/ 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
Philip Tudor says:
8 August 2014

People,
The Sale of Goods Act applies for 6 years. If your SMART TV has suddenly got dumber (BBC iPlayer I’m looking at you) you have to go back to the retailer. Sony, Panasonic, LG etc. will all go sloped shouldered and blame e,g, the BBC (for you pay the licence fee for it to continue to exist – HINT!). However, it is the retailer who carries the can. If your TV has suddenly lost functionality for which you bought it YOU HAVE A CASE. 6 years!!!! Do not accept a retailer attempting to pass blame or fob you off – they are responsible AND YOU CAN TAKE THEM TO COURT IF THEY REFUSE TO LISTEN. The sooner more people exert their rights the sooner the manufacturers and content suppliers will face mutiny (and a hefty bill) from the retailers and the matter will be sorted to the consumers’ satisfaction. I am not a lawyer – just someone used to winning when I have been sold a pup.

Henry Clark says:
8 August 2014

@Philip Tudor
The iPlayer radio function stopped working on my LG TV – see above.
I got a “hard luck” response from LG and the BBC, and a very polite refusal to accept that the Sales of Goods Act applied from John Lewis.
I consulted a solicitor who said that at best I’d have a 50/50 chance of winning in the Small Claims Court, as the legal system hasn’t got to grips with embedded software in consumer goods.
I agree that the functions provided by embedded software should be covered by the Sale of Goods Act; more and more, however, I see them being excluded in product literature.

This is where a test case (how about it Which?) could set a precedent.

As I commented earlier, I bought an iPod Touch about 2 years ago, primarily to play music – which it still does. But one of the features was that I could run various apps.

Since IOS7 more and more of these no longer work. Apple push the blame to the app developer, but perhaps as Phillip Tudor has stated I might have a claim against the retailer – in this case it was an Apple store!

is it worth a punt at the small claims for £25 online cost my 4 year old sony bluray now doesn’t give me iplayer which I bought it for in the first place. Who do I take to court, amazon, sony or BBc?

Henry Clark says:
20 September 2014

You have to take the retailer to court as your contract was with them under the Sale of Goods Act.

You might be lucky and get a sympathetic judge who understands that the BBC writes the iPlayer software, which is then installed in the smart TV, which is then sold to you.

El Kapitan Des Locos says:
20 September 2014

Why would a judge have to be sympathetic, when it’s so obvious and clear-cut, Henry Clark?
Are you implying that our justice system isn’t just, inherently?
Shock! Horror! Hehehe.

If someone’s employed as a judge and cannot understand the logic chain of Retailer sells product with iplayer and Youtube branding all over it, then product stops being as described some time down the line, yet product is NOT discounted to reflect this future “inevitable” loss of functionality, then consumer obviously has a a case.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Chris says:
2 November 2014

Do you mean go back to the manufacturer . I.e. Sony or Panasonic. And not the retailer i.e. Argos or currys ?

Had the same thing with a Panasonic DVD Recorder with Hard Disk, had an ethernet port with support for 5 catch up services, all stopped working. Panasonic have abandoned the platform.

It seems to me that the sale of goods act DOES apply, a product is expected to last a reasonable length of time. So the features you buy it for are linked to that, as soon as a Judge agrees with you there will be a legal standing for all.

I am shocked that you went out and bought an Ipad again and continued to pay Sky the rip off prices they charge. I would have cancelled the whole Sky service and explained why. A new iPad can costs £500. You can get online services that will stream the same content through proxies.

If companies leave people stranded like this they can’t be surprised when consumers use hacks, not everyone can afford a new iPad.

Richard Williams says:
23 August 2014

I have to agree with all the above. I have a Samsung Smart TV purchased in 2012(latest model at the time). And slowly but shurley services are being withdrawn. Channel 5 app has stopped working and demands a system software update even though it is the latest version. Netflix has disappeared and the god awful changes the drunken idiot at the BBC who retrograded the iplayer causes the TV to crash and the volume control does not work (its so embarrassing for the BBC that they have actually closed their message board as its inundated with complaints). Samsung and the BEEb ? couldn’t give a hoot its been a problem since march this year and how many people have samsung smart TV’s ??

As for music I was probably one of the first to get an itunes account. after a number of email changes and lost login details etc. I had a nightmare to get all my music reinstated to my account and because my apple mac is older it wont talk to my iphone now so I cant transfer my itunes libray to my telephone.(Apple never used to be like this)

I think I was happier with 4 channels a old nokia mobile phone that had proper battery life and I am seriously considering buying my old vinyl back. Things just worked then !

