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Smart TVs are dumb (incredimike.com)
85 points by incredimike on Apr 8, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments

One reason to resent the pervasiveness of new technology -- not that it's inherently bad or that we're becoming luddites, but we don't want to deal with each company's separate and probably-shitty implementation of something we can do well on our computers.

My refrigerator does not need to tweet. My refrigerator is supposed to keep things cold. That's all I expect from it. I don't want a half-baked inventory management system or a TV.

My Blu-ray player should play movies. Not tweet, not download updates for a movie. The experience should not be inferior to VHS (by lacking the ability to fast-forward at will).

One example of a shitty experience in my recent memory: Last week I turned on my PS3 after it's been off for about a year. I wanted to play Gran Turismo (5, I think). Plugging it into Ethernet was a big mistake. First, the OS must be updated. That takes 5 minutes. Next, Gran Turismo must apply TWENTY updates before I can play. I took a picture of my screen because it was so ludicrous. I took another picture when it was installing the last update. Those two pictures are forty-five minutes apart! Finally I can play the game that worked just fine a year ago. The only thing that's new is that it asks me to sign into Playstation's network every time I load the game.

So, now, given the option to connect something to the Internet, I probably won't. The user experience matters.

What is really so annoying about this, is that sony are COMPLETELY AWARE that this annoys the piss out of the consumer, that they added it as a PAID FUNCTION to the 'playstation plus' that you can have the option to auto-install updates for you.

see here: http://us.playstation.com/psn/playstation-plus/

The gall of the company to sell auto software updates as a feature amazes me.

Most of the GT5 updates are actually for DLC, which is added to the game whether you buy it or not. Some additions have been free, so there are new cars and tracks that you can play; this is not immediately obvious when you play the game for the first time after one year.

Thanks, that is true. I'll look up what has been added. Maybe a track that I'd be interested in or some new challenges.

There's another opportunity for an improvement, though. A simple "what's changed" that we've had with "normal" software updates on our computers for years.

On refrigerators: Hmmm, maybe. Given the amount of food the average person wastes, some kind of inventory helper is a seriously good idea. I just don't want it to tweet, ever.

I agree, but a half-baked system doesn't help and just adds complexity to one's life.

I would love to be able to see what's in my fridge and pantry in real-time. But until everything has RFID embedded, it will never take less time than just looking in the cupboard when I need to know.

20 updates is ludicrous. It's strange they don't coalesce that down to one big update.

> So, now, given the option to connect something to the Internet, I probably won't.

That may be going too far. I recently had my XBox360's network disconnected without realizing it and put in an old game I had just bought. I played for a good 4 hour stretch, saved the game and quit. When I came back the saved game was corrupt. Turns out there was an update and I could have saved myself a huge hassle if I had had it plugged in to the internet...

I can absolutely relate to the PS3 gripe as I experience the exact same thing to do no more than watch a rare Blu-Ray.

Thing is, it's really a Sony issue, nothing intrinsic to Internet connectivity which could be used to auto-update in the middle of the night.

Connectivity isn't the problem, gimmicky half-baked features and poorly implemented/purposefully crippled functions are.

Eh, I prefer the updates than suffering through bugs that never get fixed because console developers traditionally put at a final release and that was it.

I do agree that in terms of the OS, you get mostly pointless updates there, probably mostly playing a cat and mouse game with people jailbreaking the console. It would be fine except it demands the latest OS version to play a game online.

I recently did exactly the same thing with my PS3. I had an hour to kill, but it took overnight downloading the updates.

For comparison, I can download from Steam at over 5Mbps. The PS3 took 20 minutes to download a 50MB update.

My TV on the other hand, which is the pre-'smart' generation of Samsung TVs - does a reasonable job of streaming media from the network.

In the last days of Chumby we were doing a lot of work with "Smart TV" platforms from Insignia[BestBuy]/Tivo, LG, Samsung, Vizio, etc, and this problem is (or was as of a year ago) pervasive among almost all the "Smart TV" platforms we developed for. It seemed ludicrous to me that they thought it was okay for your TV to have a 30 second to 2 minute bootup time.

