/ Technology

How reliable is your tech?

Broken technology

Do you find that while some of your tech last for years, others give up the ghost almost immediately? You’re not alone, as the results of our latest sound and vision reliability survey prove…

Today, we’re releasing the results of our annual sound and vision reliability survey. Among the headlines from our research is the wide gulf in reliability between different product types.

Let’s take two seemingly similar products as an example. Blu-ray players and set-top boxes are both boxes that sit underneath your TV – how different could they be? You guessed it: very different.

We found that set-top boxes are incredibly prone to faults when compared with Blu-ray players. We surveyed the owners of more than 1,500 Blu-ray players, and found that only 7% of them experienced any kind of fault within five years of ownership.

Contrast that with the set-top boxes or PVRs sitting beside them in your living room: a massive 30% of those will go wrong over the same time period. So why are you more than four times more likely to experience a fault with a set-top box?

Part of it could be explained by the fact that people will tend to use their set-top boxes every day, while a Blu-ray player might be used only occasionally. But this logic doesn’t necessarily follow.

TVs are used just as frequently as set-top boxes, but our data shows that only 13% of them will experience a fault within five years – more than Blu-rays, but nowhere near the fault rate for set-top boxes and PVRs. There must be something else causing the difference.

Built to fail?

The reality is that set-top boxes, along with other product types, such as smartphones, aren’t expected to last as long as TVs. Many TV providers bundle their set-top boxes free with their TV packages, so perhaps customers are less likely to kick up a fuss when they experience problems.

The case of smartphones is a little bit different though. Many of us replace our phones every two years, as new and better technology comes out.

We’re not only doing it to be fashionable either. Older phones can start to become bloated with apps, slowing the phone down. At the same time, newly released apps tend to require more processing power, as developers push the boundaries of what smartphones can do.

Who is driving this trend though? It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, with smartphone manufacturers trying to sell phones to more people more frequently, and software developers dancing to the same tune by abandoning updates for older phones.

What about your products?

We want to hear from you about your technology products.

Do you own a tech product that’s lasted a whole lot longer than it should have, say an ancient desktop PC that you’ve kept going through upgrades and repairs? Or have you purchased an expensive bit of tech that became obsolete almost immediately?

Do you think product lifetimes have been getting longer or shorter as time has gone on? How long would you expect different tech products to last you before you have to replace them?


I find the most common item to fail is the Hard drive in any component. Next is the optical drive and finally any buttons that are repeatedly and mechanically pressed. I’m not an expert but it seems to be there might be a correlation between mechanical components and frequency of use vis a vis failure.

The worrying trend is products that are only app-controlled.

Products that have their own controller plugged into the mains with a battery back-up can work for years as in timers for central heating, immersion heaters, lighting, curtains, home security, etc. that can still function after a power cut.

But these types of controllers are being replaced by apps. Looking at window blind controllers recently, they were app controlled. How many years are those apps likely to work? Not many I think. Hive have already discontinued their app for MS smartphones.

Apps that connect to home products not only rely on electricity, but routers, hubs, batteries for wireless sensors, etc.

I won’t buy anything that relies on an app.

I had to look up the date that I bought my smartphone, which is still working and serving my needs. It was bought in March 2014. I did hope it would last for four years when I bought it. I might be in luck, but recognise that technology products often improve quite quickly, unlike other household products such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Maybe in years to come I might need a robotic vac controlled by my phone but in the meantime, it gives me exercise.

My curtains are manually controlled, running on the ring & pole operating system. My lighting is operated by switch and dimmers. I suppose I did have to replace the dimmers with ones designed for LED lamps. My TV is not smart and the only problem I have is the quality of the programmes. The sat nav did fail, but that was because I dropped it and cracked the screen.

I hope that Which? will keep us well informed of dumb products because I’m happy to play with smart tech paid for by others.

When anything fails it now cannot be repaired you HAVE to by an expensive new one when the part which has failed would have only cost a few pence Parts for most things can be available if you send to CHINA for them