Edward Roper says:
15 September 2014

I totally agree with the comments from Richard:
“the god awful changes the drunken idiot at the BBC who retrograded the iplayer causes the TV to crash and the volume control does not work (its so embarrassing for the BBC that they have actually closed their message board as its inundated with complaints). Samsung and the BEEb ? Couldn’t give a hoot its been a problem since march this year and how many people have samsung smart TV’s ??”
Any reputable organisation being funded by the national purse would carry out regression testing on a software “update” (or is this a downgrade) before releasing it. More and more users stream via smart TV’s and this is only going to increase. the experience via Virgin Media is also significantl downgraded with no possibility to get series catchup so to blame the manufacturers in this case is not the solution. The fault lies with the BBC techie’s who are obviously out of control. The powers that be in the BEEB need to get in control of the situation before it explodes.

Dave Marsh says:
25 August 2014

I am totally in agreement with Richard. I have a Samsung UE46D8000 Smart TV purchased at considerable expense in 2011. I loaded the latest version of the BBC i-player some weeks back, and now whenever I stream content the TV crashes on completion. The only way out is to manually power on and off and restart from scratch. Clutching at straws I looking for a newer network version of the Samsung firmware, but was advised that I had the latest version (1028). No solution here I thought. However I subsequently discovered that the Samsung website held a later version (1031) that could only be loaded via USB stick. This I did. However although it improved the overall i-player experience, it did not solve the crash problem. To top it all I lost a number of apps in the process.

A few years back early adopters paid an awful lot of money for a smart TVs, not to mention the additional cost of the BBC licence fee. You’d think a little of this bounty might be directed to effective support.

rosierich says:
25 August 2014

I agree absolutely with this. I bought a very expensive Sony Bravia smart tv at Christmas and a key attraction was it’s ability to get bbc iplayer tv and radio content on catch up. The radio feature disappeared a few months ago and in the last few days both iplayer and Demand 5 Have disappeared from the apps altogether. Several users are making the same observation on the Sony website. I have tried Sony’s recommended fixes without success, and feel really conned. I would welcome any more info on whether new consumer rights legislation really gives me a good chance of getting any money back from the retailer, as mentioned regarding Argos above (in my case Curry’s).

George says:
29 August 2014

Quite a few comments from people on here raising similar issues ( against Panasonic, Samsung LG, Ipods BBC BT etc, the list goes on ) all with similar sounding complaints, esp against smart TVs and the lack of updates and support after a year or so.

Any comments from Which?
For example, have you asked Panasonic about their laughable “first rate experience” comment in your opening article?

I’m so glad to see that this is being addressed.

I have been hugely frustrated that the Samsung smart tv that I bought only 2-3 years ago no longer supports the majority of apps that made this such an attractive product at the time of purchase. While some may consider it naive to have not realised that these would degrade over time, I simply don’t agree that key apps from some of the biggest tech and publishing companies should become unsupported within such a short space of time.

I hope this is addressed by parliament soon, so that consumers are better covered from this in future.

I see Apple are launching the iPhone 6 next week, this will come with IOS8

Guess what, a number of older devices (eg iPhone 4) cannot run IOS8. Whilst the phone will work, soon a number of existing apps will not work so forcing people to buy a new phone

Not sure why the iPhone 4 is incompatible – there are 16gb versions as there are with iPhone 5 (which will run IOS8) so is it just a ploy to build in obsolescence and generate more income?

The iPhone 5 was launched in September 2012, but the iPhone 4 continued on sales for some time. It’s possible someone purchased one less than a year ago, but now has an unsupported product!

Software and hardware obsolescence. says:
4 September 2014

A few years back when a new version of Windows was released a manufacturer of sound cards – Creative Labs announced that it was not possible for them to develop new drivers for one of their very popular products due to hardware restrictions. Within a few months an enthusiast in Brazil developed a perfectly good driver and Creative Labs threatened him for duplicating their original driver (which he used as a starting point for the new one). After several thousand users complained on the user support forum Creative labs backed down. Thankfully there are some very clever people out there – mainly in Russia and the Far East who are battling to keep older equipment working.. Look up on you tube and discover how “unrepairable” printers can be fixed by changing the sponge that absorbs excess ink! Apparently there is a chip in some printers that causes the printer to fail after a predetermined time or number of prints!

Vince m says:
9 September 2014

Just tried talking to Richer Sounds as I have a SONY Bluray now rendered useless as iplayer just switched of the service. Told me I accepted the apps may lose support at any time when I 1 st used them. I pay for iplayer through my TV license fee so it should and could still work.I just want my money back now as there is no point keeping this useless piece of junk. Its only just 3 years old. `Anyone else had any joy with taking something back to them?
The new iplayer website looks and feels horrible. Big screen iplayer just worked it was easy to find anything.