The Samsung TV we had was the only one actually smart enough to be able to turn on and function as a dumb TV nearly instantly prior to the "Smart TV" functionality booting up. Based on various comments here it seems like not every Samsung TV does this, but the one I had access to (I forget the model number) did do this, which was very nice compared to all the others. On the down side, the Samsung's remote control was downright horrific to use and had these oddly modal states where it expected you to type lots of things in using a T9-style keypad despite the unit also having a qwerty keyboard (which only worked in some modes/apps) on the backside.

Developing apps for these things was enough to get me to decide I'd never buy a "Smart TV" as a consumer. It makes way more sense to get a good "Dumb TV" and enhance it via set-top boxes like consoles (The Wii U is quite a nice media player, if slower than it should be), or Roku or such. Not only is the out of the box experience way better this way, but you can much more easily upgrade the set-top box with new features every one or two years whereas there's very little reason to get a new TV less than once every 5-10 years.

"but you can much more easily upgrade the set-top box with new features every one or two years whereas there's very little reason to get a new TV less than once every 5-10 years."

This is the same problem I have with car audio (source,at least), built-in navigation systems, etc. The rate of improvement in cars and screens compared to the cost of upgrading is quite small compared to the value proposition provided by newer navigation/audio/etc. offerings every couple years. I want to buy a just a screen with a single digital video input -- no speakers even. And, I want my car to have a standard hole in the dash for an audio source box coupled with some power/speaker/GPS antenna/etc. inputs. Of course, my desires directly oppose the pipe dreams of industry executives who want to turn their products into Trojan horses of continuing revenue streams for years to come. I recall laughing as the Honda salesman tried halfheartedly to sell us a DVD/Nav system for our minivan. Would I rather pay $2K for a car DVD system or buy two, $500 iPads? Hmmm....

Edit: Another thing that bothers me about these artificial couplings is that the hardware-centric manufacturers rarely provide updates for more than a few months after a product's launch. How long until the browser in a "smart" TV can no longer render most sites? If Roku doesn't support its $50 box after a year or two, I can just buy another brand or a newer model. However, I'm pretty mad if I have to upgrade my $1500 TV.

This is why Ford's Sync and Toyota's Entune use your phone as a computer and simply provide a dumb screen.


Entune uses your phone for Pandora & whatnot, but the maps interface is 100% old-skool (non-phone). The audio interface is built-in software. The things that come from your phone are your music, your phone calls, album art, and some data. The whole interface is some 1990s reject touchscreen abomination.

Data (stocks, weather) is provided by XM satellite data, and other data (updating apps) uses your smartphone.

I can't think of a more ridiculous mashup of technologies than Toyota's Entune.

Source: I have a 2013 Prius with premium nav.

Try Android stick PCs, there are quadcore models on the way and its amazing how well it works considering its not much bigger than two packs of juicyfruit.

It's time for Apple to step in and show everyone how it's done.

Of course, once this happens, a lot of people will develop selective amnesia, as it happened with phones.

Yup. The opportunity that will be there when I can hack out an app to run on millions of TVs is going to be as much a paradigm shift as the phone. (and yes, i know about the console attempts, but they are shit execution and only applicable to games really.)

The TV ecosystem is basically the Apple playbook to a T: let the competitors try to design a more computer-esque smart version of a dumb device. Laugh heartily at their shitty UX that is limited by their lack of vision and unwillingness to take real risks, and let them do the market research for you. Make one that doesn't suck and is ridiculed by the media since those products "already exist." Get 80% market share in a few years while competitors scramble to keep up and suddenly all new TVs lift Apple design features. Settle in on the high end consumers who are willing to pay for attention to detail with margins that would make your competitors blush.

"Smart TVs" right now are Android before the iPhone. Slightly more polished yet fundamentally flawed versions of an old paradigm. People seem to forget that the early versions of Android were basically "open source Blackberry OS."

