Bad gadgets: When tech goes horribly wrong
Biggest product recalls, replacements and delays in recent history, as T3 reveals what happens when tech goes horribly wrong
Apple's embarrassing iPhone 4 signal loss issue has led many tech folk to question whether Jobs and co should forget the software-solving update and get the latest Apple smartphone back to HQ and fix the troubled hardware properly.
While this seems highly unlikely, it wouldn't be the first time an industrial giant faced having to replace, recall or at least issue an embarrassed press release apologising about their faulty product. Here’s the honour roll of mess-ups to taint the reputations of some of the biggest names in tech, Apple and all.
Apple iPad Nano
Tokyo's stock of iPod Nanos weren't the first Apple products to have batteries that ran a little hot, but they do have the distinction of being the first to overheat to the point that they scorched nearby paper. In July 2009, after selling more than 150,000 Nanos in three years, Apple traced the problem back to a single battery provider and offered to "repair or replace" any affected Nanos.
"They're magic! They're magic beads!" So exclaimed the advert for Bindeez, small multicoloured arts and crafts beads for kids, but a defective batch proved to be just that little bit too magical for some kill-joys. The chemical coating that was designed to bond the beads together without heating up or sticking to kids' fingers metabolised into GHB, a club drug similar to ecstasy. A global recall followed, with authorities in Australia fretting that tainted sets might be hoarded by adult bead-junkies for later consumption.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Despite the fact that the games let you shoot policemen in the face and bludgeon prostitutes post-coitally, it took GTA's first instance of consensual sex to spark a recall. The offending section was a mini game in 2005's GTA: San Andreas in which the player pushed forward and backward in time with his virtual (and clothed) girlfriend's deeply sterile love-making animations.
A massive recall and re-rating ensued, a class action lawsuit lost developers TakeTwo Interactive $20 million, and the scandal ended with the unsettling conclusion that it'd be better if kids just stuck to killing passers-by.
Hasbro Easy Bake ovens
While designed to give budding chefs their first taste of home-baking, the makers of the Easy Bake oven probably didn't envisage "flambéed toddler's finger" being on the menu. The coupling of an actual heating filament with a front door design that a child's fingers could get trapped in led to reports of burns and even amputations. Hasbro recalled the offending appliances, and modern Easy Bakes heat up cookies via a light bulb.
At first glance, this Stephen Fry-voiced PS3 platformer looks like the poster child for inoffensive gaming. One beta tester saw through this facade, though, spotting that a backing track in the game quoted two cheery excerpts from the Qu'ran that translated as, "Every soul shall have the taste of death" and, "All that is on Earth will perish". The result? An adjustment just a week before the game was set for release, forcing Sony to put altered copies into shops three days late.
Microsoft Xbox 360
The original breed of 360s were prone to a gamut of technical problems, the most infamous being the "Red Ring of Death". Caused by a graphics chip with an aversion to heat, the error bricked the console, leaving it displaying nothing but red error lights. Microsoft's exchange service compounded the failure by taking up to three weeks to get gamers' consoles repaired. Microsoft extended the warranty period to three years, but the RROD problem still persists.
Nintendo Wii controllers
When Nintendo first identified the niche in the video game market for wild arm-flailing as a means of recreation, the company wisely added a wrist-strap to the Wiimotes to prevent the over-zealous from flinging them through television sets. However, scores of broken windows and family heirlooms seemed to suggest they weren't strong enough. Nintendo therefore offered to replace some two million Wiimotes with the original wrist-strap.
Three models of Roller were recalled in 2001 after one of the company's £240,000 Corniche convertibles upped and blew up in an American dealership. The car had been filled up by a technician in Michigan and caught fire when electric current from the window switches ignited petrol vapours in the fuel tank. You see: you're better off with honest to-goodness, wind-down windows.
The original “personal transporter”, Segway’s 2002-model gyroscopic, two-wheeled people platform had the propensity to, under rare circumstances, spin the wheels in the wrong direction. This was due to a bizarre glitch in the speed limiter, and brought the 40-kilo man-barrow to an undignified halt. The model was recalled in 2006 and effected Segways can still be taken back to dealers – preferably on foot – for a firmware upgrade.
Sony music CDs
In 2005 Sony hit upon the idea of fighting music piracy by putting an anti-copying programme on a number of its CDs. The software would clandestinely police users' computers to prevent digital thievery, but also made host computers vulnerable to viruses, whilst trying to remove it damaged Windows Vista (then in beta). The story was soon picked up by the mainstream media, forcing a recall from a contrite Sony.