/ Technology

Why do my favourite smart TV apps no longer work?

Why should you have to buy a new TV or computer every few years just to keep using favourite apps and software? It’s a question I raised a year ago on Convo and it seems the industry still hasn’t got the message.

A number of you angrily complained on Which? Convo this week after finding that the YouTube app no longer worked on your TV. Tim Debagio said:

‘The convenience of YouTube on my TV was a major buying point. I bought the television for a reason and the manufacturer isn’t fulfilling its side of the bargain.’

Why has YouTube app stopped working?

Google has stopped supporting the YouTube app on devices that date from 2012 or earlier. This means it may not work on TVs that are just three years old. Those affected include some Sony and Panasonic smart TVs, PVRs and Blu-ray disc players. Apple devices that can’t run iOS 7 or higher (including the iPad 1 and early generation Apple TVs), and older Google TV boxes, including Sony ones, are also included.

You can still get YouTube on these devices in different ways, including through the web or mobile site. But the app is more convenient and many owners have complained to us about losing it. Nick wrote:

‘I am dismayed to see that the YouTube app has been stopped on my Panasonic PVR. This makes the Panasonic smart-TV offering even more pathetic than it was already. The only useful app left is BBC iPlayer (and Netflix for those prepared to pay).’

We challenged Sony, Panasonic and Google over the decision to drop the app. Google says the change is because it has updated the YouTube software to make way for new features. But why should that come at the expense of older products that are still in perfect working order?

Older products should matter, too

The advent of ‘smart’ products, heavily reliant on online services or software, has seen a worrying trend of older devices being left behind in the rush for what is flashy and new.

The products that have just lost the YouTube app are just three years old. The TVs could keep going for two or three years, maybe longer, and many owners are understandably disappointed. I’ll keep pushing manufacturers and app providers to do better in future.

There have been more than 200 comments to my original Convo post on the subject of disappearing apps and features on older products. Wavechange says:

‘Here’s a question that could be put to the major TV manufacturers. I would like to buy a smart TV that has features that will still work in ten years, a reasonable working life for a TV. Can I be sure that if I buy one of your TVs it will meet this requirement?’

Have you had problems with apps such as YouTube that have stopped working on your smart TV? Let us know your experience, including how old your TV is.

Comments

I think the answer to this problem is for the television to be a simple screen with no “smart” functionality and to have all the “smart” functionality in a separate box with a ubiquitous operating system that can be updated, e.g. iOS, Windows, Android etc. Then the television will remain current for a long time whereby rare increases in resolution (e.g. HD to 4K) being the only reason to change the television. The separate box can then receive software updates as required with proper support from a reputable operating system supplier rather than running a proprietary operating system produced by a television manufacturer.

That is what I have in mind.

I would not want to see the TV manufacturers having their own proprietary software updates because they could play the same game as car manufacturers do with satnav updates and use this as a revenue generating exercise. Nowadays operating systems can be updated free of charge and hopefully the same would apply to ancillary software. The cost of the original software can be included in the cost of a new TV, in the same way as for a phone or computer.

We should not be scrapping perfectly good screens because software goes out of date.

Charging for software updates is treading on very dodgy ground. Most software updates contain bug fixes, even if they also happen to include enhancements. A bug fix is a repair. Section 48B of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 states that the seller must “repair or, as the case may be, replace the goods within a reasonable time but without causing significant inconvenience to the buyer” and “bear any necessary costs incurred in doing so (including in particular the cost of any labour, materials or postage)“.

Your example of satnav updates is a good one. If you identify errors in your satnav whereby the maps at the time of supply did not reflect the road layout, then you could demand an update from the seller free of charge.

Rev Ted says:
28 June 2015

A seperate box to connect to a TV…that can go on the internet & view tv…that has an operating system. Wow what is this thing you talk of? And there I’ve been plugging in my laptop by hdmi these last few year.

“You can still get YouTube on these devices in different ways”…

Not always. My Sony TV does not have a web browser of any description. The YouTube app was crappy but it did at least work. If I want to view YouTube I’ll probably use the Chromecast route.

Henia Lopingco says:
14 September 2016

Correct, you can use a Chromecast or you can also purchase a Roku box or any other streaming gadgets like an Amazon Firestick or an Apple TV to access Youtube or other Applications and with these gadgets that would cost you a little or less that a hundred dollars, you’d be getting more apps.

Arthur says:
2 May 2017

I love you so much Henia Barrameda!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

There may be an answer shortly arriving in the UK:
“The world’s best-loved videogames company, Valve, has announced plans to release its own operating system, SteamOS, built for PCs that plug into your living-room television.
It’ll be centred around gaming, but also let you stream music, TV and movies.
Valve is calling SteamOS a “co-operating system”, combining the company’s impressive digital games distribution platform with an interface designed specifically for TVs, built on a “rock-solid” Linux base.”

