/ 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.

john m says:
26 May 2014

After about 2 years my Samsung 46″ 3d Smart TV fell behind the new Samsung “Smart Hub” technology – no problem I wanted a home theatre system and the Samsung D5500 system fitted the bill as it also featured the smart hub.. A year later my son bought a new Samsung smart tv and there were many apps available that are not on either my TV or home theatre!. The answer just get a cheap Android TV add on for about £75 and or even cheaper Chromecast which enables Netflix etc via your smartphone.

And then there is my phone – I like to get the latest Android Operating system so obtained a Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. It was always first in line for all the OS updates until the announcement after just 18 months that the phone would no longer be supported. Pretty obvious marketing – they knew that anyone buying these phones must be interested in the latest gadgets so just bring out a new version in the Nexus range and see everyone charge after it.

Its worth searching you tube for a documentary called the light bulb conspiracy. Apparently light bulb manufacturers got together over 70 years back to decide on how long the life of a tungsten bulb would be and then set about re-engineering so that they didn’t last any longer. Also shown in the documentary are fridges built in the soviet union in the 50’s that are still working and have never even had the internal light bulb changed! That was because there was no competition in the soviet union so where possible household items were built to last.

Sorry but there is no ‘light bulb conspiracy’. It is easy to make a light bulb last longer by operating the filament at a lower temperature, but the light output decreases substantially. Ordinary (GLS) bulbs are designed to have an average life of 1000 hours.

Light bulbs in fridges are not usually on for very long. Just pop inside and have a look…..

john m says:
30 May 2014

I like that you state that light bulbs are designed to last 1000 hours! The same design for over 70 years?
I am not an expert in bulb design but I would have thought it would have possible to at least improve on the vacuum, the connections to the filament and perhaps even move away to some other filament material, improving the mounting or whatever.

When the documentary mentions the bulb in the old Soviet fridge it was not in the context of the life of the bulb – which as we know is low wattage, in a cold environment and not on permanently (although that could improve the life) but more to do with the fact that old Soviet fridges are still working.
I did a quick Google search to see if Snopes or any of the other hoax sites had this conspiracy listed and could not find any evidence against it. But interested to know the whole story!

John – The biggest single improvement in light bulb technology was the introduction of halogen bulbs, but the compromise between light output and life still has to be made. Forget the light bulb and look at more modern lamps such as CFL and LED.

LEDs are a much better choice for fridge lamps than old fashioned bulbs, not only because they should last the life of the fridge but because they don’t generate much heat. I once discovered that the lamp in my fridge was staying on continuously when I realised that the compressor was running longer than usual.

Having read through most of the foregoing posts, it seems incredible how industry is treating its customers.

Ho what a tangled web we weave in order our customers to deceive, it ends up quite funny reading their tales of whoa ! What’s next, on with the show.

Trouble is how the heck do we (the customer) stop them!! (the supply industry-sales-customer services etc)

So far legislation is not very effective

Would seem that some work needs to be done to the Sales of Good Act 1979 to cover software “apps” supplied with products. In as much as they should remain fit for purpose for a min of 3 – 5 years, that would force manufacturers to play fairly.

I don’t know enough about the various consumer laws to know if a) that’s the right one to attack or b) if there are others to adjust at the same time.

And why doesn’t the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Practices 2008 apply ? As it seems to me that manufacturers are being very unfair.

NYorkslass says:
27 May 2014

I have a first generation iPad, and am appalled that is gradually getting obsolete. Quite a few of my apps will not work because the iPad doesn’t have io6 or later, including my sky sports and sky+ service, so I can’ watch many of the live tv programmes I would like to. Think this is scandalous after only 4 years.