When AAPL plummets because people think they do not have an economic moat, I look at the lack of true innovation in the TV market as evidence that no, in fact, nobody has been able to replicate the core of Apple's design genius yet. The iTV is going have to invent new interaction methods that are much more natural and intuitive for people sitting on a couch channel surfing than buttons on a laggy infrared remote control. As per the iPhone/iPad, these design interactions are going to require a fundamental re-thinking and re-building of the entire user interface of a television. You can bet that these things will be copied aggressively (and poorly, at least initially) and lawsuits abound.

The problem here is that the TV hardware business is chicken feed compared to the TV content business. And while Apple is very, very good at negotiating with content owners, the money in TV is tied up in really, really complicated and retrogressive contracts, and the TV people perceive Apple as predatory, entirely missing the point of what happened to the record industry.

Well, yeah. That's why it's 2013 and we still don't have our iTV. My prediction is at launch the contracts with the content providers will be fairly unappealing to consumers, once the fine print is understood, and the media will yawn. (HN will predictably announce iTV as a dud because of the content payment model being inferior to X, Y or Z.)

But the UX will be compelling and there will inevitably be a few "killer apps." Once the iTV is in the living room the experience will be frictionless enough people will probably start buying content that is technically more expensive than on competing platforms anyway. (all-you-can-eat vs pay-as-you-go, Apple will probably go for pay-as-you-go to start out.) That'll drive adoption so that Apple will build marketshare quickly enough to provide leverage to pull the content providers into the 21st century. But even the starting point they need to be to provide a MVP is probably tough to get to.

This has nothing to do with the fact that if and when it ever exists Apple will have basically rendered the current "Smart TV" user experience an embarrassment to the industry.

The idea of an app ecosystem for TV content is enormously appealing to the consumer, but in a world where one half of the internet access duopoly buys a content licensing company, the resistance from entrenched interests is going to be Stalingrad bitter.

SmartTVs aren't even Android-before-iPhone, they're Windows Mobile.

I had a Windows Mobile handset, and while the hardware was fantastic, the user experience was horrific. That accurately describes any attempt to use the 'SmartTV' functionality on my Samsung BR/PVR box.


It's time for manufacturers to get their heads out of their asses, cede this space to those who are best at it, and make "dumb" devices like they did 5 years ago.

Every year they persist in this effort will be a disservice to everybody who buys their products.

Yes, I own one of these "smart" TVs, and I'm still bitter about my purchase.

Edit: when I said "horseshit", it was because I inferred that you were saying Apple should make Apple-branded TV hardware, not just Apple TV boxes that plug into TVs. If my inference was bad, then.. well you should be more clear. ;)

>It's time for manufacturers to get their heads out of their asses, cede this space to those who are best at it, and make "dumb" devices like they did 5 years ago.

They aren't going to do that. And you can't rely on set-top boxes (which themselves are largely terrible), media centers and game consoles to pick up the slack, since, as the OP points out, you still have a pile of manure at startup, while changing inputs etc.

You really do need someone like Apple to create a hardware/software product that shows everyone how to do it properly.

There are tons of TVs that are doing it right. Apple doesn't need to "show everyone how it's done". This particular example is of one manufacturer messing up one product line.

I haven't seen a single set-top box or TV with an interface that even merited being called "shitty." The space is totally barren of anyone with any UX sense.

It's unfortunately endemic to the whole industry. My "smart" TV is a Vizio.

Really I wish TV manufacturers would offer "monitors" (screens without TV tuners). If one manufacturer goes this way, people who only want a screen for e.g. their Roku might buy that one instead.

I'm not sure what you're looking for exactly, just buy a monitor. We do Smart TV app development across a variety of platforms (Smart TV's, Rokus, Xbox) and the vast majority of this development is done on off the shelf 24" Monitor's with HDMI inputs. We joke all the time that the cheapest TVs are in the monitor aisle. (This is only true to a certain size however)

I should note the LG TVs in the OP are actually great test machines too...

Why not just buy a regular computer monitor then ? The lack of large screen sizes ? This I can understand.

Perhaps consider buying a commercial display then. Not only do thye lack tuners, but if there is an ethernet port, it is most likely there for you to use to remote control the display. The only downside is that they typically cost a bit more.

The example you picked, Vizio, is the lowest-end brand on the market. Nothing wrong with cheap, for the price you pay, but the whole point is that it cuts corners and isn't as good as the name brands.

