Why I won't buy a smart TV anytime soon
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 byÂ 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?
“Do you own a Smart TV or want one?” No way. Nor a driverless car.
No do not have an do not want one with voice command, (sample: your tv channel your watching is a Democrat owned and your a republican) listen to news and you (“simple say Some one should shot that SOB). or that White SOB deserves that.
(next thing your racially profiled) and they say check “Black Republican violent nature” … yep 240 channels and nothing to watch, but i pay for all that. more tech mean worthless cost. plus my ATT 6mb – rural america streaming is crap, lots of buffer needed… more worthless crap that more tech caused… tech is good when used properly but today its MO MONEY MO MONEY and NO SERVICE, throw it away and buy new better… No thanks..
The false promise of technology has never resounded truer for me in 25 years as a tech. The Internet Of Trinkets is for spycraft & serial consumers.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
I’m cracking on in years. Half a century ago, here in the UK, we had 3 or 4 channels at best – and usually found something to watch. If anyone had told me I’d someday have access to 100s of channels – and still find not a damn thing worth watching – I wouldn’t have believed them.
Now, in additions to a host of channels, we (or to be more accurate, they – I have better things to do with my life) have ‘smart’ TV – which in my experience is – like smart phones – anything but smart. The dross (usually American) that scrolls up the channel list is beyond belief. Nothing against American entertainment by the way – it’s just that I object to the constant stream of stuff from a country in which I don’t live.
Never a keen TV watcher, I’m less mobile in my advancing years and occasionally in need of distraction. I rarely find that on any TV screen, however new and advanced. All the smart features in the world are irrelevant when the programme content caters to the lowest common denominator – 50 years on and for me it’s still ‘just TV.’ Thank god for my laptop and a few good books.
I think that TV (as well as landline phone) is a thing of the 20th century. I have no plans to buy any smart one either, at least not for a while. From what I’ve seen, they tend to include tons of stuff which are either rather primitive (compared to their counterparts on computers or mobile gadgets) or you rarely need them.
I like the concept of a dumb screen connected to a separate box (computer, netbook, tablet, barebones…), which you control and own, and update or upgrade independently from the… screen and speakers. :)
I will embrace the voice recognition and smart home paradigm as soon as we can have this in a box somewhere in our home, which would only allow connections to and from our own devices, period (other than on-demand updates when they become available). These things are too serious to be left “outsourced”…
Wow !! You took the words from my mouth!
I fully agree with you!
Smart TV? More like a Telescreen. There will be trouble ahead for many IoT devices.
“Telescreen” That was the first word that popped into my head when I started reading about the Samsung ‘feature’.
The younger folks at work did not understand the reference. :-(
As I have a media PC directly connected to my TV, there’s really no point for me. A Smart TV is really just a built-in micro-PC with locked down features and a Mickey Mouse UI, so in effect I have something far better with almost unlimited potential.
But why do would you need voice activation in the first place? Isn’t a remote control enough?
People are lazy I guess. If they could wire the controls into your brain, I bet some would get that implant.
LOL. To lazy to use their fingers to press buttons?? That’s some kind of lazy.
I keep waiting to see when those brain implants become mandatory…
Of course –
Some of us are old enough to remember the days before remote controls – when you had to actually stand up out of your chair and walk over to the TV set to change the channel.
Back then, there were only about ten stations – and they all went off the air by midnight – some of them not coming back on the air until 7:00 AM the next morning.
And – there was no such thing as “Color TV”
Personally – I find the amount of time and effort (not to mention money) people spend in setting up all their so-called “connected devices” just to be able to watch TV – to be somewhat perplexing, if not amusing — especially when you stop to consider that about 95% of the available content is total trash.
My 2Â¢ – fwiw…
Most people don’t really need them but fancy the idea… but also I’ve seen a lot of folk struggle with recognising which handset to use, and then attempting to press buttons and not always being accurate or able to press what they need to. Visual impairment and physical disability make voice control a useful option.
