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

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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.