Unfortunately, this isn't free for the manufacturers, and most people are not going to want to spend the same (still less, more) on a TV with fewer features -- even if they'll never use them.

>There are tons of TVs that are doing it right.

Like .... ?

About the smartness aspect of it: You have set top boxes like Roku which are designed well. Hell my PS3 is fairly easy to use. The previous generation of the LG smart TVs were also pretty good without having to deal with the gestures.

As for dealing with switching the inputs, many older TVs and computer monitors come with a simple enough mechanism to switch between various inputs. This particular article may be about regression in the UI.

There is nothing "new" Apple can do here. If they end up doing something it will not be not that far off from existing and very functional UIs.

If Apple does something here, I guarantee you that you will be wrong.

The big thing is the if. Apple isn't going to enter this space to create another "me, too" product. They are only going to enter the space if they can do to TV what the iPhone did to mobile phones.

A lot of people think Jobs' implied that they had figured out the TV interface. I hope so, because I'm with a large majority of others in this thread: current "smart TV" is stupid and completely lacks imagination.

I really don't get it why people over here are heads over heels about Apple. They most definitely will not re-invent the wheel.

>I really don't get it why people over here are heads over heels about Apple.

Track record. They released several revolutionary products in the last ten years.

>They most definitely will not re-invent the wheel.

Maybe the wheel hasn't been invented yet. There is a lot of potential to disturb the "SmartTV" market. The current offerings are mediocre, at best.

Samsung's smart tv was a fantastic experience for me personally -- in fact it made me regret I hadn't bought a TV sooner. UN55F6300 was the model we had (and, after ~6 months parted ways with to go back to our ipad) and enjoyed every minute of it.

There were some caveats like the keyboard on the remote not working inside some 3rd party apps. that the TV allowed you to install.

Eh, I was just trying my friend's apple tv with my macbook pro and was quite disappointed with the lag and sheer poor quality of the experience combined with the remote intermittently working with the tv and/or the macbook pro. Personally, I think the x360 nailed it with its simplicity of accessing netflix youtube in decent speed. Though I would complain about the controller input when it comes down to typing any phrase, the interface for that is awfully slow. Other then that, perfect IMO.

Too late. Roku's already done it.

I've heard the roku3 is different, but the roku2 I found really irritating.

First you pay extra for the roku with USB so that you can plug in a hard drive and play local content, but the roku doesn't even support .avi files - in fact it basically supports nothing locally.

The interface is also terrible, but I can forgive that since the box itself is a little under powered. What I found really obnoxious was that they put a banner ad on the bottom of the screen. I don't want to pay for a set top box just to have a giant ad on the front of it.

The only redeeming quality the roku had was the third part channel you can install on it, Plex (http://www.plexapp.com/). Roku should just replace their software team with the guys writing plex. Plex had a much nicer looking interface (with no ads) that connected to the plex server running on my desktop. All meta data was pulled down and all of my directories were immediately recognized and organized.

> First you pay extra for the roku with USB

The Roku 3 with the USB either is the same price or cheaper compared to an Apple TV, Google TV, and other variants. Before the Roku 3, Roku's were almost half the price of competing products.

> First you pay extra for the roku with USB so that you can plug in a hard drive and play local content, but the roku doesn't even support .avi files - in fact it basically supports nothing locally.

Plex is free on Roku. I can't say video playback was perfect on competing devices as well.

> The interface is also terrible, but I can forgive that since the box itself is a little under powered.

Yes, but it's also the easiest to use. It's even intuitive for non-techies.

> The only redeeming quality the roku had was the third part channel you can install on it, Plex (http://www.plexapp.com/).

IMO that's the only redeeming quality of Google TV devices.

I don't know if best of the worst is that exciting of a title, but I agree with you.

The apple TV has much nicer hardware and better interface, but it's only good if you live in apple's universe and buy things from itunes.

I live in the Apple universe. The problem with Apple TV is that they lack content. If they ever add the long overdue app store for it, I would gladly move over from Roku's platform. btw Roku 3's UI is much better than Roku2's.

