Meh, No Thanks: 3 Hyped Tech Products Consumers Are Passing On

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YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP / Getty Images

Nissan's Leaf, an all-electric car

Can consumers be relied upon to jump onto the latest tech, regardless of price, practicality, and whether the product at hand actually represents worthwhile innovation? Well, if we’re talking Apple products, to some extent the answer is probably yes. But sometimes consumers respond to much-heralded new tech with a resounding “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Here are three current examples of consumers giving thumbs down to “upgrades,” at least for the time being:

3-D TV
Electronics insiders predicted that 2011 would be the year when tons of consumers would upgrade to a 3-D TV. And, even after prices of 3-D models have plummeted more recently, the numbers indicate that an extremely small percentage of American viewers actually watch 3-D TV.

The Associated Press offers a laundry list of factoids all but declaring 3-D TV a bust, including that just 2% of American households can show 3-D programming on TV, and that at any given time, 3-D channels are being viewed in less than 115,000 homes. Thus far, the Nielsen Company hasn’t been able to capture any meaningful data about 3-D viewers’ preferences because the sample size is so small and inconsistent. One analyst explains that consumers, to use the “Sex and the City” line, just “aren’t that into” 3-D TV:

“There’s very little direct consumer demand” for 3-D, said Tom Morrod, a TV technology analyst with IHS in London. “They don’t see a value with it. Consumers associate value right now with screen size and very few other features.”

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Nonetheless, sales of 3-D TVs are expected to rise, mainly because the larger, fancier models now on the market automatically include the technology, whether consumers want it or not.

Electric Cars
The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have both recently reported about how automakers are scaling back plans for all-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, amid flagging sales and interest from the public. Why? As one Toyota executive put it, “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.”

The news comes as some disgruntled Nissan Leaf owners have gone public with complaints that the car’s battery doesn’t work as promised, with the car’s range after a recharge reportedly falling off quicker than expected. Nissan had earlier forecast that sales of the Leaf would double in 2012; instead, Leaf sales have declined thus far this year.

Interestingly, one of Leaf’s main competitors in the EV marketplace seems to be downplaying the fact that it’s an electric vehicle. New ads for the Chevy’s plug-in electric/gas-powered hybrid Volt are telling consumers to overlook what was once considered its main selling point: that it can run on electricity. The ad proclaims of the Volt: “It’s More Car Than Electric.” Even though the Volt has been far outselling the Leaf, GM isn’t expected to come close to reaching its sales goals for the vehicle in 2012.

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For most consumers, the decision to buy an electric vehicle (or not) comes down to practicality and money. The way things stand, cars like the Leaf are too impractical and too expensive for the average driver. In one study on Honda’s new Fit EV, it would take 11 years of ownership to break even, all while being limited to drives of 82 miles max before having to recharge. A new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, indicates that electric of hybrid plug-in cars would “require a tax credit of more than $12,000 to have roughly the same lifetime costs as a comparable conventional or traditional hybrid vehicle.” For the time being, such cars are eligible for a maximum $7,500 credit.

Mobile Wallets
The concept of using your smartphone to pay for everything from coffee to, well, a new smartphone, sounds cool. Also: It sounds totally unnecessary, given the many, many ways consumers find it easy—perhaps too easy—to spend money right now.

The Wall Street Journal just reported that, despite the hype, very few consumers are bothering, or even finding it possible, to use mobile payment systems:

“Mobile payments and purchasing at the physical point of sale have experienced little adoption in the U.S. marketplace despite abounding innovation in mobile and payments technologies,” according to a new 45-page report on the mobile-payments industry from Javelin Strategy & Research, a consulting firm in Pleasanton, Calif.

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In a trial run attempting to survive for a spell on mobile payments, without cash or cards, TIME’s Harry McCracken came to the conclusion that the smartphone isn’t going to be replacing the wallet anytime soon.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

23 comments
bobsim
bobsim

I have to wonder if Time is in league with big oil and the Koch brothers and attempting to crush the electric car all over again. By bringing up only Volt and Leaf, the author is ignoring the biggest success story of all, Tesla motors. No real excuse here as Time itself wrote up Tesla last Feb.      This made in California car has a 300 mile range and the company is installing supercharging stations (that operate on solar power, pollution free) along major US highways that will allow cross country trips. NO RANGE ANXIETY. The real kicker is that they are free for Tesla owners. The level of general ignorance regarding EVs in the article and in the comments is shocking. The Tesla is not breaking news anymore. The new Model S is in production and pre-reservations are doing so well that Tesla is going to raise 2013 production from 20,000 to 30,000 cars. The tech is bulletproof and proven over millions of miles, trouble free.  The world needs to get off oil, if only to get out of the middle east, not to mention global warming, costs, national security etc... The Tesla S does this and makes no compromise to ICE cars. It is faster than 99% of cars out there, has won the Motor Trend Award for best car of the year, looks fantastic, has the same range or more than most ICE cars but all this is not enough to get it a mention amongst much lesser EV cars. Check out the website. Either its a conspiracy or the author should be fired.

www.teslamotors.com then we will talk. 

