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Is there a word to describe making a new thing (instead of old one), which should be way better, more innovative, but in the end remains same or even worse.

Example - car manufacturers are putting displays in place of dashboards, but those displays still show same two round dials for speedometer and tachometer (only difference - they are shown in screen instead physically with dials and needles).

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    Not a single word, but the phrase bells and whistles means extra features that are added on to something that are unnecessary for its primary function. – Canadian Yankee Mar 28 at 23:25
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    gild the lily, perhaps. – user405662 Mar 29 at 10:34
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    The example is poor: the displays are functionally superior as they can (and do) provide much more information than a couple of dials. Also, an improvement might benefit the manufacturer with no obvious advantage for the end user, for example being cheaper to make / install. – Weather Vane Mar 30 at 7:11
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    My go-to example for this is the rubberized, ergonomic, comfort-grip handles now found on modern toothbrushes. Was this really necessary? Were people getting carpal tunnel syndrome from brushing with the old plastic-stick-and-bristles models? I find the new ones to be inferior in every way - They're too fat to fit in many toothbrush holders, they're harder to clean, they won't lay flat on the counter, so you need both hands to apply the toothpaste. (Anyone who's ever temporarily or permanently lost the use of a hand can tell you how much of a problem that is.) – Darrel Hoffman Mar 30 at 15:55
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    "reinventing the wheel". Not sure it captures exactly the same sense you're looking for though. – shawnt00 Mar 30 at 17:08

10 Answers 10

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A frequently used term for a feature that is incorporated into the design of something to attract attention, by appearing to make the thing significantly better, even though its actual effects on the thing's usefulness are minor, is gimmick. The term is most often used for apparent technological improvements of consumer products, that are intended to impress the potential buyers, and so increase the sales, but it can be used in other contexts as well.

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    While gimmick may be used with with new stuff, it has no inherent implication of the thing being new – Kevin Mar 29 at 13:35
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    "gimmick" does not imply the thing is new, but it still a good match – user253751 Mar 29 at 17:37
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The word newfangled seems to be what you're looking for

recently made for the first time, but not always an improvement on what existed before

Other definitions include

New and often needlessly novel.

As can be seen, this word is often used in a negative sense, to imply that something is needlessly innovative, with no improvement, and possibly a worse result, which appears to be the meaning you're trying to convey.

car manufacturers are putting newfangled displays in place of dashboards, but those displays still show ...

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    My grandfather used to use that word quite a bit, but then, we still had to use an outhouse when we visited the farm. – Cascabel Mar 28 at 20:52
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    @Cascabel I know what you mean "newfangledness" is often in the mind of the speaker. – BoldBen Mar 28 at 21:30
  • This would be similar to fandanlged, a synonym of fantabulous. Get your hands on this new fan-dangled device. All are suggesting over the top or outrageous praise to something that on its own merits would not actually deserve them. As a sales and marketing device the exagerated nature of the words itself is to distract you from the object's actual worth. – Chris Schaller Mar 29 at 4:37
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    The first 2 uses I found of this word were positive -- a newfangled gene editing technique, and a newfangled wood. I think the word now means "old coots would shake their heads since it's so different or novel". – Owen Reynolds Mar 29 at 13:59
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Not a word but often I use the phrase "cosmetic upgrade" to describe such things, if that helps.

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I would use the word "fad" because that is really what such things are. They are (temporarily) new and popular but will over time lose popularity. It implicitly connotes that it is unnecessary as well.

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Isn't the word "novelty" what we are searching for. Isn't it exactly this?

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    Why would it be? An explanation and a dictionary reference would improve this answer. – DW256 Mar 30 at 8:37
  • novelty. Sorry I need to learn how to format my contributions better. This is the definition on a google search. I think the first part covers the newness, the second the triviality or non necessariness ( unnecessariness is a word according to inline spell check but the positive isn't perhaps there's another discussion there). 1. the quality of being new, original, or unusual. "the novelty of being a married woman wore off" 2. a small and inexpensive toy or ornament. "he bought chocolate novelties to decorate the Christmas tree" – androo235 Mar 31 at 10:20
  • I'm not sure that the example is great either. Digital speedo/tachometer are are far more tamper proof than old mechanical dials. Other advantages may be that they could use different colour display schemes (some people are colour blind etc). Another possible advantage is that as a screen is being used to display the information that same screen space could be used to display other information situationally. So, this particular innovation is, I think, more than just a novelty (which incidentally is my suggestion for the word you seek). – androo235 Mar 31 at 10:35
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I like the word disimprovement. For me, it carries with it the connotation of something that was intended to be an improvement but is actually the reverse. However, my (paper) copies of Merriam-Webster's New International and the Shorter Oxford dictionaries do not distinguish it from the more general idea of worsening.

(Incidentally, I agree with other respondents that modern electronic dashboard displays are better than the old mechanical ones and not an example of disimprovement.)

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The word we use at work is contrivance. But that word seems contrived...

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    Including a authoritative dictionary definition/link for you r word would improve the answer. – KillingTime Mar 29 at 13:02
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Such features not necessarily enhancing functionality are usually added for decorative value and are called embellishments and when they are considered completely unnecessary, they are called frills (perhaps more widely used in the form "no-frills" or "no frills").
Incidentally, the second example under the definition of frill below closely matches your own example.

Lexico:

embellishment
NOUN
1 A decorative detail or feature added to something to make it more attractive.

‘architectural embellishments’

frill
NOUN
2 (usually frills) An unnecessary extra feature or embellishment.

‘it was just a comfortable apartment with no frills’

However, thanks to its extra frills like a high-resolution screen and the camera, it retails at a steep price of $999.’

no-frills
ADJECTIVE
[attributive] Without unnecessary extras, especially ones for decoration or additional comfort.

‘cheap fast food in no-frills surroundings’

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A concept that fits your example is a skeuomorph, though not necessarily the shade of meaning of not being an improvement - for example, it applies to the icon for most email programs being a picture of a physical envelope, and for many use cases email is better than physical mail.

A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues (attributes) from structures that were inherent to the original. Examples include pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal and a software calendar that imitates the appearance of binding on a paper desk calendar.

(I linked to wikipedia rather than an authoritative dictionary as dictionaries don't tend to have as useful examples, e.g. MW just has 'an ornament or design representing a utensil or implement' which doesn't correspond much to how the term is used in the design community)

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  • You're suggesting a metaphorical broadening of a virtually unknown word! – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 at 16:51
  • @EdwinAshworth 'skeuomorphic design' is fairly commonly used when talking about user interface design, and I"ve also come across the word once or twice in the archaeological context of patterns on pottery to make it look like basketware. The dictionary definition doesn't seem to correspond well with how it is used in either context. – Pete Kirkham Mar 29 at 16:58
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    In any case, OP is asking for a word with a far broader definition; the example given was not representative of all such newfangled refinements. And skeuomorphs may actually be better than the originals (pottery doesn't rust). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 at 18:24
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    I'm happy to learn this word, though it's likely not the right one for this use. – Bryce Mar 30 at 14:52
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    @EdwinAshworth Fair enough - do you know where that quote actually comes from? I've only ever heard it used as a noun for the feature, not the object as a whole. – Pete Kirkham Mar 31 at 8:29
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No, broadly, there is not. Sadly no-one can Post examples of something that is not.

If there were such a term, the Posted example would miss it by a long way.

Car manufacturers put - presumably you mean digital - displays in place of dashboards and those displays still show two round dials for speedometer and tachometer but by no means is the difference "only" that they're shown on screen rather than mechanically.

Here, it matters not, but if you're interested in instrumentation design why not launch a new Question elsewhere on SE?

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