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Bad product face-off: Squircle vs iPhone 3G!

In hindsight, it seems strange that in a product launch, one of the big stories is what features the product doesn't have. So what makes a bad product?

In the wake of the iPhone 3G announcement, the excitement generated by the much-hyped build-up was tempered by disappointment. In hindsight, it seems strange that in a product launch, one of the big stories is what features the product doesn't have. This set me to thinking: just what constitutes a bad product? Sometimes it's obvious, like the Squircle: products that don't serve a purpose, products that are daft or rubbish, products that just flat-out don't work.

But most of the time it's not that simple. In my time at CNET.co.uk I've had plenty of cameras cross my desk, and nary a bad one among them. The worst you can accuse most cameras from the big manufacturers of is not being very interesting. They never just don't work. Sometimes posters on our forums ask about cameras or camcorders that I haven't used; while I can't, in all faith, recommend a product I'm not familiar with, I can confidently predict that if it's from an established manufacturer, it'll work.

So the inclusion -- or omission -- of certain features becomes an important part of the reviewing criteria. If a product is missing a particular element, how much does that weigh against the features it does have that work perfectly? In the case of the iPhone, the Net-browsing interface is nothing short of sublime -- but at EDGE speeds the experience is hamstrung. Does that mean the original iPhone is a bad product? Well, no. The baseline for fundamental features is an organically evolving process, so if, say, Nikon left out face detection now, that camera would get a lower score than it would have done 12 months ago. It's a tough job, this reviewing lark...