PlannedObsolescenceWastesResourcesAndThey'reFinite-OnePlanetEarth says:
11 September 2014

Vince m – the EULA (User Agreement) that you agreed to when you first ran the apps, is between YOU and SONY, right? I don’t see how Richer Sounds are fobbing you off with that lie that it’s nothing to do with them!
They’re the retailer, the contract isn’t legally-binding anyhow if it goes against your statutory rights – and any attempt to deny you your statutory rights or delude you otherwise, by a business, is a CRIMINAL offence (not just civil like a breach of contract to supply goods that are fit for purpose).
Threaten them with this: they are making excuses on behalf of Samsung and Sony, instead of living up to their minimum legal responsibilities. These minimums are written into law in the FIRST PLACE to put the pressure and onus onto manufacturers via their money-partners the retailers. NOT so the consumer has to carry the can, it’s tough titty for the retailer, and you need to make this reality clear to them. They are choosing to retail such shady products, it’s THEIR problem, and they’re NOT ignorant of these issues, so don’t let them pretend to be either.
Tell them: it’s cheaper to refund me than to refund me AND pay my court fees, AND pay my time-off-work-to-attend-court compensation, right? If nothing else, make them see it as an accountant does, if they’re not going to respect the human / abuse-of-good-customers element…

I also now own a brick that was once a Sony Blu Ray player and although since purchasing a smart samsung TV which has BBC iplayer I used the Sony version because it never crashed and like you am furious that after three years it’s obsolete.As I licence fee payer I feel ripped off.I should have saw this coming as the same thing happend on My nokia N8 mobile a couple of years ago.Best thing to do is look for a cheap box like Now TV to gain connectivity to apps rather than purchasing a £150 Bluray or £750 Smart TV.Not so bad when a box costing a tenner is obsolete in a couple of years.

Asilon S says:
15 September 2014

I bought an LG smart TV in the sales; 26 Dec 2013. BBC iPlayer stopped working on it about 2 weeks ago, support advised me that LG was working on it but can give no time frame for resolution. I am wondering if this could be the reason. In which case I will be back to Curry’s for a refund.

Mags says:
4 December 2014

i bought my LG dec 2012. iplayer worked for a few months then nothing. The other day it came back onwhen one of the kids checked it, then off again. just did a factory reset and now receiving it again.
I agree with most of above commentary.
1) richer sounds should be clearer at p.o.s. of possible problems. all retailers should.
2) neither lg or bbc helped with my problem. the bbc blamed lg, and lg tech help person swore to action it. I NEVER HEARD BACK FROM HER AGAIN AND WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER LG PRODUCT AS LONG AS I LIVE. i WILL ALSO ADVISE EVERYONE I KNOW NOT TO. SAME GOES FOR IPLAYER, which is a shame as its a useful service run by muppets

R. Simpson. says:
17 September 2014

My Sony smart TV is two years old and no longer supports the iPlayer since three days ago.
As others have stated, that is why we bought the TV,s —- for the apps built in.
I bought the TV from Comet, so no retailer to challenge now.
I sent the beeb a shocker of an email yesterday and am awaiting a reply ( some hope).
On the news today, it was reported that Sony profits are down again, due to rapid decline in their share of the market.
I , after many years of being a loyal customer of Sony, will never buy one of their products again.
R.S.

After reading all these comments, it seems the most sensible thing to do is to get a really good but simple LED TV and then buy a separate streaming device, like a Roku, which is inexpensive and can be easily replaced.

George says:
18 September 2014

“it seems the most sensible thing to do is to get a really good but simple LED TV and then buy a separate streaming device” – Yep agreed with that. I’d certainly recommend SMART TVs to nobody!

So Which, have you asked Panasonic ( for example ) about their laughable “support” and “first class” claim? What was their response? Are they going to step up and give us the support needed which they claim they are committed to, or are they going to continue “ducking” on-going software development costs and license fees etc?

I reference Panasonic because I have one of their poorly supported TVs, and you opened your article with that false claim of theirs. But from these comments it applies to most companies it seems.

R. Simpson. says:
18 September 2014

This is for those with a Sony smart tv and Sony or other blue ray player.
I had my internet connection running via cable from the router to the blue ray first, then from that to the TV.
Sony have stopped any upgrade for the blue ray, but have upgraded the iPlayer on the TV. (2012 model).
I’m pretty confident that it will work now, but all of my cables and connections are hidden, so l have yet to get round to doing it.
I made too good a job of cable hiding etc.
Go to Sony support online, find the model number of your t.v.and chances are you will be o.k., if you also ran your connection via the blue ray player first.

R.S.

R. Simpson. says:
21 September 2014

Well, my cunning plan as posted above, didn’t, work.
Went out and purchased a new Sony blue ray yesterday.( dispite saying never again.)
£89 direct from them and £59 from Tesco.
I now have the latest iPlayer and all the other apps l had before, except the search function on the web.
Which means that l have had to keep the old blue ray linked up on the TV stand table as well to get this function.
I have two tablets which I link up wirelessly to the TV, via a prestigio dongle from Maplin (£25 or £30). I can’t remember, as l bought it about Six months ago.
It works a treat on any model android tablet, but why should l keep having to top up the batteries as they all have a limited life and are £60 to replace each.
R.S.

