As CNBC's in-house gadget reviewer, I tested dozens of new devices for the site this year. While there were a ton of successful products that I love, there were also a few blunders and missteps. Some trends even left me scratching my head.
Here's a look at some of the tech blunders from 2017.
I love the idea, but the reality didn't live up to expectations. Amazon Key was supposed to change the way packages are delivered. Amazon's smart lock and camera system enables delivery drivers to enter your home, but they won't if you have a loose dog and, worse, will set off your security alarm unless you turn it off for the day (who does that, anyway?) Amazon can improve it in 2018 by embedding with security systems, but I'm not sure how it'll skirt the problem with little Fido.
I loved the 2016 Pixel and Pixel XL, but this year's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL fell short of expectations. It started with a variety of bugs, like buzzing noises to screen problems. Google quickly fixed some of them, but it's still missing some features that are available elsewhere. The Pixel 2 XL screen still has bad viewing angles (a hardware problem), and neither phone offers wireless charging or expandable storage, which you can get from the Galaxy S8. The software is great, but the price — $649 for the Pixel 2 and $849 for larger XL model — is too high for what you get.
It started with Motorola and Apple phones and quickly spread to almost every other new smartphone, save for Samsung's flagships. The 3.5mm headphone jack in smartphones is basically dead. I switched to Bluetooth headphones long ago, but now smartphone makers are practically pushing everyone to — that, or deal with USB-C headphones, which are just clunky and require an adapter if you use your own favorite set of buds.
Google had another blunder this year: the Pixel Buds. At $159, they were supposed to compete with Apple AirPods but ultimately fell way short in quality and performance. Worse, a new feature that's supposed to translate languages in real time barely worked in our tests, largely because the headphones' microphone didn't work very well outdoors. Kudos for the great idea to Google, though. Maybe Pixel Buds 2 will improve the delivery.
Android Wear — Google's smartwatch operating system and the gadgets that run on it — has lagged far behind the Apple Watch recently, and these two smartwatches were supposed to improve the situation. Neither were very good, both outclassed by other Android Wear watches. Worse, while Google recently released a new version of Android Wear, it seems to have taken a back seat to Android as a whole. While I once loved Android Wear, there isn't a model I'd recommend over alternative from Samsung and Apple right now.
The Fitbit Ionic was almost too buggy to review when it crossed my desk. It had a lack of apps, was prone to crashing and some tracking seemed wildly inaccurate (like my sleep tests.) After two different units, I published an unfavorable review and recommended most folks stick to more affordable wearables or the Apple Watch. New software that began rolling out this week may vastly improve the Fitbit Ionic, but the original software left a sour taste in my mouth after two units failed to work.
Apple's HomePod speaker was originally supposed to launch this year to take on the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but it apparently needs more time in oven. Bummer. It's one of the gadgets I was looking forward to trying most, particularly since Apple's promising a really great-sounding speaker that should work with iPhones, the Apple TV and more. It's now expected to launch in early 2018.
I love(d) the Essential phone, but the product fizzled out pretty darn quick considering it was developed by the co-creator of Android, Andy Rubin. While its hardware was fantastic and its software great, Essential has reportedly struggled to sell units of the device -- one report placed sales at just 5,000 units sold. It didn't help that Essential delayed some colors, didn't push out accessories fast enough and started by selling the phone as a Sprint exclusive. Its Black Friday price at $399 probably should have been the launch price. And now Rubin has taken a leave of absence from the company for personal reasons.