It's been a gangbuster quarter for terrible tech, from exploding batteries to half-hearted upgrades to pretexting scandals and everything in between. Please join us on a lighthearted romp through the worst tech stories and products from the past three months. Then, skedaddle on over to page 2 of this feature and download some free apps that will make you miserable and possibly dumber.
Want to catch up on the worst tech of the entire year? Take a look at our previous top 10 worst tech lists.
Forget about screen size and hard-drive capacity for a second. A laptop is only as good as its ability to not burst into flames while sitting in your lap. That's what makes the recent flurry of Sony laptop battery recalls so lame. Dell started the craze, and now everybody's getting in on the game: Apple, Lenovo, Toshiba, and Fujitsu. The bright side of this is that, for once, a technological trend that started in America is taking off in Japan. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
There's nothing really wrong with Amazon's Unbox online video service--except for the fact that you can watch movies only on the PC you downloaded them on. And it doesn't work with Macs or iPods. And although you need to download a proprietary player to watch the videos you bought, sometimes the videos don't play at all. And the Unbox software keeps trying to connect to the Net, even after you've disabled that feature in Windows. And it sometimes makes you go through a complicated uninstall process when you're fed up with it. Other than that, it's all sunshine and daisies.
In summary, here is a picture of an Internet:
And here is a picture of what is not an Internet:
Headphones-wise, Sennheiser knows what it's doing. The company has an Editors' Choice under its belt. That's why this pair of headphones is so baffling. They sound absolutely great, but the awkward and loose over-the-ear design does everything it can to ruin it for everyone. It's like being served a delicious filet mignon but being forced to eat it with silverware made of gummi worms. Yes, that's the best possible analogy.
We could easily add the "new" iPod to this list, thanks to the fact that it doesn't do much that previous iPods couldn't do (except hold more songs, take up less space, and play Texas Hold 'Em). Instead, we'll give a tip o' the c(r)ap to iTunes 7, which boasted features such as resource hogging, freezing, deleting song files, album art issues, CD-importing woes, iPod syncing foibles, and innovative new features stolen directly from Windows Media Player 11. In Apple's defense, the company released an iTunes update a couple of weeks after iTunes 7 came out. Maybe it's best that the iPod hasn't seen many significant "upgrades" over the past few years.
Gone are the days when CNET News.com reporters Dawn Kawamoto, Tom Krazit, and Stephen Shankland would chat with each other on the phone for hours, coordinating their wardrobes for the next day, discussing their favorite American Idol contestant, and talking about whom each of them will ask to the CNET sock hop. Instead, they've all been under their desks for the past month with tin foil hats on, rocking back and forth in the fetal position and mumbling something about HP spies tapping their brain waves. Thanks a ton, HP. Their outfits haven't been coordinated for weeks.
One could argue that trivializing the loss of more than 25,000 Japanese and American soldiers by turning it into a video game is enough to add the game to a "worst" list. But this game further bastardizes the legacy of the Battle of Iwo Jima with dancing troops, idiotic A.I., terrible graphics, and infuriating gameplay. In fact, the GameSpot reviews team says this game has "no redeeming qualities whatsoever." That's hard to do.
Hooray for bling. Bling gets the point across: I have a lot of money and I enjoy fashion. But there is such a thing as too much bling. The Dolce & Gabbana Razr, for example, is getting all up in everyone's face with the bling. Suddenly, it's not enough to have a phone made of gold. If we are to believe Dolce & Gabbana, it's imperative to have a golden phone that announces "Dolce & Gabbana!" every time it's turned on or off. Why not a very loud speakerphone that yells "Look at me! I am fancy!" every time the phone is turned on? That would be great, and also cure the owner's insecurity. In other news, you get a free dongle with this $400 phone. We're holding out for the $900 Dolce & Gabbana fax machine (with free golden toner cartridges).
If ever there were a perfect opportunity to bring Hans and Franz back as product spokesmen, this would be it. Instead, the marketing whizzes behind PumpOne PumpedForLife decided to underscore an extremely awkward product name with packaging that makes us feel extremely awkward. More specifically: a shirtless, muscle-bound man is shoving an iPod into our faces while doing arm curls. Instead of getting "pumped," this box makes us want to go to the nearest tavern and get Duffed. And then ask Duffman to protect us from scary PumpedForLife Man.
The monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey recently appeared at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, where Professor Eugene Polzik and his team successfully teleported information from light to matter over a distance of half a meter. There is no way in hell that this achievement belongs on a "worst tech" list. However, before you put on an astronaut costume and start gratuitously teleporting yourself a half-meter to the left, consider this: getting stuck in a gaseous state of quasi-existence is a serious bummer. Plus, Professor Polzik's special brand of teleportation isn't ready for humans yet, so it's best to just use it for moving heavy furniture around until they come up with correct Star Trek-style human teleportation. Maybe in Q4?