Valve does not come with Google, Microsoft or Apple baggage and also is independent of the TV conglomerates.

Rik says:
25 April 2015

Youtube is free, evil corporate giant or not I’m unconvinced that Google should feel obliged to support an app for it on all of the massive range of proprietary and changing platforms which TV and other device manufacturers decide to use, then stop supporting themselves.

Blame the manufacturers for failing to support their latest OS on older devices.

NFH mentions our rights under the Sale of Goods Act. The equivalent section in the new Consumer Rights Act is here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/section/23/enacted

I wonder if this legislation is relevant because a TV that loses functionality is not actually faulty. The service provider has made a change that has caused the problem and if they reversed the change, the functionality would be restored.

I can think of numerous examples of loss of functionality that affect me. The digital switchover meant that millions of TVs and recording devices would no longer receive five of the most popular channels. My Freeview box no longer receives some of the channels it used to. I have software that cost hundreds of pounds that will not run on a modern computer, so I have to use an old computer when I want to use it.

Fingers could be pointed at TV manufacturers, retailers, those that provide apps and other services, and consumers who might have unreasonable expectations.

I am not a great Microsoft supporter but as has been pointed out, they indicate clearly how long they intend to support versions of the Windows operating system and other software. I hope that TV manufacturers will take the initiative because they are coming in for most criticism by many whose TVs lose the features that were selling points at the time of purchase.

I look forward to reading about the outcome of the meeting between Which? staff and the major TV manufacturers.

Well spotted, wavechange. Although the legislation doesn’t come into force until 1st October 2015, I notice that Section 34(3)(d) of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 seems particularly relevant to this topic:

The quality of digital content includes its state and condition; and the following aspects (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of digital content — durability.

Thanks NFH. This section is similar to Section 9(3), which applies to physical goods, which in turn relates to what was in the old Sale of Goods Act.

We have had considerable debate about durability of goods in other Conversations, but the term remains undefined.

We deserve some input from the legal team employed by Which?

The reasonably expected durability of digital content would depend, amongst other things, on the price paid. For example, if you pay £2,000 for a television and its built-in YouTube app stops working after only 3 years, then you would have the right to redress. If you pay only £1 for an app on an existing device and it stops working after 2 years, then you would probably have little redress. The reason that the law doesn’t define specific time periods is because it is impossible to do so; it all depends on what a reasonable person would expect, and that is open to interpretation by the courts on a case-by-case basis.

I entirely agree. My solution would be for the manufacturer to guarantee that services will be maintained for a specified period, during which they would be liable to compensate the owner – in some way yet to be determined – if that was not achieved.

That need would be largely overcome if the user could simply download software updates, as with a computer or phone.

This is far from a simple issue but hopefully it will be resolved without numerous court cases.

The other issue is when an software upgrade seriously affects the working of the device or even “bricks” it completely.
Who is responsible ?
The seller sold me a working device and why should he be responsible for an “optional” update going wrong a couple of years later.

SONYnon-smartTV says:
25 April 2015

My Sony smart TV stopped the YouTube app after April 20, 2015. The TV is barely 3 years old and still in perfect working conditions. YouTube and BBC iPlayer are the two apps mostly used. By losing YouTube, we have lost almost half of our smart TV experience. If there were such a warning at the point of purchase, we would walk away and turn to other TV manufacturers which promised more eg a longer period [5-7 years] of keeping their apps active. Sony and Google should be ashamed of themselves of being so underhanded.

Henia Barrameda Lopingco says:
14 September 2016

Sorry about that, TV manufcturers have a 3 year contract for all their TV sets. For example if your particular TV model was introduced to the market exactly 1 year agothen you just purchased it now, you can still access Youtube for 2 years, thats the sad part about Licencing for Apps on TV sets. A work around is for you to purchase a cheap Roku Box or an Apple TV or an Amazon Firestick which you can plug on an HDMI port so that you can still access Youtube and other apps.

Presumably, the real issue here is whether the hardware on the TV is adequate to cope with the most recent software needed by the apps. ( I am sure that most of us have had to replace a computer because it could not support the latest version of Windows). Our early smart(ish) Sony computer does not have a browser but currently supports iPlayer and will also show (some!) photographs stored on a networked computer, and access some other web services.
A workaround solution is to access the desired application on an adequately up-to-date laptop (or other computer) and use the TV as a monitor by connecting it up with an HDMi or similar cable (depending on the sockets provided on the TV and laptop). An adequate laptop would almost certainly cost less than buying a replacement TV with a decent sized screen.

“( I am sure that most of us have had to replace a computer because it could not support the latest version of Windows). ”

Agreed – but, instead, a number of us will take any such computers and UPGRADE them to run a decent version of Linux. (Depending on the age and power of the PC concerned: Mint, LXLE and antiX are my favourite Linux versions for this – many other good choices exist too.)