Andrew says:
27 May 2014

I have exactly the same problem with my ipad 1. It’s only three and a half years old. No support for more than a year and the sky go app no longer works. Neverending loop of compuslory update to app which isn’t suitable for ios 5
I hate to admit it but it makes Microsoft look brilliant supporting XP for so long

Ewen says:
28 May 2014

I purchased a Samsung SMART TV, from John Lewis, c. 3 years ago. Before purchasing, I did enquire about how the various links would be updated as others became available, and was assured that it would happen “automatically”. I wasn’t too concerned at that time, because I didn’t really need terribly many services, and thought that I could update any additional services myself. In fact, not only have no new links emerged (despite my searching for them on-screen, as opposed to the automatic update), but some of the originals have now ceased to function. On enquiring at JLP, the ever-polite assistant knew only marginally more than me (i.e. very little), and certainly wasn’t able to provide a solution. If it was the loss of a spin-cycle on a washing machine, I would expect current legislation to cover it, so why shouldn’t there be legislation to cover the loss of a service which I specifically requested at point of purchase?

David Black says:
29 May 2014

I bought my Samsung smart TV 3 years ago also. I the meantime I have contacted Samsung customer support twice and & each time was assured that apps were coming like itv player to stream content other than BBC (well done to bbc btw!) it was only when I saw a which letter that I discovered Samsung had no intention of developing apps for my “obsolete” TV but we’re bringing apps out good-o for the latest tv’s. I wrote to the CEO of Samsung in Korea explaining how I felt let down by the brand. The letter was passed to the uk customer service who told me that the hardware was obsolete and new apps were not compatible with it. I’ve found the whole experience very frustrating, in particular that Samsung think this is perfectly ok to leave customers who have paid thousands of pounds for this technology to be left high and dry. In particular I feel I being lied to by Samsung as I was being fobbed off for 3 years with promises of software developments that Samsung had absolutely no intention of introducing or facilitating. Well done Samsung.

Your Quote:
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.’

Shame Panasonic don’t stand by this statement.

We have a 42″ Panasonic plasma TV that developed intermittent problems of switching itself off and on again and also switching itself from satellite back to freeview/terrestrial.

As it was within the 5-year warranty we tried to have it repaired. We were told the part needed to repair it was no longer available but the TV came back with the accompanying paperwork stating that the TV had been repaired.

Needless to say, it still has the same problems.

We shouldn’t have to live with this problem on an otherwise excellent TV but we do. Unplugging the TV fixes the problem for a while.

The TV is now out of warranty and there was no point in extending it when a repair could not be made and also our experience of the one and only previous extended warranty we had.

We had an extended warranty on our previous Phillips 29″ CRT TV that was basically useless when the TV could not be repaired. This TV was £1500 new and almost the top of the range you could buy at the time. When the TV could not be repaired, there was not an equivalent CRT to compare it with so the compensation was worked out on a cheap TV and we got practically nothing.

Spare parts should be available much longer than they are. It is wrong that we have to throw away perfectly good electronics that should be repairable.

Joel Kos says:
29 May 2014

Many years ago when computers were very big (about the size of a warehouse), one manufacturer sold them with an end of life warning. In those days there wasn’t much choice. As mainframes (still not mentioning any names) cost several $millions, buyers were less than delighted at compulsory upgrades, so one supplier gave up on the earache and farmed-out later-life support to third parties. That kept operating systems and spare parts ‘alive’ for the life-cycle and a bit of the mainframe.

Why can’t greedy people like Micros**t do the same? My PC is fine (famous last words) and why should I bow to the new market? I only use my computer for word processing and emails, maybe a bit of travelling around the net for items of interest (all legit…), so why should I spend hundreds on new kit when the old machine is serviceable?

Proposed legislation will be ineffective because most relevant electronics corporations (the biggest and most persistent offenders) are not based in the UK, do not manufacture here, let alone in the EU. How will domestic legislation be enforced on overseas suppliers? This is pandering to a demand for ‘something to be done’ which of course never is.

By law Motor Manufacturers have to supply the spare parts to keep their machines going for 10 years. These days even that’s not enough, but at least it’s there in legislation. Wherever it comes from, as long as it’s sold here the regs cover it.

It’s time this legislation covered everything sold in this country (Although ironically I do believe that arch-badguy Microsoft does have a 10 year support cycle)..