You may want to keep a TV for 5-10 years, but thereâ€™s a good chance the smart TVâ€™s software wonâ€™t be working too well by then. You may need to upgrade the smart bits in 2-3 years. This is good for manufacturers, but bad for TV buyers.
That is a good point. Decrease the TV life-cycle by ending support for Smart TV features after a certain time.
Smart TVs are far from a smart buy. Mine is slow and clunky, which is really disgusting considering that Linux is usually the underlying operating system. I watch online media through my media center pc while my TV remains disconnected from the internet.
There is a very simple solution ; Buy a non smart Tv and buy a satellite receiver like “Atlanta g4 smart mini”
it is a Android based receiver (like smart phone) and you can install or delete features easily , I’ve been using it for 5 months , and my samsung Non – smart tv is better than any smart Tv
I hope the Panasonic TVs with Firefox OS will be more respectful with privacy.
^^ Don’t be silly. They will ALL data-mine you until your ass bleeds.
– extremely poor UI (leave it to the likes of Roku, Plex, Drogo/Frodo or whatever it is now, Chromecast, Apple TV, even WD Media boxes etc)
– advertisements eg turn on TV and get a forced advert, adverts embedded into the UI, banners injected during playback, and the latest one injecting adverts during playback of third party material
– firmware upgrades – which change ToS etc which when declined, effectively brick the machine (or the internet part of it)
– abandonment – firmware no longer updated, lack of new apps for new services, apps out of date etc
– slimy hidden “dark pattern” settings (just f***k companies that do that)
– slow patches/responses to issues – they don’t care, they already have your money and its not like you can just install a new TV like you can a new browser
– privacy issues galore – such as sending back data on anything connected to the TV such as contents of external HDDs, DLNA etc – and more (not to mention camera and voice issues)
– cost: since it’s easier and cheaper to buy eg a Roku, and way easier to get updates etc then why waste money on features not needed. A “dumb” TV should cost less
– therapy: therapists cost money – we could do without that expense
TL;DR: Let’s face it. The interfaces are crap, adverts are everywhere, everything you do on your TV is data-mined, it’s DRM’d to hell and back, and almost everything “smart” on it will be obsolete or out of date within a few years
I picked up a new LG Smart TV on Black Friday to replace an older set that was dying. I didn’t particularly want or need such a device, it just happened to be the best set available in my price range the day I bought it. I hooked it up to the internet for a couple of weeks, mostly to perform software/firmware updates, which averaged about one every 2-3 days for the first week, and then stopped. However, I did notice what seemed like an increased amount of network activity during that period, and assumed that a lot of it came from hooking up the TV. Since then I only connect it in once a month for a few minutes to check for updates, and then disconnect it again. Since I’m not into streaming content from the internet or from my phone or computers, I doubt I’ll ever use the “Smart” features at all. In the meantime, I’m satisfied that I got a good picture at a good price and that’s fine with me.
For me, TV time is the time I want to sit back and WATCH something, not navigate, not read. That’s what computers are for.
Smart TVs are good for me if I can reach a program/show/movie/app in no more than 5 clicks on the remote. Other than that I can use my computer instead.
I tried these ‘custom’ smart TV but they don’t fit my expectations.
I have to agree with you Martin, I’m not at all interested in a smart tv and for all of the same reasons. That said… a year ago I did buy a Sony BDP-S5100 3D Blu-ray Disc Player with Wi-Fi which is a smart dvd player and the price wasn’t bad. About $80 US from Amazon. I don’t watch Netflix, Hulu or any other video streaming service except for the rare YouTube video someone wants to share with everyone. For the most part it is just used to watch video files that somehow fall onto my usb flash drive and then get played through the player. The player has had numerous software updates and still works like a champ! ;)
I fully agree with you! Never a smart tv in my house. Even if I get one for free!
hi martin, your post made me grin. on monday i wrote to some friends a monday morning rant. the main topic was samsung and its big ears. they are showing their corporate underware and i am just not interested…samsung is on my no-buy list…as well as LG who showed they also could not be trusted. nothing smart for me. i get my entertainment off the computer without any ads and watch it on tv at my leisure…no phoning home for ET from here. and i agree with other posters about american tv shows.. dumbing down for sure. junk writing, high-school directing and non-existant acting. the Brits have a lot of well-written, well-acted shows and i applaude them. thanks again, martin, your emails are always a first read for me.
