the phrase “US Only.” That way I’ll make a killing every time a new product is announced. Amazon and Google alone would make me rich considering that all of these products were initially U.S.-only: Amazon Appstore, Cloud Player, and Kindle Fire; and Google Catalogs, Currents, Movies, and Music. We understand that there are cases where licensing agreements prevent products from launching globally, but with most of Android’s growth occurring in Europe and Asia, companies need to put in the extra effort to make my trademark phrase less valuable.
2. Motorola Droid Bionic
The Droid Bionic was supposed to be a phone that other phones would have trouble surpassing. Instead, it became a phone that users had trouble getting. Dozens of phones came and went between its debut at CES and eventual release more than half a year later, and the Bionic was soon tossed aside by better phones like the Droid Razr, Rezound, and Galaxy Nexus. It was the poster child for buyer’s remorse.
1. Logitech Revue
How does a product released in 2010 end up on a list of disappointments in 2011? Well, because we gave the Logitech Revue a pass in 2010. Google and Logitech promised that an update would eventually add the Android Market and revolutionize the way we watch TV, so we twiddled our thumbs and didn’t judge it too harshly. The Market didn’t arrive until a year later, and while it was a major improvement over the original software, it was far from revolutionary. The Revue was such a disappointment that even the company’s CEO admitted that its launch was a commercial failure.