G Ross says:
30 September 2014

I bought a Phillips Smart TV about a year and a half ago. Only bought it because it had iPlayer, I never use any other Aps. It doesn’t support the new version of iPlayer although worked fine on the old version. I had no idea this could happen. Phillips told me they also had no idea the BBC would do this either and told me to inform the BBc and that is was not their responsibility as manufacturers. It was an expensive TV and I feel ripped off by both the BBC and Phillips and Richer Sounds who sold me the TV.

George says:
4 October 2014

See http://tvplayer.com/compatibility
Another service that Panasonic ( and most others it seems ) wont support on sets more than 2 years old.
And Panasonic are committed to “first class experience” or whatever rubbish they claimed in your opening statement.

Can WHICH give some feedback here as to what’s going on please, else there is little point to it, its just a list of complaints. Thanks.

George says:
4 October 2014

TVPlayer – is another example of a Freeview service that does not work on sets more than about 2 years old.

Not sure if its a hardware problem or the companies like Panasonic will not pay the license fee or spend money for software update development.

more info – http://www.tvplayer.com/compatibility
I made a similar post a little while ago that appears to have been deleted? not sure why, wasn’t aware of anything bad in it? Or maybe I did something wrong in error?

R. Simpson. says:
5 October 2014

Bite the bullet guys and do what l did above —- get yourselves one of the latest blue ray players, cos we ain’t going to win.
For an outlay of £59 from Tesco ( £85 from Sony direct)l have both the new one and the one l bought with the smart TV running together.
I now have ALL the apps l could want, by switching from one to the other.
R.S.

In a few weeks, Microsoft is going to stop supporting Windows 7 and you won’t be able to buy it

Wev. Mainstream support for windows 7 ends Jan 13th 2015, extended support ( which includes security updates) ends Jan 14 2020, its just bug fixes you’ll need to pay for between those 2 dates. And as many home users will rarely find bugs I personally won’t be worrying about it.

rosierich says:
5 October 2014

what is extended support? Do you have it if W7 came preinstalled on a home laptop?

Basically extended support is you pay to get things fixed. And if Microsoft fix a bug for user under extended support, they won’t be releasing to everyone like they’ve been doing under mainstream support.

But as a home user all you care about with extended support is you’ll still get free security updates to Microsoft applications. I doubt you like nearly all home users will have ever logged a bug with Microsoft, like excel getting 2*2 wrong.

I would link to the page on Microsoft’s website but its not made very clear there at all.

I hope that helps.

rosierich says:
5 October 2014

That’s really helpful – cheers William

R. Simpson. says:
5 October 2014

I have a friend who is still running Windows 98.
He has never felt the need to upgrade and has not had any problems by not getting updates.
He uses AVG free version only for virus protection.

rosierich says:
5 October 2014

Great! – before I had this conversation with you and William I was all set to buy a new laptop rather than pay the £100 or so to upgrade to Windows 8. Now my trusty 8-year old Acer can do me a while longer 🙂 Thanks

R. Simpson. says:
5 October 2014

My wife’s Acer laptop is 7 or8 years old now.
She refuses to dump it and buy a new one as it has never gone wrong.

Thanks for your input William and R. Simpson. Looks like these tips have been really useful to people on the thread.

And Microsoft do provide support – unlike other software suppliers. Windows 7 launched in 2009 and was replaced by W8 in 2012, so someone purchasing a PC will have had updates available for at least 3 years, 6 years for earlier machines

Chesca Tatum says:
20 October 2014

Thanks for the article Andrew. Netflix app (or Hulu, or BBC, etc) is great on iPad. If live outside USA, you can use tools like UnoTelly to get Netflix (or Hulu, or BBC, etc) on your iPad.

Douglas Mckeever says:
24 October 2014

BBC iPlayer has stopped working on my 3 year old Sony smart TV. All other internet services appear to work ok, as far as I can tell. When I try to connect, I receive the message, “The service cannot be accessed at thia time”. This had begun to happen occasionally. It now appears to be permanent.

Regarding BBC iPlayer you may or may not be aware that the BBC have changed certain aspects of their player which may mean it might not work on some Sony products however I believe this has been fixed for some devices through a firmware update. If you visit the Sony UK forum and visit the Televisions section you should be able to find some answers. I found this information which may assist you:

For 2012 TVs, the BBC iPlayer upgraded to V4 from the 22 Oct. You will need to perform a “Refresh Internet Content” from the network menu.

Forum Link: http://community.sony.co.uk/t5/televisions/bd-p/tv_en_1