/ 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
Chris says:
1 November 2014

Panasonic viera. 2012, last week bbc i player running terrible. struggling load any choice.crashing tv.if it manages to load .cant fast forward or freezes. I bought tv from second hand shop . With 6 month’s warranty. Who is responsible for this app not working in my case ?

It is possible that you have a problem with your broadband connection rather than the TV.

Martlea says:
6 November 2014

Purchased a Toshiba 32UL863B ‘Smart TV’ in late 2011 at great cost. First smart service to go was You Tube XL – thanks to Google simply scrapping this version. Toshiba claimed nothing they could do as hardware of this set not suitable for the new You Tube version.
Now BBC iPlayer have ‘updated’ and this no longer works on the set either, even though it is listed as compatible on the iPlayer website!
Toshiba claim EULA’s (buried deep in the system information) disclaim them from all responsibility for external services/software – although their customer services did suggest I try my luck with a refund from Curry’s under the SoGAct.
BBC clearly don’t test properly and could only suggest getting latest Toshiba firmware update, which I have of course. Toshiba have not update firmware since early 2013 and have no plans to do so as model is now ‘discontinued’ – so much for support.
Of course I could buy a Roku streaming stick or Chromecast etc, and get these services but really why should I have to when the TV was advertised and sold as having them built in?

I’d be interested in Which’s opinion about the EULA – essentially any manufacturer could use this argument

Thegoodlookingbloke says:
7 November 2014

I have just come off the phone to Samsung about the accute lack of apps now available on my £760 smart TV which is 3 1/2 years old. The problem they say is with the companies that supply the apps.
If I lose my iplayer and youtube which thankfully are still installed, I cannot reload them as they are no longer listed.
I have emailed the company I bought it from to see what they are prepared to do but I am not holding my breath.
I am an electronic engineer with many decades of experience and are certain that the reason for the lack of support for the firmware and apps shortcomings is due to some sort of collusion between the TV manufacturers and the companies (LIKE THE BBC) to start to make the TV obsolete so we are forced to replace it with a new model.
TV’s dont go wrong any more as they are much-much more reliable as they dont have the 2 major contibuters to going wrong ie ‘moving parts’ and ‘getting hot’ so they should last very many years.
So the only way to keep the wheels turning is to deliberately degrade the equipment and make sure that all upgrades are NOT backward compatible….. Shame on you manufactures and Apps suppliers. I am hoping that the legal system can one day bring you to book and reveal your dirty cartel type dealings.

R.Simpson says:
7 November 2014

I agree completely TGLB.
How come you still have the iPlayer app on your smart t.v. working.??
That’s the one that nearly all of us here are so p—- off about.
Mine just pops up stating— This is no longer compatible with your device.

R.S.

Thegoodlookingbloke says:
7 November 2014

I am sure that soon that old familiar message “Your Internet TV needs to be updated” will appear whereupon it removes all the apps then re-loads them …. Thats when I recon the iPlayer will disappear from mine too…

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.

rosierich says:
16 November 2014

How annoying – however judging from the number of similar emails in this string now it’s a huge problem and perhaps an organisation like Which will take a proper legal case to the relevant bodies. I agree absolutely that buying a smart tv is pointless the way technology has gone.

Alister Bailey says:
30 November 2014

This thread applies equally to other devices such as mobile phones. The problem is the manufacturers releasing badly tested software that breaks a product.
I have suffered two examples.
Firstly, Samsung “upgraded” the software on my mobile from android gingerbread to android jelly bean. Ever since, my phone just freezes once or twice every day. There is no option to revert the software.
Secondly, I bought a smart TV (lg) last year with an external surround sound. Within one month, there was an upgrade applied and it broke the audio to the surround sound. It has never worked since ( via the HDMI ARC) interface. I feel incensed that manufacturers can remotely vandalise my property!
I really hope Which can get something onto the statute books to help us all with this.

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

Kathryn says:
26 December 2014

We purchased a Phillips smart TV last March. We already had a decent high definition but wanted Netflix built in so my kids didn’t have to share their Xbox. I haven’t been able to keep Netflix streaming for months now. I called Netflix and after several attempts to find the problem one technical support man realized my app was not updated. I still have white writing on red background. Well I called Phillips and asked for upgrade and they said they don’t have any new ones and they have no idea when the upgrade will be available. The upgraded app has been on my phone and laptop for months so what is their problem. I’m so close to buying another tv after not even a year! So disappointed with Phillips! I will never buy another and I will try to discourage anyone else from buying one.

R.Simpson says:
26 December 2014

Kathryn,
I know that many don’t agree with my way out in my above posts, but we are not going to win and if we did, it could take years.
These companies are too big to care.
Don’t buy another TV as that is just playing into their hands.
It’s sale time now’ so just purchase an up to date blue ray player with all the latest apps installed on it.
The Sony blue ray l bought above, to solve the problem cost me £69 and in Tesco l believe its now way down from that price.
It has the BBC up to date iPlayer, Netflix and many others preinstalled for you.
It’s not worth getting wound up about it, for the sake of £40 odd.