Exactly, this isn't about smart TVs. It's to be able to use your TV screen as a dumb bigger monitor and it is the Smart Remote Controller or iOS device that is the actual Smart TV. Smart TV is being able to control your TV better with a device or gestures.

My TV, which is fairly new and a well known brand, takes 30 seconds to boot up from a warm standby state, and several minutes from a cold state.

What's more annoying than that though is that it takes a full second to change channels due to the needed signal capture and buffering for DTV signals.

The interface is abysmal and even with a HDMI cable and the BluRay set to the right resolution (a chore in itself), I still have to manually change the aspect ratio for some DVDs, which takes around 20 button presses and 20 seconds or so to accomplish, and then needs to be reset when done watching.

As a result I watch TV maybe an hour a week if that. Which is fine by me, but I doubt I'm the only one that has given up.

I remember having a TV made in the 1950s that had a rack of vacuum tubes in the back. It took less time to "warm up" than modern TVs take for their OS to boot. People complained a lot about the warm up time. And changing channels always happened instantly.

This is before we even get to "smart TV" features.

Reading this & the OP I am stuck with one question. Upon purchasing your Smart Tv and experiencing that it really was rather stupid why did you not immediately pack it up and return it?

Not returning the tv tells Samsung et al that selling junk is acceptable.

With the whole 'built-in Plex' thing that LG TVs had, I was actually pretty interested in getting one. After seeing them in action, I've realized that these people obviously don't test their software in any real circumstances.

Companies building 'smart' devices need to ensure that the core interactions people are going to have with their devices are as good as or better than the alternatives.

What LG could easily have done is built a small, always-on device core which defaulted to a splash screen containing inputs on the left and favorites on the right. Powering on the TV would be just warming up the LCD display, a few seconds at most. If your current input is inactive, show the splash screen. Otherwise, go straight to your content.

This is exactly what they should have done. Instead, they tied everything into their clunky UI.

The built-in Plex stuff is cool, but suffers all the same problems as the rest of the TV. People are better off with a dumb display + Apple TV.

Maybe I'm weird, but 'smart' to me implies "uses zero energy when not in use".

Televisions have almost never used "zero energy" when not in use.

Unless you unplug it each time it's not in use.

This TV has significant trickle. I tested it with a Killa-Watt. You might be thinking of an energystar rating or something?

I don't have a smart tv per se, but my TV does have a USB port, ostensibly to play back video, music, and pictures or something, all three of which it pretty much completely fails at if anything is the least bit atypical. Though it does mostly work with the pictures. I'm not sure why they even bothered.

Of course it wasn't even a smart TV and it took me ages to figure out that I needed to enable 'gaming' mode to make it display my PC's output over HDMI without zooming or making the colors really bizarre.

Count me in the camp who wants TVs to be more like monitors. In fact, if you could get a 40 or 42 inch monitor for the same price as my TV, I'd have gotten the monitor. However, a decent TV is often a half or a third of the price of an equivalently sized monitor, even at the same resolution.

Presumably TV IPS (or S-PVA, or PLS, etc.) panels are somehow cheaper than monitor IPS (or S-PVA, or PLS, etc.) panels? (Or maybe TV demand is higher enough volume for there to be meaningful economy of scale difference?)

Very few TVs use IPS, since IPS tends to have worse black levels and pixel response time than PVA/MVA (alternatively: it's more expensive to get equivalent specs out of IPS), which are the two specs that TV reviewers care about (black level in particular is the absolute king). IPS's strengths, viewing angles and especially color accuracy, are nowhere near as important to the reviewers, and also not as rigorously measured. And being color accurate is actually considered a detriment in showrooms.

Your point is well taken, and using IPS as a shorthand for 'non-TN' was a mistake, especially with the large number of ostensibly different panel types around now.

However, I still think that generally TVs using the same panel size and type as a monitor are cheaper than the monitor equivalent, especially 32" and up.

I recently bought an LM558600 and my experience has been contrary to almost everyone elses here.