Ian says:
4 June 2014

Microsoft aren’t a badguy. The good thing about the computer is you have NO NEED TO UPGRADE. Yes I capitalised that part to make it clear. Unlike a lot of software that come out as apps, the good thing about Microsoft is that older software to run on older machines is still out there and able to be installed, (unlike apple you restrict you from downloading older stable versions for older versions of ios)

I would say that the life cycle and the notice that Microsoft gave have been one of the best that I have seen. Windows XP came out in 2001. That’s 13 years ago. Pretty good going for a company

One of the reasons that many people don’t want to move on from Windows XP is that they are not impressed by later versions, with Windows 8 attracting considerable criticism. One of the worst things that Microsoft did was not offering users of the infamous Windows Vista a free upgrade to Windows 7.

Grumpy Samsung user says:
1 June 2014

Similar to posts above, I bought a Samsung 40″ (Which? best buy at the time) TV in 2011, with “internet@tv”. Within 12 months i had a version of iplayer that crashed, no netflix and suddenly no more promises of ITV player etc. I ended up with an hdmi cable from my laptop and now a chromecast, but is disgraceful that it was unsupported so quickly

Terry says:
3 June 2014

Sony support is insulting. I won’t buy any more Sony products. The initial email support I had seemed good but when it didn’t work they simply stopped replying to my emails. This happened twice so I think it may be their policy.
I asked them for the official complaints procedure but they just ignored the request.
I now have an expensive e reader I can’t use and four bold I bought but can’t read. No refund offered either
Personally I think Sony is in trouble.

Robert Richards says:
5 June 2014

I have a Samsung TV bought in 2011. After an upgrade to the TV, BBC iplayer started have buffering issues and has never work correctly since the tv upgrade.The TV has a different buffer model to ipayer after the upgrade. It is a case of Samsung never testing upgrades fully with apps. Later other app automatically downloaded onto the TV including demod 5. Demod 5 needs a firmware update and crashes the TV when strated, the TV has to be unplugged from the mains and re-powered. Samsung supported do not reply to reports of the problems.

Daren says:
20 June 2014

From the Panasonic quote above, including “We are committed to providing our customers with a first-rate experience” I think its easy for an outfit like Which to challenge the truth of this statement.

As per other comments about Panasonic above, nearly all the catch up TV apps ( ITV, C4, C5 etc ) are missing from their 2011/12/13 sets ( I believe, well certainly for the 2011 sets ). So if Panasonic are “committed” then ask them why these apps are not present on the earlier sets? and why they will not provide them now?

If its simply that Panasonic will not pay a license fee for the apps, then they are certainly NOT as committed to their customers as they apparently claim.

So come on Which, ask them to put up or shut up.

Daren says:
21 June 2014

After re-tuning on my Panasonic TV, I noticed a few extra channels that require an Internet connection, like “Motors TV” on Ch 240, and some other similar examples.

However, when I try to view them all I get on my DT30 TV is ‘Please wait, Loading Stream’. On the website they suggest the TV is possibly out of date already and/or not compatible ( Its not listed in their compatible list ). But they don’t specify which or why.

Now if its a hardware deficiency then I suppose sadly, there is nothing that can be done. BUT if its just that Panasonic wont update their software for the older sets, or wont purchase a software codec or license, for example, then thats another example of Panasonics fine commitment to its customers.

I can’t say which option is the reason, but perhaps Which could find out?

john m says:
21 June 2014

Yes – Same problem with my Samsung series 7 3d (not so) smart tv bought in 2011. My son bought a much lower level non 3d Samsung TV last year and it displays the extra data channels with no problem. Some are internet streaming – so there is a lot of possibilities in that area.

George says:
20 September 2014

Agreed. If these streaming services come on-line in a big way, then these early “SMART” TVs will soon need replacing IF Panasonic and Samsung etc cannot or WILL NOT update them.

I guess that’s the issue with these new connected services, is it the TV companies can’t or won’t ( just to save money ) update their sets?
As already said above, do these new services require a TV hardware update in which case nothing can probably be done, or is it really just a software update which could be released if the TV manufactures were really supporting their sets?

Does Which know? Can Which find out?