Sony users will know this issue only too well. I’ve purchased two devices this year both of which have SMART FEATURES and both devices have now lost functionality due to the vTuner Radio streaming service being suspended. This has now happened 3 times since August this year and Sony refuse to tell their customers anything other than releasing a brief statement to say they’re investigating. Sony have an appalling attitude to customer service and ignore all requests for any updated information.

Likewise the streaming radio provider vTuner Radio ignore all emails requesting support, it’s a terrible situation when the products you buy receive no support from manufacturers or service providers. Fortunately vTuner Radio did resume service again two days ago but the service is now vastly reduced and not what was offered when I first bought these devices. I agree with the first post here, “If your TV or SMART Device 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.

Sony seem to have many issues presently and not just with vTuner Radio, Sony Entertainment Network which is one of their major selling points is now also affected, how long must we endure such an appalling service from these companys?

Thegoodlookingbloke says:
3 January 2015

Sony and the rest of the big far-east giants don’t actually give a sh** about our satisfaction with their products, their priority is to sell their gear and make it redundant as soon as possible so that we buy new stuff.

Unfortunately we are in a loose-loose situation and a few of us disgruntled customers are not going to change anything with these steamroller giants.

As you queit rightly say, they just pass the buck, knowing that we are helpless to do anything.

The next time I get a TV it will be just a dumb cheap HD TV and all the smart features I will put in through other means.

Unlike us Brits who care about giving customer service and satisfaction these foreign bas***ds are just ruthless traders who don’t actually care about anthing except getting our bucks…..

R.Simpson says:
3 January 2015

Do you reckon the Sony online computer system was not hacked into by North Korea, but by someone who purchased one of their Smart T.Vs.

Thegoodlookingbloke says:
3 January 2015

What a good theory, I think I will go along with it as it’s good to think that they arn’t untouchable

Rumors elsewhere on the web suggest that it was contractual issues between both Sony & vTuner Radio but as yet we have received no confirmation of this.

My daughter uses her PS3 to watch things like BBC iplayer on the TV. Whenever iplayer changes she’s forced to download an update to the PS3 to be able to carry on using it.

So surely if Sony can do it on things like the PS3 they should be able to do it on these so called Smart TVs.

Yes Sony do release firmware updates to other entertainment products. However I notice when visiting their user forums that many devices become obsolete very quickly simply because no updates are currently available or Sony stop supporting that device. Both my Sony devices which are less than 10 months old are already suffering issues but until Sony acknowledge that these issues exist and fix them all any of us can do is hope. I joined their user forums in the hope of finding my own answers but instead I discover that Sony themselves play no active role in their community.

I’m old enough to remember buying a separate turntable, amp and speakers instead of a ‘music centre’.
I was able to pick and choose the best components and connect them up.
When a better amp came within my price range I didn’t have to get a new turntable and so on.

Perhaps the same goes for Smart TV’s?
Is it not possible to keep your old telly and get a little black box that does the internet thing?

I guess we must be a similar age, I bought all separate devices in the later half of the 80’s. They have lasted 25 plus years with no issues, that is until my cherished AV/Receiver started smoking!! I bought myself a replacement Sony Home Theater System in May 2014 which I really like but having issues with it already does not give me much hope for the future. It’s not that there’s anything wrong mechanically, it’s just the SMART streaming services which are causing issues.

As with any SMART streaming media device and even those little black boxes, service providers can disappear over-night rendering your cherished devices unusable or at best an expensive paper weight! Legislation needs to change to protect buyers from these eventualities. If a service does go by the wayside then it should be replaced with a suitable alternative or better still give the user the ability to install something better.

Thegoodlookingbloke says:
4 January 2015

Sony, Samsung LG etc are able to sell their goods on the back of all the goodies that come with it like various apps, connectivity etc. But cleverly pass the buck when the services are pulled.

It is a very clever move by them to be able to downgrade our equipment and blame someone else for it.
If they really wanted to give us service, they would ensure that these features were under their control…lets face it they are big enough to do what they want….if they want ?????

Yes that’s true to a degree but as was pointed out to me earlier today on the Sony Forum, companies like the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc, all have their own software which provides these services to our devices. If someone like the BBC for instance changes that software making it no longer work on some devices it cannot be the manufacturer of those devices who is held responsible. How can they repair something which is beyond their control? Service providers and manufacturers need to work more closely to prevent such issues happening in the first instance.

MK_Slinky – You make a valid point, but the manufacturers are presumably aware that their hardware will lose some of features provided due to changes in these services long before what can be considered a reasonable operating life has been achieved. The obvious solution is for manufacturers to liaise with the main service providers so that smart TVs can be easily and cheaply brought up to date by the user.

That’s pretty much my feelings on the issue also! Some streaming media devices use Android allowing users to load whatever App’s they choose. I personally would prefer to have control over what I load on my devices and when. I don’t expect to buy a device which advertises certain features to then have them taken away again without my authority. If we relate this to the motor industry nobody would buy a car if the manufacturer turned up outside your house one night and took your wheels off.

