Apple’s created plenty of great gadgets throughout its long history, from the widely successful Apple II and the original Macintosh to the iMac G3, iPod, iPhone, and MacBook Air. But for each of those great Apple products, there were just as many major flops. Lucy Hattersley reports for Macworld that “there are no shortage of Apple products that in retrospect didn’t meet the company’s high standards, whether technologically, artistically, or commercially.” Read on to check out 12 of the worst Apple products ever.
1. Apple III
While the Apple II was one of Apple’s biggest hits and put the company on the map, the Apple III was a big misstep when it launched in 1980. The machine was designed for business, since plenty of great enterprise software had been built for the Apple II. But every Apple III machine that was shipped had to be repaired.
That’s because Steve Jobs had insisted the machine have no fans or air vents in order to run quietly, and the engineering team made the case from aluminum but hadn’t correctly accounted for the logic board. With the logic board installed, the Apple III would overheat, which would cause the screen to show garbled text, the solder to melt to form connections between chips, and chips to melt out of their sockets.
Apple’s official fix was to lift the machine three inches in the air and drop it to slam the chips back into their sockets. As Macworld reports, Jobs said that Apple lost “infinite, incalculable amounts” of money on the Apple III — to the tune of $60 million.
2. Apple Lisa
Meg Garner reports for The Street that the Apple Lisa, launched in 1983, “might have had it all and then some, because it was the first personal computer to have a mouse and graphic user interface built in.” But the machine’s incredibly high price tag of $9,995 kept it from being a popular device. It’s estimated that only 11,000 units of the original Apple Lisa were sold before Apple pulled the original Lisa and the Lisa 2 from store shelves in 1986.
3. Macintosh Portable
The Macintosh Portable was Apple’s first attempt at making a portable computer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a success. The machine weighed 16 pounds and wouldn’t run without a charged battery. In addition, it sold for an astronomical $6,500 when it was released in 1989, which makes it a pretty good candidate for a list of the worst Apple products ever.
4. Macintosh TV
The Macintosh TV was a computer that Apple launched in 1993 with the purpose of bridging the gap between televisions and computers. Hattersley notes that there was little integration between the two functions, and users could switch between watching television or using the computer. But there was no way to “watch television inside a window so it was little different to using a computer with a television screen instead of a monitor.”
People had been connecting computers to television screens for years, but the Macintosh TV cost more than $2,000. It was equipped with a CD-ROM drive, but in the pre-DVD age, there was little digital video around to take advantage of it. Apple only produced 10,000 units of the Macintosh TV.
5. Newton MessagePad
The Newton MessagePad was Apple’s version of a personal digital assistant (PDA), one that chief executive John Sculley announced long before the device was ready to ship. It finally hit shelves in 1993, more than a year after Sculley announced Apple’s intention to create a PDA.
The Newton MessagePad was notoriously difficult to use and subject to processing failures. It cost $699 at the time of its release, and Apple projected that it would sell a million units. However, Apple sold only 50,000 units in the first three months of the device’s availability, and Jobs cut the gadget from Apple’s lineup when he returned in 1997.
6. Macintosh Performa x200 series
Hattersley reports that the Macintosh Performa is a standby on lists of worst Apple products, and for good reason. On the outside, it looked like a good computer, “but the inside was a mess.” Apple put a 75MHz 64-bit CPU in a motherboard designed for a 25MHz 32-bit 68040 CPU. The RAM was a half or a third of the CPU speed, which meant that it took four CPU cycles to load a 64-bit word.
Additionally, Apple used an IDE drive instead of SCSI. Hattersley explains, “What you’re looking at here is one reason why people claimed (and often believed) for over a decade that Macs were inherently slower than Windows PC computers.”
7. Apple Bandai Pippin
Another episode of Apple history that many fans have blocked out is the era during which Apple made a game console. The Pippin was released in 1996, and while 100,000 units were made, less than half of those were sold. The Pippin was a commercial flop, not a technical one, since there was nothing wrong with the device’s design or components. But many other companies were trying to enter the same market, a market that Sony would eventually own with the PlayStation.
Some think that the Pippin was ahead of its time, since it enabled users to play against one another online. But most consumers didn’t have an internet connection that was fast enough to go online, and at $599, the Pippin was a pretty expensive gadget for most people to buy.
8. 20th Anniversary Mac
The 20th Anniversary Mac, released in 1997, was one of the worst Apple products not because of its design, which was created by Jony Ive, or because of its specifications, which were adequate. It makes the list of Apple’s worst products because of its price. It cost $7,499 when it launched despite the fact that its specifications were quite similar to those of the PowerMac 6500, which cost $2,999. Apple discontinued the device within a year.
9. Apple USB Mouse
Released in 1998, Apple’s USB mouse became notorious for its “hockey puck” shape. The device was created to be released with the iMac, and was perfectly circular, which made it difficult to hold, orient correctly, and use precisely. The machine with which the USB Mouse was released was primarily used by graphic designers, who needed precision and therefore hated the mouse.
10. G4 Cube
Apple’s G4 Cube, introduced in 2000, featured an eye-catching design, but just failed to sell as Apple hoped it would. Some users reported that the device cracked from heating, but there weren’t widespread reports of technical failures like there were with the Apple III. Nonetheless, the device didn’t sell because it was expensive, wasn’t a good candidate for upgrading, and didn’t look like the kind of powerful machine that enterprise customers wanted to buy.
11. Mighty Mouse
Apple’s mouse woes weren’t over with the Apple USB Mouse, and the list of worst Apple products includes another mouse. In 2005, Apple introduced the Mighty Mouse with a touch-sensitive surface. You would touch the left side to get a left click, touch the right side to get a right click, push down on the middle ball to get a third click, or squeeze the sides for a fourth click. Not only was it an extremely confusing device, but the scroll ball also routinely stopped working, the side buttons started out way too firm, and then became far too sensitive.
12. Third-generation iPod Shuffle
The iPod Shuffle has always been a great no-frills, low-cost music player. The first two generations featured a USB stick design with the same button layout as the current model. But in 2009, Apple released the third-generation iPod Shuffle with a buttonless design. Instead of using controls on the device, users had to rely on an unintuitive control system on the remote button on Apple’s headphones. The lack of intuitive controls, especially, makes it an easy candidate as one of the worst Apple products ever.