I've found that the remote is very sensitive and usable, and a large improvement over standard n/s/e/w remotes due to the nature of modern interfaces requiring more complex input. It makes entering alphanumeric input far easier too. It takes a little getting used to, but I didn't have the problems others mentioned, nor those in the article. I will admit that not putting an input change button on the wii-style remote was a big mistake - I often have to go into the input list program to change it.

By far the biggest plus of this TV over others is the integration of Plex, which can't be overstated. Plex has such a good experience out of the box that my initial idea of setting up an HTPC just wasn't necessary. It's on par with XBMC, and indeed can actually use several XBMC themes such as Aeon (I don't bother.) In comparing similar TV's from other brands, Sony's solution is called Homestream[1] which is just a transcoder. Other brands try to integrate interfaces similar to Plex, but unsurprisingly usually screw up the UI and are left with an unusable experience. LG has something similar out of the box, so thank god for Plex! The media server is excellent to use as well - as good if not better than XBMC for a server.

To address the problems others have mentioned, I do think that most of the 'premium' stuff that comes bundled is mostly useless and I don't use it, however ABC iView integration is amazing, as is Plex's channels which allow you to install video RSS-style feeds. There's more to explore as well, I haven't found the need to touch much else past Plex.

My TV has a startup time of about 15 seconds, which I don't find too bad at all, I have no idea why others experience worse times - it might be that there's only actually 1-2 LG owners in this thread.

One last thing to note is that since I bought it (~2 months), it has received 3 over the air updates which were installed only on prompt. It seems that LG is committed to improving them, which I greatly appreciate.

[1] http://www.sony.co.uk/hub/1237485339460

I have a similar experience. This thing has replaced an Xtremer Ultra box running XBMC on an atom cpu, and despite the slow start, it is still better than a dedicated htpc (one remote). Plus the plex software is working adequately. Sure not the best experience ever, but for the price, it has been a confortable experience. (added bonus: 3D with passive glasses).

plex isn't all roses on LG tvs, it's missing a 'watched/not watched' that lg has known about since 2011, but it is pretty damn good.

I've been using plex for some time now, and is one of the reasons I actually chose LG. but they are arsey bastards, integratings ads into their own interface.


see here for known bugs and missing features: http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php/topic/28419-bugs-and-req...

the lack of an input button is maddening to the extreme, it basically forces you to use the interface.

i thought the magic remote was ok too, until i started using the other one, it actually makes so much more sense to me.

> Sony's solution is called Homestream[1] which is just a transcoder.

Sony's Homestream is just string replace s/Serviio/Homestream :)

Serviio: http://www.serviio.org/

I have a Sony Bravia which causes me rage on a weekly basis. It's nice to have YouTube, Hulu+, Netflix, Amazon, Pandora, and other streaming built in. You can show someone a video without monkeying around with a laptop or video cables.

Along with the big names there are a bunch of also-ran streaming apps with very little content. There's also things like a Facebook app but I have never tried to use it.

So what's the problem? The TV has to 'boot', like in the article. For the first 30 seconds after it's powered on, you can barely change the channels or volume. The interface will sometimes become unresponsive requiring a hard power off, or the TV will lock and reset itself completely. If you do a firmware update, which happens quite a bit, sometimes you have to re-enter all your account information for all your services.

Sometimes you have to quit and re-start viewing content to get the audio to sync up right. But the one thing that angers me the most about streaming content: you bump any button on the remote, and you exit back to the regular TV channels. It doesn't even have the sense to ask, "Are you sure you want to exit Netflix?". You can hit the home button, the volume buttons, and pause/fast forward. You even accidentally bump some other button, and bam. You're back navigating the glacially slow interface with a TV remote.

It's time to start calling these things what they are: monitors.

Nobody would touch a monitor with a 30-second startup time. Retailers should start listing startup as another statistic in the product info, along with screen size and the number of inputs.

You clearly haven't used the ViewSonic monitors I have at work. They take a good 20 seconds to turn on from standby.

It's most frustrating as I use them as externals for my laptop. The laptop display springs in to life, but as I have one of the externals set as primary I'm waiting a while before I can see the unlock screen.

A Samsung SmartTV is similar. I have often ranted aloud to my television about hardware developers considering Single Responsibility when designing. Most of the time I just need my screen to be a screen.

