/ 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

“”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?

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.

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.

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.

Harry says:
6 December 2018

I bought a new LG just a few short weeks ago and out of the box the Catchup via the EPG failed to work. I have since found lots of LG owners both new and older have exactly the same issue. It can be made to work by retuning all of the channels each time the set is switched on, but as soon as switched off they disappear. LG’s response has been initially say they cannot reproduce the issue, but they have been more honest with others in agreeing that they have received lots of complaints. Nice set apart from this issue, so I would be reluctant to claim a refund, but….

I read about the complaints Harry ,in Feb -2018 they said they had a “problem ” and were trying to fix it. .
What you have is memory loss (not holding your programming ) admitted by several makers not even including RAM , meanwhile DStv have launched an app for LG TV,s about 2 months ago available at the LG app store –
https://mybroadband.co.za/news/technology/275003-dstv-now-launches-lg-smart-tv-app.html
Be aware that smart TV,s connected to your router can only realise a much slower broadband speed than the speed you get using your computer.
Yes catch up is included in this app .
How to install-
On to the matter at hand. To get the smart TV app, users must go to the Apps section in the Smart Hub menu on their LG TV.

Navigating to the search button and typing DStv Now brings up the app, and it downloaded quickly after it was selected.

When you open the app on your TV, you will be presented by a welcome screen which asks you to visit now.dstv.com/tv and enter a code displayed on the screen.

Navigate to the URL and it opens the DStv Now website – which is linked to your online DStv profile.

By entering the code shown on the TV screen on the webpage, your TV app is then linked to your DStv profile and activated on your smart TV.

Home – Features new and returning shows and movies, and subsections with themes – like “phenomenal women”, with movies with female lead characters.
Live TV – A list of all the channels which are on your primary DStv package. All channels can be browsed at once, or a subsection – such as Sport – can be selected to looks at groups of channels.
Catch Up – Watch DSv Catch Up content, which is split into categories, including Series, Sport, an Kids.
Search – Search for content by typing its name.
Settings – Change options like video quality (from 360p to 1080p) and manage devices connected to DStv Now.
Hope this helps.

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

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 ?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

ggirl says:
28 October 2017

I would pursue this. As wavechanger said, if this was in writing then it a contract, however a verbal contract is still a contract you just need to be able to backup what your saying as its one word against another. I would look at all the information about future proofing and your TV, also look at how it was advertised in all formats this will support what you are saying. If you purchased from a store it maybe worth asking them about futureproof TVs and what guarantee is offered that future proofing will cover the TV for the time stated. You could also look at other sites that sell your TV to see if (in the more information part maybe) there is any information on this futureproffing and what promises have been made or implied. Hope this helps.

Peter Spurgeon says:
19 November 2017

My Hitachi 32HBJ46U (purchased April 2016 £219.99) was working on www button (wired input from modem) a month ago. When I tried it last week the www screen opened with pages of text – a Vestel Smart Portal Agreement that has to be signed in order to access http://www. The agreement T&C’s are several pages long and my “Agree” would seem to enable world-wide snooping in my living room. What should I do? Should Smart TV snooping be controlled by GCHQ instead of a Turkish/Global company?

Peter the Vestel company are one of the EU,s+Eastern Europe’s biggest TV name owners like Finlux and a long list of other names . They combine with Opera app store to provide internet service on all their brand names . A portal agreement ties you in with a certain website that you access services from and the rules depend on each customer of the TV company agreeing to its conditions . What this is is what I have been going on about for a long time legally forcing you through denial of service to sign an agreement for them to monitor ALL your activities which are sold to many third parties at a combined massive profit who are then able to contact you by every available means . Don’t think for a minute this is benign it certainly is not . Just imagine you watch porn on You Tube or visit a website for a sensitive heath condition , do you want the world to know what your personal life is all about ? It also enables hackers to gain access to control your TV . Under NO circumstances agree to this get a box that can access apps without such an agreement many are on the market and I have mentioned one reliable one on Which already . I have checked up many times on this subject , if others think you should agree to let them do this and sign such an agreement all I would say is that they are your enemies.

