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Fire Phone, Galaxy S5, iPad Mini 3, and more: 15 major mobile flops of 2014

Galen Gruman | Nov. 26, 2014
It's been a banner year for smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches of the turkey variety; here are the 15 biggest flappers.

For us tech pundits, a world that has essentially consolidated to Android and iOS is a bit boring, and we all root for BlackBerry and Windows Phone to matter somewhere, somehow. We sometimes get excited by puppy mobile OSes like Tizen, Firefox OS, and Ubuntu Touch, which despite their open source pedigree are creatures of Samsung and Intel, Mozilla, and Canonical, respectively.

None is new, but 2014 was supposed to be the year each got real, coming to market in multiple products. It didn't happen, and it likely won't ever at this point. (Remember the Tizen-powered Samsung Zthat was supposed to ship first in Russia? It didn't.) Although they have intriguing aspects, the fact is they're all hugely inferior to Android and iOS, even to BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Why bother?

Tizen has no real mission other than to be a paper tiger Samsung can wave at Google when they fight over Android's direction. Firefox OS and Ubuntu Touch come from open source dreamers who believe that all a smartphone needs to be is a glorified Web browser. Google's been trying that for five years with Chrome OS, to marginal uptake at best (it might finally have cracked the 1 percent new-sales threshold this year).

Android's AOSP version and Microsoft's free phone licenses have taken away most of the cost factor advantage of a free open source mobile OS. You can still build cheaper Firefox OS and Ubuntu Touch phones than AOSP or Windows Phone devices, but not much cheaper - and you get phones that can do very little. People in poor countries may not have much money, but if they spend it on a smartphone, it has to handle sufficiently useful tasks to justify any price.

Google Docs for iOS and Android
Google Docs for mobile
Google Docs for mobile

For years, Apple's iWork suite was the undisputed king of the mobile office suites, though the now-defunct Quickoffice had long been a strong second choice, and for many a superior one for Word and Excel file usage. This winter, Microsoft debuted Office for iPad and a couple weeks ago made it available for the iPhone. The first Office for iPad was good, not great. But with several revisions since that debut, Office for iOS is now very good, a strong rival to iWork.

The same can't be said for the sad suite that is Google Docs, a marginally capable office-productivity trio that will quickly convince you to save your work for when you get back to your desk and have a real word processor - or switch to Office or iWork on an iOS device. The Android version of Google Docs is slightly more capable than the iOS version, but not enough to prevent you from jumping to Office for Android when that finally ships, probably in early 2015.


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