a couple years ago i didn’t buy my samsung for the “smart” features, nor for the 3d capability, i bought it for the image quality. the problem is that it’s nigh impossible to find a “dumb” tv without all that bullcrap added. if i am looking to buy a new tv there are already several factors influencing and limiting my decisions: price, size, features, image and sound quality, availability… excluding 90% of the market just because it’s “smart” isn’t a very viable choice, if you ask me. it’s more realistic to just buy the tv you like the most and simply don’t connect it, or at least not connect it permanently.
on a more general note, i’m increasingly sceptical of all the smart gadgets we have today in general. on the one hand it’s very nice to be able to use internet and location services anywhere on our smartphones, to track our activity with smartbands and watches and to have gadgets that know us by our voices and fingerprints. it’s nice to share pictures on facebook and instagram and to have our data backed up savely in the cloud, accessible from anywhere.
but if i have to be afraid of my webcam-equipped tv sending a live feed of my voice to a server in god knows where, i really have to reassess my acceptance and reliance on todays connected world of tech.
maybe we all should take a step back and ask ourselves where all this will or could lead, and if that is really what we want, if all that is really worth it.
Old enough to remember when 3 vhf channels and two uhf channels were the only thing I could find on my black and white set with the rabbit ears antenna. Young enough to embrace the advances in technology and understand why and how the media is changing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that some of these changes are for the better or even need to be implemented in the first place.
Why is it suddenly so necessary for me and my family to interact with our television? I can see how this benefits the networks, advertisers and even the manufacturer of the set but how does all this potential interaction and intrusion benefit ME? In this case, yes – its all about me the consumer who simply purchased a television with the since desire (but diminishing hopes) that I would plug it in and find something worth watching appear before me.
I’m sick of “widgets” popping up on my screen inviting me to play games or rate shows I “may” have watched. I have no desire play some sort of candy crush knockoff from the comfort of my couch as another widget suggests. I mean, this set even “reminds” my constantly that the battery in my remote is low. STOP ALREADY.
At some point, and hopefully soon, the industry and advertisers driving this insane push for more control and understanding of their targeted audiences is going to have to stop and it will at some point.
This is certainly a bit of stray from the topic, but 1,350 channels available here on the east coast of the U.S. and I can’t find a single thing to watch? Here’s to the future! Where going back to four or five channels on a simple to use set that costs nothing more than the initial purchase of the television sure would be a refreshing break. I know this sentiment is a non-reality but we need to find a new balance. Giving up my tv completely at one end is not an option but neither is accepting all the new innovations that come with some many privacy intrusions and are just a plain annoyance.
I just thought about TVs without remote and how you had to get up to change a channel, or turn them on or off. The remote improved this a lot for the consumer especially since channel counts can reach the hundreds easily nowadays.
Voice control on the other hand does not have the same benefit. Sure, it may be a tad more comfortable to use provided that it works but it is no where near the level of going from no-remote to remote.
“I just thought about TVs without remote and how you had to get up to change a channel”
Its true but back in the day even you had one of the early remotes, you still had to get up and adjust the vertical or horizontal hold!! ;-)
“If you like to watch Netflix, then you need a network connection for example.”
Actually you don’t need a network connection. A side device like a Roku box or a game console will work too. I know this as a fact because my TV has no network connection abilities and I am able to use those devices to watch Netflix.
Sure, that is an option. What I meant is that if you have only the SMART TV, you need to connect it to stream Netflix and other streaming services.
I haven’t seen a large “dumb” HDTV on the market in a few years. You simply cannot buy a tv over 40″ that is just a tv.
Even so I use my Roku instead of the TV.