We bought a Sony Bravia Smart TV some years ago and were under the impression that we would be able to watch both ITV and BBC Iplayer. When we set it up we were soon to discover that it did not include ITV player. This was most annoying. I would expect to be able to receive iplayer for the life of the television.

According to the manufacturers they don’t guarantee apps for the life of their tv,s Ann . You could buy a Roku box or other make .

Xeroxwizard says:
10 March 2018

Apps for life? Yer right. I just looked at the menu on my old LG and that is exactly what it says. They never mention this when you are buying the ****ing thing! I am going to look into third party software for my trusty old fat lcd telly. I will probbly brick it then bin it!

Moazzam Tariq says:
28 December 2017

I have purchased a Panasonic EX580 from Currys 6 days ago. Yesterday, all apps except Freeview and BBC iPlayer stopped working. Tried everything possible such as restarting and resetting the router but nothing happens. All other devices connected to internet were working fine. A message appearing on TV ; connection to server failed, quoting error number 006. On internet search , it appears that Panasonic re route apps traffic through their servers and they were down. Checked Panasonic Facebook page and realised that other users were having the same problem at that time. I am thinking to return the product but not sure weather this happens only on Panasonic , or other brands as well. If this is a common problem in other brands then there is no point in exchanging the TV of another brand. What is your view?

Moazzam – if the server is down then its not the TV,s fault , especially if others are in the same boat . Its normal practice for manufacturers to run those apps through their own servers as they pay the app designers for them initially so they can control them . That’s why after a couple of years the apps disappear because the manufacturer brings out new models and wont pay the designers for updating the apps . They want to sell new TV,s . When that happens get a Roku box.

Xeroxwizard says:
10 March 2018

I have a LG ‘smart tv’ . Why Roku? Is that a brand. Will Roku last forever?

Its built better than some of the others Xerowizard and thats not the company saying that its technical websites that comment on digital equipment sold to the public . No it wont last forever only my old valve wirelesses that I own, but its longer lasting than many. Digital techniques keep changing not always for the better as they make one big chip to do the job of many chips in all types of electronics to make it smaller but top end quality is not there unless you pay a lot of money.

My Sky badged Roku box has started to play up after a few years service. It only cost £10 in a sale, no I’m not too bothered by that.

Barrie Shepherd says:
7 April 2018

BBC / Panasonic still cannot solve the failure of iPlayer services on the DX series of TVs. It’s been over 6 months and nothing is done. Can Which apply some leverage>

Barrie-The BBC have a long list of certified TV,s that are approved by them in the Panasonic range that includes your DX series but they have to be up to date software wise -version 4 software . What is happening is lack of recognition due to a digital data bug or Panasonic are adding programming that the BBC dont like . This isn’t something that Which can cure see https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/help/panasonic for the list of “approved” ones. The BBC have issued a Disclaimer pointing out any problems see the manufacturer ( Panasonic ) so legally Which cant really challenge that as this has the approval of BBC engineers and would involve detailed digital interface engineering legal debates costing much money.

Barrie Shepherd says:
6 August 2018

Sorry for digging this old post up, and I do appreciate the Which position – in part. However Which is a Consumers association and should be following through with pressure on the supply chain in regards to consumer protection. In the case in point I have patently waited for Panasonic / BBC to sort out the issues with the DX series of TVs, of which mine is one and is on the BBC list of approved TVs your reply pointed to. I don’t expect Which to solve the matter technically but their weight in Consumer Law could be used to at least get Panasonic/BBC to admit what the issue is and to advise what is being done to solve it. When you buy a product you expect all features to work for some years – and you expect some support service from the supply chain. At present I fear that Panasonic and the BBC are just taking the view “Only a couple of thousand DX TVs are affected lets lie low and hope the problem will go away”

So why can’t Consumer Law help in getting resolution?

