Every year, phone makers and telecom companies meet in Barcelona to try to grab some of the attention away from Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., and Huawei Technologies Co.
The world’s biggest telecommunications trade show (25-28 February) perpetuates a 30-year-old tradition intended to celebrate Europe’s pivotal role in the genesis of the mobile industry. At this year’s three-day MWC Barcelona, formerly the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft and Huawei were among those that unveiled new products. But away from flagship product launches, there have also been a fair share of memorable flops. Here are a few:
2009: Years before the Apple Watch, LG showed off its GD910 watch phone at MWC and CES. It was expensive, and its demise wasn’t slowed by limited availability and even more limited functionality. It was a flop, but it was at least an innovative flop years ahead of its time.
2015: The handset titan previously known as BlackBerry launched Leap at MWC. Its first all-touchscreen phone without the traditional keyboard, the product was an attempt to halt the dramatic fall in BlackBerry’s sales. A year later, BlackBerry outsourced the production of its handsets to China’s TLC Corp.
2013: The flops are not confined to products. Telefonica SA had a strong relationship with Mozilla, the not-for-profit maker of the Firefox web browsers. Six years ago, it pitched the Firefox OS as an alternative to Android and Apple iOS. The project floundered after four years, and the Spanish telco has since been marketing Google’s cloud services to its business clients.
2012: Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom teamed up seven years ago to combat upstart messaging app WhatsApp by starting Joyn, backed with tech by Jibe Mobile. The product failed to take off and three years later, Google bought Jibe. To this day, telecom companies remain outsiders in the battle over instant messaging technology.
2016: Chances are you’ve never heard of an Alexa rival called AneedA. That’s because the “dial” smartwatch that uses the aptly named voice control software never took off. Musician-turned-entrepreneur Will.I.Am had lined up Deutsche Telekom AG to sell the dial and show it off in Barcelona. Yet Will.I.Am’s on-stage-demo was mired by glitches and customers in the UK ignored the product. The same year saw LG Electronics Inc. show off the Rolling Bot, which the company promoted as a home-automation device that let consumers play with a cat remotely thanks to a built-in moving laser and camera. Pre-orders reportedly cost £229 (around ₹18,500 now) but it remains unclear whether it ever hit the shelves. Pieces of string continue to dominate feline play.