April Fool's Day: These real tech products that could (or should) have been a joke
Are you ready for some hilarious jokes that will make you go wild with side-splitting laughter? It's the first of April, and making an April fool's joke when you're a journalist is not that easy. I'm not going to have fun writing fake news just for the sake of it. My colleagues at the editorial office have officially forbidden me to publish my fifteen-volume collection of jokes out of their love for humanity. This leaves me with but one recourse—I'll just tell you about real tech products that were actually marketed without any sense of irony. However, they were so messed up that we would have preferred it to be an actual joke, an April fool's joke.
Just before I begin, here is a little self-deprecation to defuse the few tears of rage that might stream down the little pink cheeks of some fanboys after reading this article.
Plenty of my articles could have been an April Fool's Day joke. My Christmas stories, for example. Every year, I fill you with a piece of fanfiction that is full of geek references just before the holidays. It might look like a joke, but it's a very serious affair. So is my 2000-word treatise on the yellow color of the iPhone 14. Even if I had a lot of fun writing it, it's still pretty laughable to have spent so much time and energy on such a trivial subject.
And what about my Twitter account and its twelve followers fighting each other? I won't even bother to link it here. No really, don't subscribe, it's clearly not worth your sanity. I tweet every six months and it often sucks, so please don't do this to yourself. We're having fun now, right?
Come on, enough laughing at my expense, it's time to laugh at Apple, Samsung, and the other manufacturers who almost made us laugh in spite of themselves.
April Fool's Day 1: Huawei's latest flagships
I know, I've been bashing Huawei a lot this year. So much so that I'm sure I have a negative social credit in China and am blacklisted by their press relations.
Small disclaimer: Huawei has no choice but to sell its smartphones without 5G or Google services. It's not their fault. However, Huawei has the choice to sell its smartphones for a much cheaper price, which it doesn't.
But we are talking about jokes here, not geopolitics! And at the same time, I'm not going to apologize for laughing with glee when I see a Huawei Mate 50 Pro (review) sold for €1,199 without a 5G modem and sans Google services.
As it stands, €1,200 for a smartphone, I call that an affront. Whether the handset hails from Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, or Huawei, it doesn't matter. It's insolent to ask so much for a phone in our current economic climate.
The best part is that I can't wait to get my hands on a lot of tutorials and other guides to use Gmail on my €1,000+ phone.
April Fool 2: The Dyson Zone
Let's remain on the theme of comically exorbitant prices. Dyson had an excellent idea of marketing a headset with a mouth guard that serves as an air purifier.
The gizmo looks like a cosplay item that you might see at a Japan Expo. It's a bit like Bane in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises if the brawny bad guy had been an audiophile and more than a neo-anarchist doubled up as a huge incel.
The Dyson Zone comes with a detachable nose and mouth visor that purifies the air as you move around. The accessory uses dual-layer compressors and filters that Dyson says can capture 99 percent of 0.1 micron particulate pollutants, as well as other harmful gases like NO2 and SO2.
The headphones also have a 50-hour battery life and full audio spectrum support. But 50 hours is if you can hold out that long psychologically after the inevitable public humiliation that awaits you once you put on this aberration.
But, but, but, let's not forget the little icing on this slushy cake: the price. In the United States, the Dyson Zone is sold for a cool $949, or €870 euros excluding tax.
It will soon be sold in France. Frankly, if you're looking for more affordable, or even free, ways to embarrass yourself in public, I know tons. Just ask me.
Well, I'm just being smart, but I've been hesitating for a long time to buy a Machine56 helmet and dress up like V in CyberPunk 2077. It's useless, but it's pretty damn classy. Hey, what are you laughing at?
April Fool's Day 3: The Nokia N-Gage and everything else Nokia released in the early 2000s
Well then, I'm a bit divided. First because, personally, I would have loved the Nokia N-Gage concept to work. A smartphone doubling up as a portable game console is a dream for me.
Secondly, I was nine years old when the N-Gage was released in 2002. I probably didn't even know what a cell phone was at the time. So, I don't have more relevant things to say about this product than you could find on its Wikipedia page.