Barrie even Which without information from you cant solve this , you need to provide the year of manufacture and the full model number . There are downloadable updates from 2015 onward,s if you haven’t downloaded them your TV wont work with the BBC apps . Update your Firmware , if your TV is older than 2015 then , I am sorry I dont think you will get satisfaction . Here is the download websites http://av.jpn.support.panasonic.com/support/global/cs/tv/download/fw/eu_2016/down_eu_uk_cis_02.html http://av.jpn.support.panasonic.com/support/global/cs/tv/download/fw/eu_2015/down_eu_uk_cis_02.html The BBC say the problem is with Panasonic and from past experience helping others in this type of situation it definitely is contact Panasonic on -0344-844-3899 for help.

Jill Martin says:
17 April 2018

I bought a Sony Smart TV in December, it was fine at first, by February it was not opening any of the apps, I have followed the instructions, it is connecting to my WiFi and I have searched for upgrades. Not working, feel properly ripped-off. I went on line and sent a message to Sony tech. I have to agree to £22 fee if they fix the problem, needless to say, I am annoyed and very disappointed.

What is the model number Jill and I will check it out .You are right though somebody is at fault, if the apps only last a few months. For about double what they want you to pay you can buy a Roku box which will give you back your apps and last longer than the length of time the apps will last on your “smart ” TV.

If I’m not mistaken, Jill’s post is the first that mentions the possibility that the TV can be upgraded. I wonder if manufacturers will offer this service in future. If so, I hope that customers will be told how long their apps will last and what the update fee will be, prior to purchase.

It’s interesting that sat nav manufacturers were charging silly prices for updating maps and now this is available free of charge.

Many TVs have software updates in a menu – and a lot by default check for it in the middle of the night and install it on the hoof.

Thanks Roger. I have no experience but from what I have read, apps stop working and the user is not offered the opportunity to update them.

I can confirm also that software updates get fewer and further between with age of TV set. My Panasonic is now, I think, 6 years old and has not been updated in more than 2 years.

Both my Samsung sets are even older, and although there was an update the other day, it did nothing to fix the dysfunctional Rightmove App. It did remove a few though (which had failed to work some time beforehand)

I notice this thread has been running now for almost 5 years and as yet we don’t seem to be getting any support from Which? Will they ever fight our corner and make these unscrupulous companies accountable for their appalling attitude to consumers? Must we all continue to be test engineers in an ever evolving cycle of recycling? We constantly hear how we must all do our bit to protect the environment but I wonder how many so called ‘SMART’ gadgets have been sent to landfill since this article was first written?

DerekP says:
10 January 2019

Hi Slinky, I don’t if Which? alone would be capably of ending the common practice for so-called SMART TV’s to rapidly fall out of software support after only 2 or 3 years.

If, however, enough Which? members were to raise this as a priority for Which? to tackle, them I’m sure they’d be happy to allocate more resources to it. It would certainly be interesting to see a few test cases put forward under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act

Post-Brexit, it might even be good to try and think about having a UK standard for software longevity on smart devices.

At the moment, I think devices tend to fall out of being “software maintained”
after all sorts of different timescales, for example:

Cheap Android devices and expensive SMART TV’s are only maintained for about 3 years. After that, updates may not be available, so their smart functionality may become either diminished or even lost completely.

Apple devices seem to be supported for about 6 years.

Windows PC’s seem to be supported for about 10 years.

Currently, I reckon the actual maximum useful life of a PC is about 15 years, before the hardware becomes too slow to be practically useful for any on-line activity.

Dumb appliances, like ordinary TV’s, record players, radios, computer printers, white goods and so on can have much longer service lives.

Currently, as consumers, I think we are all partly to blame for letting manufacturers get away with these limited product lifetimes.

But if we refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we’ve done, sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.