Disappointed says:
21 June 2014

After my husband died recently I made a memory book of his Grandpa for our small grandson, using our 6 year old Macbook. I spent many hours on the project and was very disappointed to discover that a printed book could no longer be ordered from Apple from my ‘vintage’ Mac. The only available option would be to buy a new computer.

Fed Up says:
23 June 2014

My wife purchased a Samsung Galaxy three smartphone 18 months ago and I have tried to keep up to date with the latest firmware updates. However the last of these has dramatically changed the phone performance for the worst (poor battery charging, unstable internet connection) after much surfing the web it appears that Samsung does not appear to be offering much in the way support for galaxy 3 as they are now onto the galaxy 5 version and do not appear to be interested in fixing the problems caused by the update. And this on a phone only 18 months old!!

I would recommend rooting your phone (it’ll be past warranty now anyway) – quite straightforward if you follow the instructions – and then installing a custom ROM such as AOKP (google it). Should hugely improve performance and reduce battery drain.

Custom ROMs mean that instead of having to buy for software features or rely on support that inevitably ends after a year, I can continue to improve performance and extend the life of my own Galaxy SIII until I WANT an upgrade – which will then be further down the line and mean a genuine hardware improvement.

John McLean says:
1 July 2014

I’ve taken the saying waste not want not to the extreme by hanging onto my original BT Vision box ( Philips DIT9719) through thick and thin. In all fairness it still works perfectly and can record two shows simultaneously! Admittedly it only offers HD for shows purchased through BT or via BBC iPlayer.

Looks like BT can’t stand the idea of stuff working beyond it’s built in obsolescence date and have now finally sent me a letter titled “Last chance to keep your BT TV service”. The first line of the letter succinctly explains what’s happening:

“On 30 June we’re switching off your BT TV service. It’s because we’ll no longer be supporting the set-top box you’re currently using”.

This type of Neanderthal activity makes their corporate social responsibility seem pointless!

Murray A says:
7 July 2014

I bought a Tom Tom One IQ Routes, with European Maps in 2007, so it is arguably quite old. I have, however, regularly updated the software on the device and on my computer. About three years ago the device starting becoming unstable and I finally managed to rectify the problem by completely removing and reinstalling the software on the device and on the computer.
Now it has started happening again and numerous e-mails to Tom Tom’s technical support and trying many suggested cures, taking many hours of effort and time downloading/installing software, has not rectified the problem and the device enters an endless start-up cycle.
I have wasted my money by recently subscribing to 18 months of maps that I can’t load. I fear that the latest software is not compatible with older devices, especially those that do not have expandable memory (via SDD card). I finally spoke to a member of the Technical Support Team who all but admitted that older devices will have increasing compatibility issues with current software. She suggested returning the device for a repair (expensive!), but could not guarantee that the same problem would recur when I attempted future software upgrades. I shall not risk it. I am wondering – what is the point of getting a device in the future with free map updates for life, when the life could be as short as seven years?
Convinced that I would buy a Garmin, I am now concerned when reading the Which? forum that Garmin users don’t fare much better. So it could be back to a road atlas.

John says:
10 July 2014

Have just had a run-around getting a replacement battery for my 2009 Sony Vaio laptop (spurred by the latest security clampdown at UK airports!), and encountered what I thought might be one consequence of Sony pulling out of this market, ie. poor information on their site. In my searching through my paperwork for model numbers I found a leaflet from Sony in 2009 with a lovely range of backup support – now apparently hard to get!
The article in “Which? Computing” quotes Panasonic as being “fully supportive of Which?’s position” but we have found their support very poor for camcorders, TV, etc.

It is high time that manufacturers of electronic products agreed on standards worked together to standardise the batteries used in electronic goods. Nowadays, three sizes (AA,AAA and small 9V batteries) will cover the majority of requirements if we ignore button cells.

Since most laptop manufacturers don’t make their own batteries it is disappointing that there are so many different batteries in laptops.

