/ Technology

Manufacturers abandon support for tech products too quickly

Smart TV

Why should we have to constantly upgrade our technology products just to keep up-to-date? Our latest investigation finds manufacturers failing to maintain the services they were originally marketed to support.

My dad recently bought a new iPad Air to replace his first-generation iPad. He didn’t buy it for the upgraded design and functionality, but rather because the Sky Go streaming app no longer worked on his iPad 1, and he wanted to watch the cricket.

A Sky Go upgrade this spring meant that devices running iOS 5, including my dad’s iPad, were no longer supported. His tablet was only four years old and still in working order, but now it looks like a dusty relic of yesteryear.

Big brands, little commitment

We’ve been inundated with stories like this. People tell us about computers being left stranded without tech support; smartphones forgotten in software updates; and favourite smart TV apps disappearing into thin air.

As far as smart TV’s go, we’ve found manufacturers abandoning support for a host of apps, including BBC iPlayer and Netflix. In some cases manufacturers refuse to guarantee the availability of apps on their smart TVs, acknowledging that they may be removed without notice.

And in response to my Conversation ‘Smart TVs aren’t as smart as you think’, Keith Boothroyd shared his experience of buying a Hitachi smart TV from Argos so that he could use BBC iPlayer. However, he was dismayed when the catch-up TV app disappeared and the TV’s web browser proved useless.

Keith complained to Argos, and managed to secure a full refund on the TV as he could prove that it’s lack of key features meant it was not ‘as described, fit for purpose or of a satisfactory quality’ as outlined under the Sale of Goods Act.

We love our products, but some manufacturers would rather we bought shiny new versions just to keep getting the latest features and services. They’ve got commitment issues, and it’s time for a change.

What do the manufacturers say?

We contacted some of the biggest manufacturers and asked them to commit to ensuring that apps, services and software features that are used to sell a product will remain available for a reasonable product lifecycle. We had mixed responses. Panasonic told us:

‘We are fully supportive of Which?’s position. We are committed to providing our customers with a first-rate experience and work hard with our suppliers to maintain a good service.’

But Samsung told us:

‘Samsung is unable to guarantee the availability of any application on any specific television model. Content providers may remove applications from the Samsung smart TV platform without notice.’

Make your voice heard

You have every right to a reasonable lifespan for the products you buy, and this should extend to support for the services these products are marketed with in the place. A new Consumer Rights Bill, currently being debated in Parliament, will strengthen the consumers’ hand bringing law into the 21st century and making your rights clearer on digital content.

In the meantime, we want to hear your stories and experiences so that we can build a groundswell of support to challenge the manufacturers to do the right thing by all their customers.

Comments
Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

“”I have not met many subscribers who see this as an important issue,”. BEUC that represents EU consumer groups, and the EU, see this as an important issue. I don’t know what consumers would think when informed of the real cost of ownership of durable and non-durable products and products that cannot be economically repaired. Perhaps you have seen an authoritative survey that says consumers don’t want durability? Eventually I suspect environmental pressures will lead us in the right direction, but as our principal representative I would like Which? to present much more useful information on products – repairability, durability, likely life, so consumers can be informed. Maybe a super campaign would be useful?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Like my parents I have been keen on durable and repairable products all my adult life. At present I’m listening to Radio 4 on my 1975 Hacker Hunter radio, which still works well. The best way forward is to move towards long guarantees since these allow consumers to buy with confidence that they will not be faced with costly repairs or the cost of replacement providing that they do not abuse products.

In the case of smart TVs, the involvement of third parties make it difficult to be sure how long software will remain available. Internet-enabled TVs would allow users to download alternative software, just like they can for a computer or phone.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

I have those red binded – Radio+Television Servicing books by -E.Molley going back to the late 40,s Wavechange but only to 1972 . As you know they are full of circuit diagrams of most makes of radios /TV,s sold to the British public , it is striking that the top-end transistor radios like Hacker have pages of complete breakdowns of their products going into great technical detail just like the old RR advert- break down in France Sir ?- our engineers with be with you as soon as possible ( by flight ! ) . Gone are the days of service to the customer and I should know being in disputer with BG at the moment.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I consulted many of these books in our central library in my younger days. 🙂 Whereas my old radio remains repairable and I could probably source most of the electronic components if needed, that would be much more difficult with a modern design.

Member

I have a 3 year old Samsung smart tv I have contacted Samsung to update my youtube app they have said my tv is too old to update this is not good I wish Ihad not purchase this tv also I have bought a uhd Samsung smart tv will the same happen to the apps on this set this practice of not supporting the reasons why we buy smart tv has got to be sort

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Sorry to say Bob the manufacturers wont pay the app makers to update their apps as they want to sell the latest model which will always be the newer one even if your TV isn’t very old. They pay a one -off price for the apps and thats it. Have you tried one of the new boxes that can be attached to your TV to enable various apps ?

Member
Tom says:
20 March 2017

I too have a 3 year old Samsung that no longer supports the apps I use. When I contacted Samsung they were unconcerned and simply stated they don’t keep their software current.

Member
Sandra says:
3 October 2017

I have a Samsung UE55f8000 tv which I paid £2800 for four years ago it was sold to me as future proof for five years Via something called a smart evolution module which you can plug into the back of the tv, I thought that as my tv is now 4 years old I would get this years module to upgrade my tv, only to find out upon contacting Samsung that they have not made a module for my tv since 2014 and do not intend to do so in the future. I am absolutely fuming as I could have bought a much cheaper tv but wanted to future proof so went for this one. When I contacted Samsung they were unconcerned.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

If the retailer has put this in writing, that would form part of the contract and you would have a claim under the Sale of Goods Act. (The Consumer Rights Act replaced it in 2015.) If it was verbal information you might be best just to buy a plug-in box as others have suggested.

It seems that all manufacturers are playing the same game with consumers and it would be good to learn of any manufacturer that does enable their TVs to be kept up to date for at least ten years.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Sandra your TV is actually a -2013 model that’s when it came out. At the time a downloaded app via a smart-phone could add content to the TV it came with a built-in “Smart-box ” ie- it was part of the circuit board . The update unit is not straight forard to fit and if fitted wrongly can destroy it . It cost $300 US and reverts the TV back to default -you lose all your settings . The first one tried didn’t work , It is not without its drawbacks -NOWHERE did it say it guaranteed it for years. The technical staff of the website were not that impressed with it. Your TV was very expensive and I can see how you are upset . Buy a Roku box Sandra and NO ! I don’t work for them nor have shares in them I look at it as the “best ” of a large bunch being more reliable/better built than many. Wavechange -10 years kept up to date ? so far I haven’t even found one that does 5 years.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I was expecting you to fill in the details, Duncan. 🙂 My TV is very dumb and will remain so because I’m happy to watch iPlayer and YouTube on a laptop.

I wish Which? had taken action when the first smart TV stopped working properly. Every TV review should carry a warning so that everyone is aware that their smart TV is unlikely to continue to work properly within a few years.