Why Smart TVs Aren’t Worth a Hefty Price Tag

Modern manufacturers are putting more smart technology into everyday devices than ever before, and television sets are no exception.  In recent years, the TV industry has struggled to remain relevant in the modern age of multi-screen entertainment, as tablets, smartphones, and high-def laptops are taking more eyes away from TV sets every day. This has led to gimmick after gimmick from the TV industry in an attempt to create unique offerings that keep sales figures up despite this wealth of other devices suitable for consuming TV content.  Whether it’s 3D TVs, curved screens, ridiculously high resolution (you do know there’s a certain point where your eyes can’t really tell the difference, right?)–you name it, and TV is trying it.  But for someone who works in technology, the most senseless gimmick is the so-called “Smart TV.”

Smart TVs are a different animal than 3D-TVs or curved screens when it comes to long-term value, for one main reason: No matter which Smart TV you may choose to buy, its smart technology will be outdated sooner than later.  The main reason for this is the operating systems, machine code, processors, apps, etc. that Smart TVs rely on are themselves iterating and updating at a faster pace than ever before in history.  And this reality isn’t limited to Smart TVs; these days, every device reliant on high-tech seems to be outdated within a year–just ask anyone who owns a smartphone.

What happens when Facebook, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, or any number of apps release an upgrade that breaks your Smart TV because it can’t integrate with the new technology?  Answer: Your Smart TV becomes obsolete, albeit through no fault of the manufacturer.  Not to mention the whole concept of a Smart TV is to offer a device that’s half-computer and half-television, and product innovation in almost every industry over time has shown us that two good halves of two separate, unrelated things very rarely combine to make one great thing.

Based on the features Smart TVs typically offer, we also have to wonder what manufacturers think we use our TVs for?  For example, lots of Smart TVs try to do things like integrate Facebook or Twitter into the experience; but think about the actual use-case for browsing social apps on a TV.  How many consumers actually WANT their personal apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on a huge TV screen where everyone around them can see what they’re viewing and posting?  If you’re not sure, ask yourself when was the last time you let everyone watch while you scrolled through those apps on your phone?  Exactly.  And let’s face it, if you actually do make someone else sit in your living room and watch you post memes, you’re pretty much the worst.

Not to mention Smart TVs are trying to break what is now a ubiquitous habit of using our devices and watching TV simultaneously.   As a matter-of-fact, 81% of people use their mobile device while watching TV, while 66% are on their laptop.  If your Smart TV isn’t offering a complete operating system that is reliable, compatible with multiple technologies, and easy to use, why would I ditch my devices for it?  Answer: I won’t, and especially not when I start seeing the banner ads that Samsung and other Smart TV creators have begun forcing on viewers.

Even Apple, the undisputed king of consumer electronics over the last decade, isn’t touching this Smart TV trend.  When asked about them, and the idea of Apple entering that market, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:  “TV is one of those things which, if we’re really honest, is stuck in the ’70s. Think about how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed. And yet when you go in your living room to watch the TV, it almost feels like you’re rewinding the clock and you’ve entered a time capsule and you’re going backwards. The interface is terrible. I mean, it’s awful!”  Tim gets it: Smart TVs just aren’t necessary in their current state.

That said, Apple isn’t forgetting about the television industry entirely–not by a long shot.  Just read the rumors swirling around Apple’s next big event and what it could mean for Apple TV, including integration with Apple’s next iOS for more friendly interaction with mobile devices and a new TV-specific App Store.  Devices like Apple TV represent the practical application of smart technology when it comes to televisions–a separate box that can be transported from location-to-location and plugged into any display device (not just televisions), offering the user experience Apple fans have become accustomed to.  After all, mobility is king in the smart technology age, and you can’t take a Smart TV with you–unless you enjoy constantly moving heavy, bulky, expensive objects.

There’s plenty of popular competitors in the set-top box space, too; Google has Chromecast, and companies like Roku and Slingbox have made their own boxes for streaming to TV sets.  And consumers will be able to upgrade these devices the same way they do smartphones, downloading new updates and software as it’s released, bit by bit, iteration by iteration.  Apple TV, Chromecast, and similar devices are a much more rational long-term approach to Smart Television, and much more feasible for people who can’t afford to shell out thousands of dollars every one or two years for new devices.

Taking all of these factors into account, I have to conclude that Smart TV manufacturers have not yet given us good enough reason to waste our time or money on a Smart TV, when there are amazing TVs on the market that are far more affordable without thousands of worthless apps included to jack up the price.

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