But for every eye-popping new gadget we tried, there was another one that never made it. From Apple toys that once had so much promise (AirPower! 12-inch MacBook!), to those that were probably doomed from the start (MoviePass, Coolest Cooler), this is our annual reminder that no product or service can sustain itself on hype alone.
Let’s take a moment and pour one out for all the tech that didn’t make it through 2019.
The wireless charging mat that wasn’t. Apple debuted the accessory all the way back in 2017 alongside the Series 3 Apple Watch. The idea was simple: a wireless charger that could fit all your devices and wouldn’t take up an entire bedside table. But it turns out, nothing about AirPower was simple. Originally slated to launch in 2018, subsequent reporting tells us the project was plagued with multiple issues, and AirPower was mysteriously delayed. When AirPods 2 launched, with references to AirPower on the box, it looked like we might finally get AirPower after all. Then, at the last moment, Apple bailed, possibly because the mat was prone to overheating. We may never know exactly what went wrong, but there’s a small glimmer of hope for anyone still holding out for an Apple-branded wireless charger. Recent iPhone rumors suggest the 2021 iPhone may only charge wirelessly.
As we close out the decade, perhaps it’s only fitting that the software we all used to manage our music libraries in the early 2000s has reached the end of its life. macOS Catalina officially killed the app as we knew it, though much of its functionality lives on in Apple Music, the App Store, and elsewhere. The software was both iconic — it went hand in hand with the iPod, after all — and buggy as hell. Still, even in 2019 it had some uses (ahem, data transfers) and not everyone was stoked to see it go. But the truth is that in the age of Apple as a services company, iTunes was redundant at best and a bug-filled nuisance at worst.
Some things really are too good to be true. And MoviePass, which (now infamously) skyrocketed to fame for allowing its subscribers to see an unlimited number of movies for just $9.99 a month, definitely was. The business model was so obviously unsustainable and yet millions of us couldn’t resist joining the ride for as long as we could. Sadly, we all know how it ended: The money finally ran out and, after multiple botched attempts to keep surging costs under control, MoviePass called it quits for good in September. Then again, maybe we deserved it for scamming all that free popcorn.
There was a time when Coolest Cooler was the King of Kickstarter. Then the record-breaking cooler quickly became a cautionary tale for everything not to do on Kickstarter. Coolest founders were not equipped to meet the incredible demand for the cooler that came with a built-in blender and Bluetooth speaker. After repeated delays, price hikes, and a Justice Department investigation, the Coolest saga finally came to a close this month when the company announced it was shutting down for good, even though thousands of its original Kickstarter backers never received their coolers.
3D Touch (or, Force Touch as it was originally, somewhat unfortunately, named) was always one of the most underrated iOS features. Easy to ignore but incredibly useful, 3D Touch never really became the standout iPhone feature Apple once hoped for. But if you remembered to use it, 3D Touch opened up some really cool tricks. But with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, Apple has ditched 3D Touch for good. Instead, we have Haptic Touch, which has some similar functionality but isn’t nearly as good as 3D Touch. If you’re still rocking an older iPhone, treasure those 3D Touch gestures while you can.
There’s not much left to say about what went wrong with Google+ that hasn’t already been said. What started out as Google’s plan to take on Facebook ended up as one of the company’s biggest embarrassments. So maybe it’s fitting that Google even managed to screw up its plan to kill Google+. Originally on the chopping block for August, the company was forced to fast-track its demise after a software update inadvertently exposed the personal information of more than 50 million people. And so, after a years-long death spiral, Google+ breathed its last gasps in April.
Amazon Dash Buttons
It’s hard to remember now, but when Amazon first introduced its magical laundry detergent-summoning buttons in 2015, the company had to assure everyone that Dash buttons were not, in fact, an elaborate April Fools’ prank. But though they were very real, the buttons’ usefulness was limited and the gadget never took off despite some notable brands (ahem, Trojan Condoms) experimenting with them. Amazon stopped selling the physical buttons in February, though it’s less cool virtual Dash buttons remain alive and well, thanks to Alexa.
Ah, the 12-inch MacBook. Introduced in 2015, it was the first of Apple’s laptops to ditch MagSafe and bring us into the pits of dongle hell. It also had a new keyboard design that well, kind of sucked. Yet despite these flaws, a lot of us ended up loving the small, ultra-portable notebook. Sadly, the critics won out, and Apple quietly retired the 12-inch MacBook this year. So while we’re glad Apple gave its keyboards a much-needed redesign, we’ll miss the rose gold laptop.
I know what you’re thinking: “Windows Phone was still a thing in 2019?” Well, technically, yes. Even though Microsoft signaled that it was killing its ill-fated mobile platforms (or, in Microsoft-speak “ending support”) all the way back in 2017, any holdouts could still update their devices until this year. Microsoft officially pulled the plug on all Windows 10 Mobile support in December.
Inbox by Google
When Google launched Inbox in 2014, flashy new email apps were not only something people got excited about, but they also signed up for absurdly long waitlists to get a shot at being one of the first to try them out. For Google, Inbox was a chance to remake its email client outside the confines of Gmail. The app has a sleek interface and took a unique approach to inbox management, bundling similar emails together and pulling out relevant bits, like trip itineraries and attachments.
But then Google redesigned Gmail, bringing many of the app’s best features to its main email app, and decided there was no longer a need for Inbox. Unfortunately, there’s one Inbox feature Google hasn’t yet managed to replicate inside of Gmail: Its lightning-fast incredibly accurate search. Still, Gmail has without a doubt improved in the last two years, and we have Inbox to thank.
Whatever you think of these products, they all contributed something to a better product we have today. (Well, except MoviePass, there will never be a better MoviePass, though theater chains are trying their best.) So as much as you might miss Inbox, or Google+, or — God forbid — iTunes, the spirit of these products lives on somewhere else, at least for now.
All Rights Reserved for Karissa Bell