Ditto here. I cut the cable and have a Roku connected to every TV in the house. None of the TVs are directly connected to the Internet. I see no value added by connecting them and a bunch of negatives that Martin has also identified. The TV industry has struggled with this same fundamental problem for years and still keeps its collective head in the sand. All the average TV viewer (in the U.S. at least) needs is a display. The channels have long been coming from some external device like a cable or satellite box, a VCR (back in the day), or now a streaming device such as a Roku, Apple TV, or the like. At every step the TV industry has attempted to undercut these external tuners by offering a (inferior) built-in solution. They’ve always been late to the game too. With Smart TVs they have just taken it to a new low. This is all clearly to keep the prices high by forcing unneeded capabilities and complexity on the user. Basically we have little choice unless you are willing to deal with a much smaller screen.
Nothing wrong with buying a Smart TV to get a bigger display. Just make sure you use it with an external device/tuner and never connect it directly to the Internet.
My only TV is a 14 year old Philips 24 inch CRT, last June my Sony terrestrial freeview box died so i did without telly only thing i missed was the news and only for a week or two. TV licence was due end of August so i saved Â£145.50, in the UK so long as you do not watch live transmissions at home on ANY form of viewing device you do not need to pay, now if i could only break my addiction to this Dell desktop and the web!
That’s nice. Here in Germany, you pay even if you never watch.
I hardly watch TV as it is, if I require to do anything ‘smart’ during the rare occasion that I do then I can just consult the smartphone.
This article made me think of “blipverts” in the Max Headroom movie .
I do own a Smart TV from Panasonic, a Plasma, which incidentally has Voice Control which cannot be disabled,
add to it the fairly high standby power consumption and an open WLAN Network nearby, I really only connect it to the Power if i use it.
I can only imagine such issues to grow worse.
I highly doubt OLED TVs to be sold without Networking features for the forseeable future.
btw, Voice control used to be run locally on really old phones, there is no requirement for that to be sent to the cloud.
The processing requirements for Voice Recognition are minimal, processing power on smart TVs is ample and custom chips could make it childs play.
I was thinking the same thing regarding voice control. It is not that arduous a task. Their claim that it must be processed remotely by a third party stinks.
We watch too much TV already. We are too sedentary. Useless TV contributes to information overload and distracts us from key life events. TV watching makes us unhappy and promotes mindless consumerism to compensate.
I have no interest in buying a smart TV and am trying to stop watching my traditional TV.
Yeah, the bundled smart tv features are about as smart as all those bundled apps phone makers and operators put on top of android and prevent users from removing. Or the crapware that come bundled on top of Windows with new laptops. Remove, disable.
The biggest problem with a networked “smart” TV is that the manufacturers cannot be trusted with security and updates. Better to buy a Raspi and install XBMC/Kodi instead.
Thanks to all of you for this great discussion. We’re probably moving up from a 37-inch to a 55-inch. I’ll be looking for a non-smart TV if there are any good ones still around.
Yes indeed, love all the CRAP WARE, on new Desktops or laptops, everybody want it removed so I usually make a little extra cash, when that happens….
current clients is $35.00 and new clients is $65.00. Love that Crap Ware….
My current telly an LG450 42′ screen is as dumb as rocks, but it doesn’t matter since its connected to a PC that isn’t. I much prefer things this way where I control the content not the other way round.
I got my Samsung smart TV last week, it’s awesome. Connected to my NAS instantly so I can watch all my films at a wave of a remote. Love the voice control, I Would imagine it’s useful for people with restricted hand movement or discomfort from arthritis. I love I can view pictures and video from my phone with the family, not all trying to look at a 5.5″ screen.
Never had any unwanted ads or apps interrupt anything I’m doing either.
The ui is quick and easy, I can plug a USB stick in the back and record, pause, rewind live TV, just like a sky hd box.
I never need to say my bank details out loud, I don’t plan anything illegal so the scare mongering thing that people are listening to me watching TV makes me smile.
So far using Chomecast with our old TV works fine, at present I don’t really see the need for having a “smart” TV at the moment and navigating internet with the remote is just too awkward.
