Biggest Product Flops of the Year

December 4, 2018 by Grant Suneson

Source: Michele Tantussi / Getty Images
Before rolling out a new product, companies spend time and money, sometimes millions of dollars, on research, development, and advertising with the expectation that the product will ultimately be profitable. Yet this is not always the case.

A product can fail for many different reasons. Companies can fail to accurately predict what consumers’ tastes will be, or fail to accurately predict demand for the product category. Sometimes, products will fail because of bad reviews, or due to competition with a product that is superior, or at least perceived to be superior.

When they occur, products that flop tend to be luxury items or experiences. People will always need food, clothes, and medical care, so these types of items — in their more basic forms — rarely flop in the way that movies, cars, or tech products can.

American consumers have a wide range of choices. Nearly every U.S. adult has a cell phone, so there are a large number of tech companies vying for their piece of the cell phone market. If one of those companies produces a shoddy or clunky product, consumers have plenty of other options to choose from.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed reports of business failures in 2018 to determine the biggest product flops of the year. The list includes several cell phones, high-end sneakers, a car, motion pictures, and more.

To determine the biggest product flops of the year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed media reports and company publications about consumer products that underperformed relative to their manufacturers’ expectations.

Click here to see the biggest product flops of the year.

Source: Jack Taylor / Getty Images

14. iPhone XS
> Company: Apple

Apple may have shot itself in the foot with its iPhone XS. Shortly after launching the XS, the tech giant rolled out a similar iPhone, the XR, which is about $250 cheaper than the XS. This may be one of the main reasons Apple said it believed it would miss iPhone sales expectations in 2018. Apple’s iPhone manufacturer in China reported it was anticipating a 25% decline in orders from Apple.

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Source: Courtesy of Bragi

13. The Headphone
> Company: Bragi

Even though everyone seems to be plugged into their phones these days, few are using wireless headphones to do so. While Apple’s AirPods are selling well, competing wireless headphones, like Bragi’s The Headphone, are not. The Headphone received good reviews from some tech sites, but the product never caught on with consumers. The Headphone is reportedly on clearance.

Source: Courtesy of Facebook

12. Portal
> Company: Facebook

While there are not yet sales figures for Facebook’s new video call device, Portal, it is safe to say this piece of tech is at least a critical flop. Reviews of the Portal have been anywhere from icy to outright hostile, questioning the need for such a device while also pointing out that, in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, giving the company access to a camera in your home may not be the best idea. Many reviewers said that Facebook has misrepresented how much data the Portal can track, and at $199 this device is not worth the price or the risk.

Source: Isaiah979 / Wikimedia Commons

11. Yeezy Boost 350 V2
> Company: Adidas

Kanye West’s collaboration with Adidas, the Yeezy, were some of the hottest kicks on the market when they were released in limited quantities — selling for thousands of dollars on the resale market. But when Adidas dropped the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 in huge quantities, sneakerheads seemed to lose interest. Though Adidas insists sales are fine, the resale market tells another story. Yeezys are sitting on store shelves unsold, which could be due to a number of factors, including West’s unpopular public statements, a lack of exclusivity, and a $300 price point.

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Source: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for Dell

10. Windows 10 update
> Company: Microsoft

Microsoft has been one of the world’s most consistently successful companies for decades. But even Microsoft is not immune to mistakes — such as the company’s Windows 10 version 1809 operating system update in October. One bug of the version update was that it deleted user data — in some cases hundreds of gigabytes — like music and pictures. Another reported bug was that the task manager was not accurately reporting how much data each application was using. Microsoft quickly — later in October — rolled out another update that fixed the glitches.

Source: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

9. 2018 Bolt EV
> Company: Chevrolet

The Bolt EV is Chevrolet’s entry into the burgeoning electric vehicle market. Though Bolt sales grew each month in 2017, they declined in 2018. And competition from market leader Tesla — which has troubles of its own — were not the only reason for Bolt’s sales shortfall. GM had issues with low inventory and with diverting production to other countries. But the real reason may be that Chevy is more focused on its other electric vehicle, the Volt.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Network

8. Heathers
> Company: Paramount Network

The Paramount Network project “Heathers” — a reimagining of the 1988 film starring Winona Ryder — seemed doomed from the start. The show was slated to air in early 2018. It was delayed, canceled, and revived after two school shootings because the show was going to depict similar events. Paramount eventually put out a heavily-edited version of the show, broadcasting all episodes in the same week. The show drew just a fraction of the viewers that other Paramount Networks shows did — some episodes were viewed by fewer than 100,000 people.