Then check out 

 http://techland.time.com/2012/02/10/meet-the-tesla-model-x-the-all-electric-suv-that-can-smoke-a-porsche/

Denesius
Denesius

From what I've seen so far, you can add a fourth high tech item: Microsoft's windows 8 based Surface tablet. Thousand bucks, 1/2 in thick, no keyboard, and the battery life of a kid's toy.

ReasonIsTreason
ReasonIsTreason

Smartphone wallet payments are being adopted left and right- It's companies who are reluctant to adopt it however. Mobile carriers such as Verizon and ATT, despite having phones capable of making NFC payments, are not allowing their phones to use Google Wallet. In addition, the amount of locations equipped to accept mobile payments isn't really enough to tip the carriers in favor of the consumers. In reality, it's just more cliché corporate greed hindering technological progress on this one. 

SkyMKinley
SkyMKinley

Electric cars will be enormously popular with the U.S. Military after we've destroyed the entire ecosystem to provide enough electricity to run them effectively. Take a bus, ride a bike. Get a grip.

smjhunt
smjhunt

If and when the automakers solve the battery problem, electric cars will take over but that's obviously a big if.  Think about it.  First, electric cars have no pollution.  They eliminate the pistons, valves, timing chain, fuel injection,cooling, ignition system making them vastly simpler and thus eventually cheaper to produce and more reliable.  They also provide dynamic braking which should significantly reduce the need for brake jobs. They need no oil or coolants.  

 Let's hope the auto makers don't become too discourage in the process.  The better battery technology is only likely to evolve if there is a demand for it.  If the automakers abandon the electric car, it will just prolong the time before we have decent battery solutions.

Denesius
Denesius

@smjhunt Hmmm- wrong, wrong, and wrong again: Electric cars very much have pollution, just at a different source (generating station instead of tailpipe); they substitute electronic complexity for mechanical; they still need lubrication for all the moving parts; and surprise, surprise- they use very toxic coolant for the batteries. About the only thing you got right was the dynamic braking.

smjhunt
smjhunt

@Denesius @smjhunt I totally disagree with you.  First, in terms of pollution, there are many more options for generating power at the generating station than at the car including, nuclear, renewables, etc.  The lubrication of the moving parts is significantly less of an issue than the lubrication of the engine.   When was the last time you had to take the care into the shop because of a problem with the lubrication of the wheels ?  Electronics, if properly manufactured should have much higher reliability than mechanical systems.  Coolant for the batteries and the batteries themselves must of course be carefully recycled but non-electric cars also have batteries.

acjohnson55
acjohnson55

I always thought all-electric solutions like the Leaf sounded iffy, but to me, a hybrid solution like the Volt sounds intriguing to me.  You can go all-electric for commutes, but still have the option of going all-gasoline for long trips, if need be.

GaryMcCray
GaryMcCray

Electric cars are not currently practical for most Americans as a primary vehicle because of excessive battery cost and limited range.

Lightweight electric hybrids will continue to gain popularity.

Newer, better and less expensive batteries will extend range and provide plug in capability at home and work.

3DTV's primary use right now is for video gaming. 

There are few broad appeal recorded movies for it and although quite a few TV's have been sold the entertainment industry doesn't see them as a viable market.

Most 3D titles that are available are available only because the entertainment industry thought it was worthwhile to make them 3D for the full size motion picture audience and that is also very limited.

Unlike HDTV, the utility and appeal of 3D TV is very limited.

When we transition to head mounted displays I expect 3D (stereoscopic vision) to become entirely normal, but there is considerable work remaining to make appropriately, light and useful HMD's for consumer use.

As for smart wallets, that is bound to happen in one form or another, the assorted business enterprises have proven to be very fond of a concept where they can simply extract money from you at will. I do not consider this a good thing.

amanda.heins
amanda.heins

I see no point in 3D tv, and even if it does come installed, I don't see me using it. Special glasses just to watch television? On top of the glasses I already wear? No thanks.

