Tech Companies That Missed the Mark in 2016

From Snapchat Spectacles to virtual reality, 2016 was a year of innovation and growth in the tech industry. However, not every company saw great success, and even the tech giants had some big snafus. Here are some of the most notable tech company failures of the past year.

Samsung

At the top of the list is Samsung, which faced a huge loss both in its finances and reputation with its Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. A quick refresher: Samsung released the Galaxy Note 7 phablet with much acclaim in August as its direct competition to the iPhone 7. Early reviews and sales were good until reports started coming in of the device smoking and catching fire due to a battery issue. A few isolated events soon led to a full recall of the phone, a ban of the device on planes, and mass replacements. However, the replacement phones also caught on fire, leading Samsung to continuously apologize and offer solutions to customers. The product was eventually discontinued, but not before it cost Samsung a reported $17 billion to address and fix the issue. Time will tell how long it takes Samsung to recover.

Google

Companies should think very carefully about any April Fools’ joke they create. Normally, Google is one of those companies that does very well with their pranks, but 2016 brought one that didn’t have many people laughing. For April Fools, Google had created the Mic Drop option for Gmail, which allowed people to reply to a conversation and then archive it instantly. It seemed like an interesting idea on the surface, but the Mic Drop feature had a serious bug with it, which led to a lot of people complaining about the feature. Google had to quickly undo the damage and turn the feature off before things got out of hand. April Fools might be a time for fun, but this example proves that businesses need to be careful about what kind of pranks they pull.

Facebook

The world’s largest social network is under a microscope, as people notice whatever it does, even if it only lasts for a few moments. However, the site’s biggest snafu this year was noticeable by more than just a handful of people—in November, Facebook changed 2 million living users’ pages into memorials remembering the “deceased.” Even CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s profile was among those mistakenly killed off. The issue was quickly resolved on the same day, but Facebook still issued an apology for the unfortunate glitch.

Evernote

The organizational app’s fiasco came late in the year, but it was still a big misstep. In December, Evernote told customers it would start allowing employees to read some of their notes to help with training and developing its machine learning algorithms. Expectedly, backlash and swift and harsh. The CEO soon changed the program to opt-in participation and offered a heartfelt apology, stating, “We are excited about what we can offer Evernote customers thanks to the use of machine learning, but we must ask for permission, not assume we have it. We’re sorry we disappointed our customers, and we are reviewing our entire privacy policy because of this.”

HP

In September, HP released what it billed as a security update to make sure its printers were safe from malware. However, the firmware was actually a way to block users of Officejet Pro printers from using unapproved ink cartridges purchased from other sources. Customers turned to backup solutions and other fixes get around the update, and HP offered a half-hearted apology by stating that it just wants to keep users safe from third-party counterfeiters, though most people agree the biggest threat isn’t from a knock-off ink cartridge.

Apple

Not even Apple was free from the tech company fray in 2016. The company is known for avoiding apologizing for customer complaints, but in February, Apple admitted that the Error 53 messages customers were seeing on their iPhones was a real flaw that occurred when customers tried to update their iOS or restore their phones from iTunes. The error apparently came from a factory test designed to see if Touch ID was working properly but appeared to be a failed security test when used out of the store. The company issued an apology and released software to restore the phones, as well as offered reimbursements to customers who may have paid for non-warranty service to fix the problem.

Rick Delgado

Rick Delgado is a freelance technology writer and commentator.

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