We definitely saw some awesome phones in 2011 and I listed the top 5 smartphones in a previous post, but we also saw some disappointing phones as well. And I'm not just talking about low-end Android phones, though there were plenty of those. What I'm talking about are the ones that really left us wanting more. The ones that we talked about for months and then when they were finally released we felt cheated. Yes, phones like the HTC Thunderbolt and the Bold 9900 are amazing phones, but considering the hype that surrounded them and the expectations, it was just too much for the phone and they couldn't live up to it. So these are the worst phones of 2011, the ones that made us go "Really? That's it?"
1. Motorola DROID Bionic / HTC ThunderBolt / Apple iPhone 4S / SE Xperia Play
So let me explain why I have four phones listed here and why these four phones in particular are listed given the fact that they're great phones.
These four phones were probably the most hyped phones of the year. Each suffered from DOZENS of missed release dates, spec changes, rumors of being trashed, and an overall build-up that created a lot of tension. In the end, though each one was a great phone, the hype around them was so great that they were disappointments. They never lived up to all of the hype. The ThunderBolt, as awesome as we made it out to be, shipped with a single-core processor right when dual-core processors were gaining popularity, just recently got Gingerbread after months of delays, was plagued by software and reboot issues, and had terrible battery life.
The DROID Bionic didn't have any major problems, except for the fact that it was delayed for seven months and Motorola nearly immediately eclipsed its release by rumors about the HTC Rezound and DROID RAZR. We all have gotten used to a new Android phone every week, but when you've been waiting seven months to buy a phone and the very next day after you buy it Motorola is already leaking specs about another super phone, the frustration is hard to bear.
The iPhone 4S debacle was just as bad. The new iPhone is typically announced in June or July. Well, this year, June and July came and went with no new iPhone. Rumors abounded. We heard about an August release, then a September release, then an October release. We all speculated that Apple must be completely redesigning the iPhone and including some pretty amazing features for it to take them this long to release it. Nope. Same hardware, slightly improved processor, slightly improved camera, and this voice assistant thing that no one uses: boom, the much-anticipated iPhone 4S. Talk about disappointing. (Yes, I know I listed the iPhone 4S as one of the best phones of the year. How can I list it as one of the best and one of the worst? Well, just because it was a great phone doesn't mean it properly satisfied us.)
The Xperia Play was the long-awaited Playstation phone. It was meant to revolutionize mobile gaming. And it probably could have if it didn't ship with a single-core processor in a dual-core world and nothing special when it came to gaming. We expected a Playstation Go with Android. Instead, we got an Android phone with Playstation Go controls. There's a big difference. Trust me.
2. Motorola Titanium / T-Mobile Comet / Samsung DoubleTime / Sharp FX Plus
Again, we have several phones crammed into one spot. Why? Am I simply hating on low-end smartphones? No. One of the great things about Android is that there is a wide variety of price ranges available. If you only have $50 or $100 but you still want a decent phone, you can get one. Those phones may not offer the best performance, but they work well and offer a lot of bang for your buck.
These phones I've listed, however, are the ones that are so low-end, so cheap, and perform so poorly that they're not even worth looking at, even if they are free (which not all of them are). These are the phones that have 500 MHz processors and 150 MB of RAM, a 3-megapixel fixed focus camera with no flash, EV-DO Rev. 0, and tiny, useless 3-inch displays, to give a few feature examples. These are the phones that don't even deserve to be made. Sound harsh? Just check out one of these at a store and you'll see what I'm talking about. And yes, I've reviewed all of them so I know what their performance is like.
3. Kyocera Echo
I had high hopes for the Echo, I really did. A lot of people brushed it off immediately due to its odd form factor and less-than-stellar specs, but not me. Yeah, it looked weird. Yes, the spec sheet left much to be desired. But it had potential. The idea of two displays and what this could mean for multi-tasking was very exciting to me. I wanted good things for the Echo.
Unfortunately, it was a dud. Despite putting so much time into creating the form factor, Kyocera apparently spent no time trying figure out how to make it look attractive. The phone was thick, bulky, and looked like it was something from five years ago (except for the dual-display technology). I was proud of Sprint for taking a chance on a phone like this and I'm excited to see a company like Kyocera be bold and fearless with its products. These are good signs. However, it just didn't come together properly.
4. HP Veer
Ah, the sad story of webOS. It had (perhaps still has) a lot of potential. Yes, it wasn't perfect, but considering it only got through a few update cycles, I'd say it was pretty darn good. For one, the card-style multi-tasking is something that's been mimicked on a few other OSes on the market. Simply put, webOS was the OS to rival Android and iOS and bring balance to the smartphone market. And then HP bought Palm. It was all downhill from there.
The Veer, like most webOS devices, suffered from poor hardware. Not only was it not very powerful, it was so tiny that it was almost useless. There are a few consumers out there who will appreciate a "cute" phone, but there aren't very many. Not only that, but webOS NEVER got the advertising support it needed so those few people who would have wanted a phone with a 2.6-inch display were never properly made aware of the Veer. webOS had potential, but the Veer was the wrong phone to release if HP wanted to show that.
5. BlackBerry Bold 9900 / 9930
The news surrounding RIM this year was almost as depressing and frustrating as the news surrounding webOS. But that was all supposed to end with a new line-up of BlackBerrys. RIM poured its heart and soul into these new devices and gave us……a decent phone with a price tag of over $300 on contract. Seriously, RIM? The Bold 9900/9930 is a great phone, don't get me wrong. It's not going to knock your socks off but if you're a BlackBerry fan then it's the best thing you've ever seen. The touchscreen is a nice touch (see what I did there?), the display is bright and crisp, the hardware screams 'I'm an adult with a high-paying job!', and the new OS is a huge improvement. However, the price tag is all wrong. For a company that's trying to get back into the game and gain back the consumer's trust, a $350 price tag is absolutely the wrong way to go. Buying a BlackBerry today is somewhat of a risk. No one wants to spend $350 on a device that may or may not turn out to be as good as their wife's/husband's/friend's iPhone or Android phone. This had 'bad idea' written all over it. The people who bought the 9900 were very happy with it, but there just weren't that many people who wanted to spend that much money on it.
If you want a less depressing list, check out my Best Smartphones of 2011 list. There are definitely a lot more shining moments in that one. Every year is bound to contain some failures. It's how we learn. Hopefully these companies have learned from their mistakes and will see a better year in 2012.
What would you say are the worst phones of the year? Let me know in the comments!