Mike says:
25 April 2015

My attitude is that at 80 plus, I`ve lived without Utube all these years, it`s not a necessity in my life and they can stuff their `service` where the sun doesn`t shine. It`s the arrogance of these people whose birth certificates are still damp and believe, mistakenly, that their `invention` is a necessity for day to day living. They should get out more!

Greyway says:
26 April 2015

My Panasonic TV is just over 3 years old and this weekend I noticed the YouTube app has been terminated. This is just ridiculous and a huge inconvenience. If this is the standard of the new smart tv’s I will be steering clear of them in the future – its a complete con when the manufacturer won’t even stand by their product and blame it on Google – they could at least offer a web browser or way of updating the software. And as for Google they obviously don’t care about anyone other than themselves.

Panasonic’s inaction on this issue simply implies “oh well never mind. its something out of our control and you may need to update your tv”. Smart tv’s the way of the future? Yeah right!

David says:
26 April 2015

I totally agree with all the comments I’ve seen so far on this conversation thread. I recommend anyone to take a look at a little box called the Roku2. It has pretty much all the ‘smart’ applications most people will be after, is very easy to use, and in particular a lot cheaper than having to buy a new TV.

Whilst using a tethered laptop top or Roku box is a great pragmatic solution for maintaining access to online services, this option will work as well with any TV.

So if you started out by paying extra for a smart TV, then you may find it annoying that you then have to pay out a second time when you smart TV turns into a dumb one.

In my case, I think I payed about an extra £10 to get the “smart version” of my Sony TV. After 4 years I have now added a Sky NowTV roku box – which also cost about £10 – so I can carry out watching BBC iplayer and similar services for free.

IanC says:
26 April 2015

My Panasonic is now over three years old but has plenty of useful quality life left in it. We bought a high end model to cope with the progress in technology and be to some degree future proof, but we might as well have bought a basic model and saved some money. Although add-ons do not always work as well as they suggest, You Tube and similar are easier used with a tablet or phone and/or streaming device such as chromecast which is relatively cheap to buy and replace.
Samsung at one time suggested that they intended all of their audio visual devices to be smart and to access BBC iPlayer and all the usual Freeview on demand channels. I don’t think they will fulfill that wish even though they have done better than most.
The market now expects high levels of access and connectivity and it would be short sighted of the industry to fight against it.

Stribs says:
26 April 2015

It’s not just Smart TVs, my mobil [Android 4.2] and tablet[Android 4.3] now have a number of apps that no longer work because the operating system was not updated to the later Android version of 4.4 or later by the manufacturers. It’s time that we stopped buying products that cannot be updated to the later operating systems.If we hit the manufacturers where it hurts, in the bank account, maybe they will start to take note

“It’s time that we stopped buying products that cannot be updated to the later operating systems.”

I last bought a brand new PC five years ago. Since then I’ve only bought 2nd hand ones, for prices ranging between £10 and £100.

I can put up-to-date versions of Linux on any of the PCs that I own – even going back to Pentium III era machines. Realistically though, there aren’t many 15 year old PCs that still have enough “horsepower” to do a great job of swiftly rendering modern web pages. Hence, these older machines do show their age when compared with newer hardware.

I think you are right, Derek, but there are a couple of problems, as I see it. Linux is still seen by too many as something used by computer geeks, but some decent coverage on TV could sort that out. The other problem is that there has been a major shift to laptops, which often don’t have a long life, even if it’s just the battery that fails and is expensive to replace.

I still use old computers to display photos at events and to use obsolete software that will not run on a modern operating system. If I was starting out with computers now I would go for Linux rather than Macs. Apple’s prices have risen sharply, presumably because of what has happened to the pound.

I’m quite happy to have a dumb TV.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

“The other problem is that there has been a major shift to laptops, which often don’t have a long life, even if it’s just the battery that fails and is expensive to replace.”

I’m certainly not too bother about having long (or any) battery life on laptops, not least because I seldom use one “one the move”.

Modern laptops are, in general, thinner and lighter, than ~5 year old ones – than certainly aids their portability.

Over time, the growing use of Linux in education and in the maker community (as both fostered by the Raspberry Pi) may get more folk to be less scared of Linux. In terms of a “fear factor”, I think using DIY versions of Linux is roughly on a par with doing your own appliance repairs and car servicing.

We don’t have a smart TV but can get YouTube and iPlayer via our Virginmedia Tivo box: having said that, I do most of my viewing of these facilities via internet browser rather than apps, on my laptop. Don’t have time to watch much anyway!

Ian Spencer says:
27 April 2015

It’s not just smart TVs, it’s smart phones too.