I don't want an electric car, but hydrogen-powered? Sounds good to me - Honda Clarity is a good start.

No mobile wallet for me. Too scary.  I'll wait for the inevitable sub-dermal microchip, haha.

GaryMcCray
GaryMcCray

@amanda.heins 

The problem with hydrogen power is the hydrogen.

It has to come from somewhere.

Right now it is generally refined from methane made from cracked oil or natural gas.

It can also be produced by catalytic processing of water, but that uses an inefficiently large amount of electricity versus the final actual car motor horsepower achieved, probably exceeding a 90% net loss in conversion, combustion and waste heat.

Pure electric while problematic because of the batteries is considerably more efficient in the overall energy use equation than hydrogen powered.

Pure electric is problematic because of limited range and restrictions on charge rate making instant charge up stations impractical (or impossible).

For the forseeable future, lightweight hybrid vehicles that will also become more and more plug in as battery technology improves are the most reasonable solution.

If large scale nuclear (hopefully safer and more efficient thorium) reactor projects ever become more common, the surplus electricity may eventually make hydrogen reformation practical.

M8281
M8281

This article is meh...EVs and mobile wallets will happen. Most of the problems with both products is a lack of supporting infrastructure. 

Starshiprarity
Starshiprarity

I would love to have my phone be a wallet. It would save me pocket space when it matters most. Unfortunately ATamp;T won't let me use my NFC chip so while the desire and technology is there, its being blocked because ATamp;T wants to be the wallet instead of letting Google do it.

Rick Heckenlively
Rick Heckenlively

the only gateway for 3d is football

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

@Rick Heckenlively If you want to get 3D adopted, do it the way VHS was selected as the primary video tape format back in the Betamax wars: Sex.

3D sports won't get it done nearly as fast as 3D sex.  Put porn into the equation and you'll start selling 3DTV's. It may not be politically correct to say it, but it's the way people are.

Gillian Money After Graduation
Gillian Money After Graduation

I find all three products a waste of money. I tend to be a late adopter of technology in order to save a lot of money and get a more developed product. A mobile wallet makes me uncomfortable, as I have a tendency to misplace my phone and I do not want there to be a possibility that if someone found my phone they could steal my money.

ReasonIsTreason
ReasonIsTreason

@Gillian Money After Graduation Mobile wallets such as Google Wallet require a PIN just like your physical card. The difference is that Google Wallet can consolidate MULTIPLE cards in one application so you don't have to carry them all physically with you in order to use them. I personally only have a debit card and two credit cards, but I don't need to bring my credit cards out with me since I have them in my Google Wallet app. No one can just take my phone and spend the money, they need the PIN to even open the program. 

BrianKeez
BrianKeez

I'm a consumer that says an enthusiastic YES to EV's everyday. 28,000 miles after one year of ownership has kept quite a bit of money in my pocket.

The CBO report is based on poor assumptions (EV's can only be charged once per day, they are driven fewer miles, etc.) and cannot be viewed as being complete.

Toyota was clear three years ago that they were NOT going to build 100% electric vehicles but would focus on hybrids. http://gm-volt.com/2009/06/29/...

Yoshi_1
Yoshi_1

Interesting about the EV's. That's the same set of conditions that killed them about a hundred years ago (they predate gasoline cars). The 3-D TV I was hoping for was the one Frank Zappa was trying to get off the ground, decades ago. It was a horizontal table that projected the images above it, like a hologram. Now THAT would be 3-D!

Robin Ashe
Robin Ashe

I guess it all depends on the person. I agree on 3D TV, it gives me a nasty headache, and I refuse to watch a movie in cinema with friends if it's 3D. I don't see the point in electric cars when batteries present their own environmental problems and cycling is all around better anyway. Mobile payments though - a solid NFC based mobile payment system that isn't tied with carrier billing is a requirement for my next smartphone purchase. I always carry my smartphone (and it allows me to check exactly how much money I have in my account), so it clears up my pocket for something else. I'd also like an NFC based transit payment system.

tazintally
tazintally

Right now the economy is holding up these areas in some cases.  I don't think everyone is willing to put their TOTAL life in their smartphones.  Too big a chance of  hackers.

wandmdave
wandmdave

That is a shame about the Leaf and the Volt.  I've been very interested in them but I've been keeping tabs on them to see how well the batteries hold up before taking the plunge.  Battery tech is becoming a huge bottleneck for all kinds of consumer product innovation.