I own a Smart-TV without voice control. An unwated feature doesn’t automatically fail an entire class of products. As not all SmartTVs have voice control there’s the possibility to get one without that feature.
I like SmartTV exactly for included apps to stream stuff like Netflix/Hulu/Youtube. Technically that’s the only feature I use and I haven’t found a way to adequately manage this via another device because:
– Android boxes/mediaservers aren’t powerful enough (and those powerful enough cost more than I’d like). By powerful I mean various stuff from CPU power, GPU power (and ability to stream FHD/4k), network throughput, etc.
– dedicated third party mediaservers sometimes contain hardware or software locks against Netflix/Hulu apps depending on market where they are sold. I find this a terrible thing to do and while I can easily ‘hack’ a SmartTV, I haven’t been able to do the same with some mediaservers I would otherwise like
– use another computer/server (a laptop or a raspberry pi-like device): means that I’d have to remotely control yet another device. For a laptop that means streaming it via web which is anything but user friendly when I watch something on Hulu before going to bed. For a raspberry-pi -like device I haven’t yet found steaming software (except web browser).
Web-browser streaming is also a bit limited because Netflix for example doesn’t allow FHD in some cases via browser (only via *some* apps)
Make no mistake, if injecting adds via the SmartTV OS becomes the norm, I will gladly toss it away. I can’t imagine why that possibility even exists unless they plan to force it on customers eventually. But until then, I will blissfully enjoy these apps on a SmartTV with *no voice control* (also, I never use that feature on any device that has it).
Thanks for all that info. so maybe then If I ever get to an area where internet is fast enough to STREAM without all the buffer, I might consider a smart TV. till then I only have a DUMB TV and never use any Voice Control, never use or allow the camera to work.
plus i do not have a need for a smart phone or any thing other than a Princess phone.
I own a Smart TV, and I’m very happy with some of the features. The smart features I use mostly are playing movies from the computer wirelessly, mirroring my phone screen display when showing pictures, and playing youtube videos. I agree that most of the features (skype chat, facebook, voice control, etc… ) are just unnecessary gimmicks, but there are features I use so often that I couldn’t live without.
So.. Smart TV for me from now on :)
I am in trouble. I am 75, have a Mitsubishi 50″ TV which I love, have had for many years, but sound clarity has never been good on it. Even with hearing aids, can’t tell much of what they are saying. Sounds muffled and it echoes. Because of my own hearing problems I need a new TV with excellent sound quality. My 40″ Sony Bravia (quite a few years old) in my bedroom, and my smaller SHARP TV both have excellent sound quality. I can understand every word. I want to buy a new 50″ or 48″, but do not want a SMART TV. All I want to do with TV is watch programs and movies etc. that are on, cable and networks. I want nothing else. No Netflix, no internet connections, no sports, no hundreds of channels, etc. I have a computer for that. I do not even have a smart phone. Just want a simple TV just to relax and WATCH and have to do nothing difficult. I like to connect my DVD player and my old VCR and I can watch any movies by using my DVD’s and some old VHS videos. I rarely watch movies except what happens to come on, on my TV that night. Can anyone HELP ME? WHERE can I buy just a regular TV, not SMART, with NO bells and whistles, but with good sound quality? Most SMART TV reviewers say sound quality on them is not good and they have to buy a soundbar or surround sound. That is ridiculous. Can’t they make them with good sound quality? This situation is very difficult for many of us older folks! We need things simple! Any suggestions?
There are sites where you can compare or review LCD-LED tv, First of all you have to choose the what you want to have,
1. TV diagonal group
2. HD or Ultra HD (4K)
Compare three of the best. Do this on different compare sites and you get already an idea which lcd-led tv will possible the best one for you. Please take your time/days for investigation.
The sound of these tv’s are indeed not favorable.
If you have an excellent audio installation maybe you can connect the speakers with the tv, use the best cables.
“Silent Wire” speaker cables are very good. http://www.silent-wire.de/en/
If you cannot use your audio installation, than I’m afraid that you need a soundbar.
There are also sites where you can compare soundbars.
Wish you success to find the best according to your specs.