You have to admit that the 2000s for Nokia was a bit like the 80s for a cocaine addict in Florida. You would do anything, money flows, and the worst thing is that it works...or not.
Between the N-Gage and all the other weirdly designed handsets developed by the manufacturer with some having more bizarre form factors than the others, it was really a sausage fest at Nokia at that time.
At least they had fun and made us laugh - sometimes even dream a little. Bravo!
April Fool's Day 4: SIM-free iPhones
Oh no, a missed opportunity! You were expecting a totally free dig at the ridiculously high prices of the latest iPhone 14, were you not? Well, I did not miss that out on purpose. Hahahahaha!
After a while, it's ok. I've ranted about Apple's insane prices. KTHXBAI. Nobody cares anyway, nobody reads my rants about pricing policies anymore. So get lost! Following that, everyone else raises their prices. Samsung is not better than Apple, for instance.
No, I wanted to ambush you and instead talk about Apple's decision to sell its latest iPhone in the US without a SIM slot. Those little plastic chips that sometimes still need to be cut out to fit into the smartphone, that's a poor man's life.
Apple is all about refinement. An iPhone is a condensation of technological elegance and software class. So it's not for some vulgar, uncultured person like me to try to stick a SIM card in it.
Besides, the SIM port is a universal port that all other manufacturers use. Where are we going now, I ask? Universal standard what? Universal? But why? And how far will this idea go? Why not adopt a universal USB-C port instead of Lightning (lol)? Wait, what? The European Commission is on the phone? Never heard of it.
April Fool 5: The LG Wing
Another manufacturer that I cannot stand would be LG. LG has exited the smartphone market for a few years now, with one of its last successes being the innovative LG Wing.
This smartphone with a sliding screen had the particularity to take the shape of a "T", once it is unfolded. The concept was primarily designed for content creators. The bottom of the vertical segment of the smartphone was supposed to be used as a handle to film vlogs, for example.
We even reviewed the LG Wing at the time and our feedback was quite positive. However, the finished product was sorely lacking in refinement and its long-term maintenance was very uncertain, given LG's situation.
We're clearly not on a total product screw-up. By 2020, the manufacturer had only sold 50,000 units, out of the 2 million initially planned. At the same time, the marketing meetings to sell a smartphone in the shape of a Tomahawk or Shuriken must have been pretty zany.
April Fool's bonus: A mishmash of crappy products
This bonus section will allow me to include a few honorable mentions. We can begin with the HTC First, the "Facebook" smartphone released in 2013. At that time, Facebook was already a cheesy social network, but HTC was still a pretty big player in the Android market.
Who remembers the Essential One? It was THE smartphone of choice for hipsters and tech purists at the time. Conceived by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, the smartphone was known for its unusual 19.5:10 form factor. The titanium and ceramic design, with one of the first notches at the top of the screen, was enough to make technophiles hyperventilate.
But between a very sparse distribution network, hardware concerns related to the touchscreen, user data leaks, and a court case for patent infringement, the Essential Phone adventure came to a halt in 2018, after 150,000 units were sold (according to the manufacturer).
This other April Fool's Day is a much more obscure reference that obviously comes to those of us who are from Germany. The MP3 player manufacturer known as TrekStor decided, during the quietest of times, to launch a new Walkman in 2007. So far, so good. But then TrekStor had the brilliant idea to call its MP3 player "i.Beat blaxx", "Je.Tabasse.DesNoirssss". So I say hats off to the marketing team. No really, it's a piece of work.
The Juicero, a Kickstarter project that thrilled the wealthy in Silicon Valley, wanted to be the Nespresso of fruit juice. Of course, there was the fact that reviewers quickly realized that the juice bags sold separately and to obtain your fresh cup of juice, you didn't need the expensive juicer sold by the startup at all. It was much faster and cheaper to squeeze the bags by hand. Juicero became a textbook case for an over-hyped product based on a flawed concept from the start that doesn't meet any need.
I could also go on about the Amazon Fire Phone with its "3D" screen that earned the e-commerce giant a $170 million write-off, but that is a story for another day.
I'll stop here for this selection of messed up tech products that could have been April Fool's Day pranks but were actually realized. Which products made you think it was a joke?