@wavechange , you’ll be wanting car manufactures to standardise on bulbs in their cars next 🙂

At least those pesky EU bureaucrats are looking at standardising mobile phone chargers. Although way its taking so long is beyond me, they started making noises about it in Sept 2013. Apparently something to look forward around 2017 🙁

I thought car bulbs were fairly standard these days. I’m more concerned that it seems to have become standard to make them as difficult to change as possible. 🙁

I hope we don’t land up with a common phone charger with a plug that only goes in one way, which is what I have read is the most likely possibility. Maybe we should entrust important decisions to people with a bit of commonsense or even consider the needs of the disabled.

Andy Worrall says:
14 July 2014

As said by several people above, the Panasonic quote saying that they are “committed to providing our customers with a first-rate experience” is far from reality!

The only catch up TV app on my TX-L32D28BSA Panasonic TV is BBC iPlayer and their reply to my query in early 2012 regarding missing services for the TV, bought in 2011, was “Unfortunately, there are currently no plans to provide software upgrades to further enhance the platform used in this range of TVs in the future”!

If Panasonic are truly “committed to a first rate service” then please press them to explain why their earlier sets are not included in their up-grade plans?

An “off the record” comment made to me by a Panasonic Customer Service operative was that their software development effort is totally focused on new platforms. What is needed is a change to sale of goods act to provide better cover for the software aspects of modern electronics, where a software up-date can happen with or without owner participation, either “over the air” of “from the internet” with a possible impact on the functioning of purchased hardware.

Chris says:
15 July 2014

I would never again buy a Samsung product: it fails to support its products adequately, its customer service agents show poor product knowledge, and it is impossible to get a response from senior management when customer service agents can’t address the issue being raised.

I bought the Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet (GT-P6800) in July 2012, as it had all the features I wanted; my only reservation was its use of Android OS 3.2 (Honeycomb), which was already outdated. However, I was reassured that the 7.7 was Samsung’s top-end premium product and would be supported with Android updates – the online manual for the product even notes (incorrectly) that the operating system is ICS Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and Customer Support at one point told me that the update was imminent, although this information was later contradicted. I eventually found out that, although UK models would not be updated from Android 3.2, models in Asia (Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia) got the Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) update over a year ago.

Since without the update I can’t connect to my university VPN, I emailed UK Managing Director Andy Griffiths to ask why Samsung is unwilling to update the operating system for the tablet in the UK when it did so elsewhere. Instead of responding, he referred my query to Customer Service, which gave the very un-reassuring reply that no update was needed as my device was ‘fully optimised for Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich’ (sic). Emails to the CEO in Korea would not be relayed by Samsung’s server.

I think Which?, in deciding Best Buys, should pay as much attention to product support as it does to hardware – the best machine in the world is useless once its software is obsolete. For this reason, Samsung products should, in my opinion, lose their Best Buy status.

I have been a virgin customer for quite a few years now and like its apps which started off with the tv guide which after a few emails to vnegotiateo sort out glitches was perfect for me as it also gave me the opportunity to set my tivo box to record programmes wherever I was, but now it appears that they are shutting down this appon 12th august in favour of the tv anywhere app which I use too but find it less intuitive and slower ,why is it that an app Iv e been using for just over two years now gets deleted, in the grand scale of things thats not a long time ! ,Not very happy might just fire off another email to virgin but I know I wont get anywhere, however it might be ammo for me when i come to negotiate with them for a better deal.

Less than 2 years ago I bought an iPod touch (4th generation). I got it in an Apple store & asked if it was worth waiting for the new version – told the 4th gen would do everything I wanted

I now find it cannot be upgraded to IOS7. Whilst I’m not too worried about the features of IOS7, more of my apps are becoming unusable as the need IOS7

There are various support blogs on Apple where the normal response is “you can’t expect things to last forever – get a new iPod”. Some quote the example of Microsoft withdrawing support for Windows XP.

Well XP was around for years, and was supported for about 5 years after being replaced by Windows 7. With Apple it seems 2 years is acceptable

I saw in the August edition of Computing Which that IOS8 will be launched later this year – so what other Apple devices will become unsupported?

Meant to add, even if I was prepared to spend out on a new iPod, I have various accessories that use the old connector – so they would need adaptors