It's the fate of electronics devices to come and go. The arrival of the smart phone and tablet has had a profound effect on the consumer electronics landscape, for example, wiping out device categories once considered staples in electronics stores.
Some products, such as snapshot printers, never made it past a fad, while others, such as cordless home phones, have quietly resisted extinction. We looked at the last decade to chart device evolution and extinction in the electronics world. (Watch our Talking Tech video on smart watches and wearable gear—this technology is cutting edge . . . for now.)
As the cost of flash memory dropped in the early 2000s, the market for MP3 players exploded, with device offerings from major electronics manufacturers—most important, of course, the Apple iPod—leaving portable disc and cassette players in their wake. But their popularity was soon eclipsed by the introduction of smart phones that, among their many other features, let you carry your digital music with you. Apple has continued to update the iPod Touch line, but the touch-screen iPods bear little resemblance to their monochrome predecessors, and most other manufacturers have given up on MP3 players.
Seeking to fill in for their paper counterparts, PDAs (personal digital assistants) let you manage your time, take notes, and compile to-do lists, all on one device. Despite initial success, BlackBerries soon came along and eclipsed the PDA market by offering identical features with the critical addition of push e-mail and phone service, sending the PalmPilot and its ilk into obsolescence.
Digital picture frames
The premise behind the now-obsolete digital picture frame was simple enough: If photography was moving into the digital age, then picture frames should as well. But their lack of interactivity, relatively high price, and the prominence of photo-sharing websites were enough to remind consumers that their money was better spent elsewhere—like toward a tablet, for example.
When snapshot printers came to market, consumers no longer needed to visit the photo store to have their pictures developed. But the convenience of these printers did not cut it for consumers, and by 2010, the market for snapshot printers was on the decline. A downturned economy, the high price of ink and photo paper, and the prevalence of online printing services likely account for their gradual descent into a niche product.