My samsung "smart" tv doesn't load the smart part until you tell it to, so just turning it on and using it like a tv is much faster than the lg one shown in that video.

I wonder how many minutes of my life I've wasted looking at the little "Starting" blurb only to be thwarted by "Updating".

This also kills me on gaming consoles. I have 80Kb/s internet... your device does not need several hundred MB updates.

Interesting. Mine seems to make a few blocking HTTP calls (seemingly for things like on-demand and app store listings).

Same with Vizio. I timed it to just under two minutes to get to the Neflix movie list from cold start -- Even my four-year old laptop with a HDD is faster than that. I'm thinking of replacing the TV now with a dumb Samsung and a Roku. How can they get it _so_ bad?

Agreed! At the time, this TV was a great deal, even when compared to non-smart models. Now I'd gladly take the feature-hit to have a more responsive UI.

Those things are hilarious. I've never used a clunkier, slower video interface than on a SmartTV.

This horrible UI is true of most "smart devices" that are designed by companies whose primary proficiency isn't software. I own a PS3, Vita, and Nintendo 3DS which all have unimaginably shitty UIs with long loading screens. Prior to these devices, my video game machine was an XBox 360 and a PC. While we all like to poke fun at MS for the quality of their products, they have amazing UI compared to the majority of companies. The only companies that seem to be able to be able to create usable UIs for complex machines are Apple, MS, and Google (disclosure: I work for Google) who have been able to apply their skills at creating general software UIs to creating high quality device UIs. Any time I use the UI on my TV, cable box, car, video game machine, or other "smart" device, I always feel like bashing my head against the device to make it work faster.

I once worked on a project that had large hardware and software components. The project was clearly lead by the hardware team - historically the company was a hardware company. At weekly status meetings we would spend 55 minutes talking about the hardware, then there would be 5 minutes for the software.

I don't believe that this has to be inevitable, but I do believe that you can tell whether this is happening by simply using a product.

Yeah, this is what I suspect meetings about this product line were like too. Everyone's talking about the hardware, and everyone is pissed off what what the "software guys" want the hardware to do. "We have to support what?" "With how much memory?!" etc.

I configured an LG smart tv while over my girlfriend's uncle's house on easter. I found the user experience quite frustrating. My biggest peeve was the OSD keyboard. When using the number pad, numbers on the remote did not have any effect (gf's uncle's qualm. This is why people can't configure their own stuff. It's not their fault. It's bad design.) Then, the OSD keyboard was also super confusing for entering capital letters or punctuation. There was a three state mode key that was always set to one of (abc, ABC, or punctuation) so that at any given time, one of the three states was inaccessible without having to reason about the three way toggle key. I found this incredibly confusing, Since showing both of the other states as two keys would have required the same engineering effort, I was disappointed.

Finally, we found that it had a section of horrible OEM crapware under "apps", including an app called "Angry Ducks". Finally, we found netflix under another section outside of apps called "Premium"


Why would anyone need a "smart TV"? I can use the internet better with my laptop. Everyone already has a personal computer, whether it's a laptop or a tablet. The usability is always worse. The only way it's useful to show the internet through a television is to transmit the image from a computer to the television. That's what I and my friends do.

Built-in streaming apps. No screwing with a second remote, or another device like an Apple/WD TV. Those are 'better' but a Smart TV is simpler.

LG has a remote control iOS app for its smart TVs that pairs via wifi. This gives slightly easier menu access and control over the cursor. The biggest WTF is for text entry. Instead of being able to use the iPad virtual keyboard, the keyboard in on the TV. You have to move the cursor over the desired letter and tap. Horrible.

Haha, sometimes I feel that products like this were never even used by the people that made them. How else could you justify such shockingly bad design choices.

I have the 60LM7200 and it is the same way. This and the stupid wii-like remote are the only two bad things I really have to say about this TV. You cannot fully control the TV with a universal remote since a lot of the features require the pointer to select. I've tried every LG code I can find with my Dish Network remote.

Yeah, tell me about it.Have you tried a logitech harmony yet? That'd my next step.