Just over 2 years ago I got a Samsung S2 on contact. Before the contract expired, a umber of apps, including YouTube were no longer available due to the Android version being out of date, 4.1, but it was the only version Vodafone/Samsung supported.

I suggested on the Vodafone forums that this was a problem. I got two responses, the forum Greeks telling me I was stupid to expect an old phone like that to work and it was not Vodafone’s problem, and I suspect it triggered a call from them to get me to upgrade.

As all I really do is call and text, and check emails, play music and take pictures, it does OK.

The Apps on my Samsung TV are essentially broken, but I can get the stuff I want elsewhere.

Stupid thing is I have a Nexus 10 and the Virgin Anywhere TV app never works because Virgin are always a release behind Google. So it works the other way around too.

This is one of several reasons that I stick to Apple and avoid Android. Updates to Android can be specific to each combination of handset and network, whereas updates to iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system) are universal, restricted only by the age of the hardware. Therefore once the latest iOS version becomes too resource-hungry for older hardware, it is stuck on the latest compatible version. There is no restriction by model (e.g. iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C). That seems like a reasonable policy.

People have short memories when it comes to TV. Freeview was introduced knowing that the early system would be useless within a couple of years. I have lost track of how many obsolete versions of Freeview systems have been created, ignoring the individual manufacturers who also promised features which never materialised and non-existent firmware updates.

I can think of the following Freeview system changes which meant users wanting the full system would have had to replace TVs or buy new set top boxes after the initial SD system

HD ready display
Full HD/1080p display
HD tuners builtin new codec HD
Freeview
Freetime
4k displays – various full or partial systems
4k display with useable 4k codec

Satellite versions of the above

I won’t even mention the DAB/DAB+ and disappearing bandwidth.

The TV manufacturers have finally succeeded in forcing everyone now to use a model that Sky and Virgin have been using from the start. The internet connection is now monitoring everything you view as well as the rest of your life. This, along with smart meters and connected cars means that everything in your life is now being monitored by Google, Apple etc and far worse. Targeted adverts will be the least of our worries. Power stations and industrial devices have already been hacked. There is scope for total chaos with the internet of things. It is just a matter of time.

Youtube-must-be-back-on-Sony-Panasonic-and-Apple-TVs says:
21 May 2015

Please visit, like and share the following Facebook page which aims to force Google/Youtube, Sony and Panasonic to collaborate so owners of pre-2012 TV sets and Blu-ray systems can enjoy Youtube again:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Youtube-must-be-back-on-Sony-Panasonic-and-Apple-TVs/1603843943202567

Bucksboy says:
24 May 2015

My Samsung UE40D6530 ( 2012 ) has lost BBC1 subtitles function, they are fine for about 10 mins then stop.
Sansung says it’s a BBC problem…..BBC say it’s Samsung fault. Both say it’s updated apps not supported. You get nowhere with both.

So it’s hard luck hard of hearing customers who absolutely need these subs to access the programs, chuck the tv out and buy another one…….which will do the same sort of thing in a couple of years.

Perhaps if we all took our sets back to the shop ( John Lewis give 5 year warranty) and say change it/money back it’s faulty, they might put big pressure on the firms.broadcasters to work together to sort it out. Can it really be that hard?

I wrote to Which about this at the beginning of April after getting the notification of Youtube app cessation on my TV, checking the various company statements, getting an apologetic customer services reply from Panasonic and picking up some of the indignation in other parts of the world. I’m pleased to see the issue has surfaced here – which I didn’t know till I read the printed magazine this week.

Surveys keep asking me do I have a smart TV. Well not so smart as I thought it was. People who use apps a lot may be accustomed to them going out of date but I didn’t even know this access was classed as an app. Thinking back I should have realised because last year the BBC I-player withdrew the facility for replaying radio on my TV – which I used a lot. Then You Tube went. So the 2011 smart TV with a 5 year guarantee that I paid out to get a receptor for (not the expensive Panasonic one thank goodness) offers Skype (for which I would have to buy and connect a camera), BBC TV I-player and a selection of looped rubbish. Ok I can and do connect my laptop through an HDMI cable but I really don’t want to have to do this, when I’ve paid out for something better.

I can see from the comments already posted that people take different views on all this and some view the changes with equanimity. Well that’s ok if you either are not that bothered or have some sort of integrated system. But many of us are higgledly piggledy in terms of our equipment, especially people who are older or on limited means.

I’d support any campaign to get back the apps but that looks like a lost cause.

I quite like NFH;s idea of the separate box. Or I suggest that the idea of smart tv be redefined so that consumers know exactly what they are getting. A properly smart TV will have an updatable internet browser which can directly access web based TV related services. Anything less which depends on specific programme apps should have a different name. I can only think of rude ones at the moment but App-ready is the sort of thing.