Source: Courtesy of Samsung

7. Galaxy S9
> Company: Samsung

As the smartphone market grows increasingly more saturated — 95% of American adults use a mobile phone, and 77% of them use a smartphone — it appears that Samsung may have been too rushed to launch the S9, which many claim is too similar to its predecessor. For the first time since 2012, Galaxy’s sales dropped in the second quarter as compared to the first, with the Galaxy S9 specifically missing sales targets. The company attributed Galaxy S9’s slow sales figures to increased competition from other brands and sluggish premium smartphone market as consumers may be less willing to upgrade similar older-model phones.

Source: Courtesy of Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

6. The Hurricane Heist
> Company: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

“The Hurricane Heist” is a film about a crew of robbers who use a hurricane as cover to steal from the U.S. Treasury. The movie performed so poorly at the box office that its distributor, Entertainment Studios. The flick’s cast lacked starpower, and the movie was widely panned by critics. It grossed a meager $6.1 million at the box office — a fraction of its estimated $35 million budget.

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Source: Courtesy of Apple

5. HomePod
> Company: Apple

Apple’s first foray into the smart home speaker market has not been as successful as the company would have liked. Though the tech giant typically does not share sales figures for these types of devices, Bloomberg reported that the HomePod sold poorly after missing its initial release date. The HomePod is much more expensive than similar devices from Amazon and Google, and it appears consumers were not willing to shell out the extra $200 to get Apple’s take on the smart speaker.

Source: Courtesy of Snap, Inc.

4. Spectacles V2
> Company: Snap

Snap’s spectacles — sunglasses with a Snapchat-enabled camera built in — were a huge flop when they were first released. The company sold a fraction of the 800,000 glasses it created, losing nearly $40 million. Yet Snap was undeterred and made a second version of the Spectacles in 2018, Spectacles V2, and it appears those flopped as well. Snap ordered 35,000 V2 units, then tweaked the design and ordered 52,000 more. Spectacles failed to catch on with consumers, possibly because of the hefty $150 price tag or simply because smartphones work just fine for photos. Still, Snap is planning on a third generation of Spectacles, only this time it ordered just 24,000 units.

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Source: Courtesy of HTC

3. U12+
> Company: HTC

Sales of HTC’s new phone, the U12 Plus, were so poor in 2018 that the company ended up laying off about 25% of its global workforce. Poor reviews of the smartphone cited its non-moving (presumably pressure sensitive) volume buttons that often did not work properly as well as the low battery life as reasons to stay away from the phone. The U12+ launched in June 2018. HTC disclosed later that the month’s sales were down 67% compared to June 2017.

Source: Courtesy of NBC

2. Megyn Kelly Today
> Company: NBC

NBC was banking on former Fox News host Megyn Kelly to be a huge ratings draw, reportedly offering her a $69 million contract to host her own show “Megyn Kelly Today” — a spin-off of the “Today” show. But Kelly’s show had few viewers and lots of controversy. The last straw was when she questioned whether it was actually racist to wear blackface for a Halloween costume. Kelly’s show was canceled after about a year, and she will reportedly get a buyout worth about $30 million, according to Page Six.

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate

1. Robin Hood
> Company: Lionsgate

Within a week of its release, several outlets had already dubbed “Robin Hood” as the “biggest box office bomb” of the year. The film debuted at seventh in the domestic box office in its opening weekend, pulling in just $9.1 million. To date, it has grossed $21.8 million, compared to its $100 million budget. It may have flopped for a number of reasons. For one, it faced stiff competition from films like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Creed II,” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” The biggest reason for the film’s failure to attract moviegoers, however, is likely that it simply is not very good. It has just a 16% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.