Also, I've been using the LG iPhone app to control the pointer & clicking via touchscreen over the network. It does most of what I want, and has a "built-in" input button!

Hmmm, I'll have to check out the iPhone app. I have not tried the Harmony -- very hard to spend that kind of money on a remote that my kids will be throwing around :)

I get the impression that "Smart TV" has largely, to this point been treated as an incidental add-on, not a selling point. If buyers care primarily about price, which it seems they do [1] the half-assed features make a certain kind of sense. Add bare-minimum functionality while keeping prices down above all else.

If/when "smart" becomes an essential feature, I'd expect the experience to improve.

While an unresponsive UI and slow boot surely grates on many of us, I'd wager the average consumer doesn't notice/care. The millions of crappy Motorola cable boxes set the expectation and they're are at least as bad in all respects.

Personally, my TVs all get their smarts from a Roku 2/3.

1: http://gigaom.com/2013/03/06/survey-says-people-start-caring...

People care, they are just too lazy to do any research or return crappy products to the store. They just pay their money, hate the product, and be miserable, and forget the whole thing next time they buy from the ad or the salesperson at the store.

I bought a TV with an ethernet port a few month ago, thinking "hey, I'll be able to stream stuff from my pc or something!". You cannot really stream, you only get some crappy media-center listing of files which fails like 90% of the time.

Now we have a laptop hooked with HDMI.

An Apple TV is a good device for me - especially if you just want a device that works simply, has Netflix etc. and has a fairly decent UI. Plus airplay and the music streaming stuff if you have iTunes match is pretty nice.

Would love to be able to plug my hdd in and play videos from it, but it's not that kind of device and jailbreaking seems like a bit of a hassle at this point. Plus, when the girlfriend wants to watch Netflix and it's running some strange Linux distro I might get a bit told off...

It doesn't fit all of our video needs (we have Sky, PS3 for dvds etc.) but it's worth it for netflix alone, imo.

What else would one expect from a commodity business? The manufacturers are desperate to differentiate themselves from each other and from their own previous year's models, but their strengths are most certainly not in software, still less in UX. The manufacturers see their margins shriveling and are casting about, but it's pointless. See Panasonic making noise about getting out of the panel business -- it doesn't matter that they make the best TV sets; they can't possibly compete against contract LCD OEMs.

Of course the future is TVs as monitors; but getting there will be painful.

Wouldn't it be so much simpler to have a good HTML5-capable browser and an extended URI scheme for the video tag to support live content?

Samsung TVs seem to be powered by a single Linux blob for the DSP functions and another for the "Smart" functions.

Ethernet/wifi in TV's is a great concept but the execution so far is sad, it can't pair with a cable DVR in another room, you can't down Roku as an app (or Plex) and have it run as a native full speed application on the TV cpu, and if even if you can, it won't run across different brands of television or even different models from the same company.

My buddy has a Samsung Smart TV featuring a large "smart" remote. On one side, there is your standard remote control layout. On the other side is a QWERTY keyboard and other buttons meant for controlling media apps like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and YouTube... perfect idea for working with search boxes. The problem is NONE OF THE APPS recognize the keyboard. Seriously... why did they bother?

For me the most important thing about a living room TV is that it delivers the best image quality possible for its price. Internet, content and "computery stuff" I get elsewhere and connect to the TV as needed.

The solution is not to improve the software here, it should not exist in the first place. If I could buy the most high end Panasonic plasma without smart TV "features" I would.

Samsung are just as bad. I've got the premium 8000 model. It can share its screen to a mobile device. Except it can't because Samsung don't include this feature on iPhone for whatever reason. So they are penalising me, who bought Samsung premium. Next time I won't repeat this mistake. I'll go for a simpler screen and an Apple TV.

Reminds me of early 'smart' phones.

I like my Samsung Smart TV.

Sure, the 'apps' and the ability to search youtube are mostly pointless, but the DLNA is great. What's more, DLNA (player/renderer profiles) is not something that the linux box behind the tv can do very well, so I'm glad of the tv for this.

I wish people wouldn't shoot video in that aspect.

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