About 18 months ago, I expressed my opinion on smartwatches and why I would not buy one in the near future. Today, I'd like to share my opinion on so-called smart TVs as well.
So what is a Smart TV? It is a device that combines traditional broadcasting features with interactive features and apps that for may require an Internet connection to work.
Basic examples of these features are integration of streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Video, Internet browsing or voice control.
Depending on the TV that you are buying, it may be packed with these features and may feature its own app store to install more, or offer only a small selection of them.
The basic idea behind Smart TVs is not necessarily a bad one: provide watchers with additional features that may be useful to them.
If you like to watch Netflix on the big telly in your living room, Smart TVs make it relatively easy to set this up. There are other means to achieve the same goal, use a set top box or game console for instance, or your own media server.
While it is debatable if Internet browsing is really necessary, at least some of the features provided by Smart TVs are helpful to some watchers.
The manufacturing industry on the other hand seems to have taken the wrong exit away from what customers want towards something that most customers would not want if only they knew about it.
Samsung came under fire in the past week twice for instance. First, it became known that the company's voice control feature transmits data to third-party servers on the Internet. This needs to be done as TVs are not capable of interpreting voice commands locally but has the side-effect that everything you say, and not only commands, get transmitted.
It is easy enough not to use the feature, for instance by not connecting your TV to the network or by disabling voice control.
The second blunder is more serious than the first. A Reddit user noticed that his Television, he assumed it was Plex at first but later conceded that this was not caused by Plex, displayed a Pepsi ad when he was half-way through a movie.
Samsung confirmed two days ago that its smart TVs were (erroneously) inserting video ads into TV and movies played through third-party apps.
Even though this may have been an error in the programming of the feature, something like this should never have happened in the first place.
While Samsung has been picked on lately, it should be clear that this is not an issue that is only affecting Samsung televisions.
If your TV supports voice control, chance is high that it too transfers the data to a third-party server on the Internet to process it.
So what is the solution?
You could get a plain television instead if you need a new television, one without interactive features.
While it becomes increasingly difficult to buy a non-smart TV in retail locations especially when it comes to TVs with state of the art features such as 4k support, it is still possible and will remain so in the foreseeable future.
You could also disconnect smart TVs from the network so that most functionality does not become available in first place. But that is only a viable solution if you don't want to use any of it that requires a network connection.
If you like to watch Netflix, then you need a network connection for example.
The real issue however is that the Smart TV concept is not entirely a bad one. If done right, it improves the viewing experience directly or adds functionality to it that does so that you get more out of it.
The reality is different however. Most smart TV interfaces are slow and cluttered with features that barely anyone ever needs.
And if you add the manufacturer's desire to make money from sold TVs by displaying ads or collecting user data, you will realize that you are giving up a lot for the smart TV features that you really require.
While most watchers may be able to live with that, I cannot. I want to be in full control of devices that I own and if a device does not offer that, I won't buy or use it.
It is probably only a matter of time before the first ad-blocker for TVs designed to block Smart TV ads is created.
Now You: Do you own a Smart TV or want one? What's your take on this?
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