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Five brilliant tech ideas that bombed out

File picture: Pexels

File picture: Pexels

Published Apr 11, 2022


Johannesburg - From exploding smartphones to failed social networks, here are our top five tech ideas that never took off as anticipated.

Given the introduction of foldable smartphones, whether the design format will become adopted widely or face the demise of other technology fads that never quite saw uptake.

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Like other new tech, folding smartphones can be expensive. However, adoption of such may not necessarily be dependent on the price tag but rather on numerous factors.

Recent years spelt the demise of scores of technology that failed to meet the expectations in adoption by the market.

With promises of innovation to increase productivity, enhance entertainment and ease the lives of everyday users, several tech ideas flopped dismally. Thus, not all technology will see rapid adoption and positive public sentiment despite their usefulness and appeal.

Augmented Reality

Dubbed as an innovation designed to bridge the gap between physical and digital crossover, Augmented Reality (AR) has been around for years. It is still used in some forms today, such as Google AR measure, which uses the technology to measure size and distance through a smartphone camera.

Despite this, AR was introduced to South Africans via smartphone, with many newspapers implementing it to offer readers more content back in 2013.

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The technology worked with an overlay triggered through a smartphone app. Readers hold their device over an image in the newspaper, the image acting as a trigger and transforming the picture into a playable video matching dimensions of the image on the newspaper.

Visually appealing, the technology was adopted by many media outlets and advertising agencies locally to achieve physical-digital convergence.

The Problem: AR was introduced at a time when mobile data was still quite expensive, and the technology also relied heavily on users downloading another app and subscribing to the channel, supplying the intended effect.

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Virtual Reality

In 2016, during the Samsung S7 series launch, the South Korean phone-maker, along with Meta CEO Mark Zukerberg, showcased Virtual Reality goggles, expected to bolster the technology's use when paired with the Samsung smartphone.

The goggles were never really marketed well with the smartphone. The goggles became an expensive phone holder with two magnifying lenses in a plastic headset.

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The Problem: While widely used in gaming and other applications, VR faces many hindrances in adoption even today. The technology has been widely reported to cause nausea when overused and created depth perception issues for users.


Intended as Google's social network, Google+ or "Google Plus" was not well marketed. When launched, potential users had to apply to join and only gained access after a waiting period.

The failed social network was also competing with popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the then up and coming photo-sharing app, Instagram. Social networks at the time were volatile and newer platforms with features were also obliterating older ones, such as MySpace.

The problem: No one cared.


While many people may not know the technology existed, HD DVD lived just two years before it was discontinued. Initially released by Toshiba, HD DVD competed with rival Blu-Ray, which saw stiff competition from emerging streaming services that have since replaced the need to store video digitally.

HD DVD saw a short lifespan of just two years from March 2006 to March 2008. A fair assumption is that today's technology would be outdated with the likes of the streaming services' scores.

Despite this, HD DVDs at the time could have been seen as very useful. Storage capacity was between 15 and 30 GB, massive for moveable storage. Still, it would also need data to be burned to a disk for usage.

The Problem: Rendering times, strong rival formats, and even streaming services were just a few of the issues that hampered the technology's adoption.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is one of the most infamous smartphones. Launched in 2016, the smartphone became the butt of all jokes and the subject of hordes of memes after scores of devices reportedly 'exploded' while charging.

The smartphone even became responsible for fires and users' homes. It was banned from all airlines globally and locally, with banners placed at boarding gates barring passengers from boarding with the device.

The Problem: In attempts to upgrade charging time, a design flaw recalled the device, with production ending promptly.

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