Currently I’m trying to get this debate going as much as possible via Twitter. I’ve been tweeting many organizations recently in the hope that someone will take notice. The likes of @Sony_jpn @SonyUK, @BBCWatchdog, @BucksTS, @whathifi, @WhichUK @vtunerradio to name but a few. Sony cannot be allowed to continuously ignore their customers. We’ve bought our products in good faith and on the assumption they would give us many years of pleasure but realistically this is now just a fantasy! It shouldn’t be this way!!

Thegoodlookingbloke says:
5 January 2015

The car is a good asimile Chris. I have emailed Watchdog on this issue but have had no response at all.
Hope you get something going

Thanks for doing that! I was hoping more people would email them as they usually only investigate issues if they affect people on mass. The current series has now ended and will be back on your screen in the spring so stay tuned. In the meantime you can still Tweet your messages to them @BBCWatchdog Makes sure to follow them first and try to use the #tag to help others find your tweets.

I used a car as an example too, but engine size (and Endowment mortgages). BBC Watchdog may be a good start.

Yep you can count on good old Watchdog! I just sent them this link also, I guess the more reports they receive the better really. Considering the show doesn’t start again until this spring it does at least allow them time to investigate and gather all the relevant information and any feedback from the manufacturers and service providers. Keep Tweeting the links to this page also, there’s a Tweet button at the top of this page if you’ve not noticed it.

I’ve mentioned before the issue of Apple products – I bought an iPod about 2 years ago, but it can only run IOS6. Every month more apps become unusable because they need IOS7 or later (this is product & software from same company). When I sync’d to PC it now shows 18 apps that no longer work

The app suppliers blame Apple, who in turn blame the app developers. The only solution is to buy a new iPod – but that in turn means getting adaptors as the connector on new models doesn’t fit my speakers, dock etc. And what do I do with the old one – more for landfill?

The Apple “acolytes” says you can’t expect things to last for ever, but if I spend £150 plus I would hope the product lasts more than a couple of years. On a Windows PC it might run XP which is no longer supported – but all the programmes still work

Happy New Year! NOT!!! A pop up message has appeared on my Samsung tv advising that the Youtube app will no longer be available after March 2015. An app I use pretty much on a daily basis. I have been in contact with Samsung as I paid a good amount for this tv. They’ve emailed me a response and I’ve been told pretty much the same as the response in the article above. Apps can be removed. Well that may be easy for them to shrug off, but doesn’t help those left with a tv that doesn’t match the description when purchased. In fact apps like Youtube, etc were probably selling points. (reminds me of Endowment mortgages!) It’s a bit like buying a big engined car and after a few years late it reduces to a smaller cc without warning. Yes it still runs, but don’t expect to speed down the motorway! I don’t know whether it’s the manufacture not buying the service (or licence) or whether Youtube are reducing their service. The app may be disappearing by Youtube are still going strong. Therefore, removing the app doesn’t make sense. It could be that companies are trying to get you to buy the service in, at your expense (when it was a free app). Either way there are or going to be a lot of unhappy users who also feel out of pocket, as I do. Doesn’t give you any faith in paying a lot for any tv when there is no guarantee it will do what it says on the tin. Might as well invest in cheap tv/monitor and a computer!! An official body needs to look into this and find out what is going on. Doesn’t seem right!

Perhaps the manufacture should provide an updated gadget, free of charge, which does enable the apps on our appliances, eg Youtube app

I’ve sent message to Watchdog with links to this page

From a Which? review of a Samsung TV: “The TV is ‘evolution kit’ ready, meaning you can buy an upgrade to its hardware and software aspects in future years to stay up to date.”

This sounds interesting, but I would want to know how long this support is available for and how much it would cost. My suggestion is that support should be provided for ten years and covered by the purchase price of the TV.

Just wondering, if you had bought an extended warranty (5 year) from the retailer where would you stand? Would they claim software was excluded?

You’d have to read the small print, if you can actually see it!

Chuckie says:
7 January 2015

The main problem with all of the Smart TVs on the market is that they all run on one version or another of Linux. Most of the graphics utilities, including Flash Player, Java and HTML5, have withdrawn support for Linux. Basically there is no solution now or coming for any of them. Get a set top box.

Set top boxes aren’t immune either, I had a WD TV Live Streaming Media Player, it’s the worst device I’ve ever owned! I got about 3 months use out of it but there were so many issues with the unit itself and lack of any on-board processor caused the device to constantly crash. The WD forums are full of complaints about this device yet people still buy it. Crazy!!

Stacy says:
21 January 2015

I got a Toshiba Smart Tv for Christmas. I specifically chose it for IPlayer. IPlayer has yet to even load! It has also stopped working on my 3yr old Sony TV!! Could’ve saved myself a fortune and got a bog standard tv instead!

samsung smart tv youtube service not available after march 2015 says:
22 January 2015

hi i bought a 2010 40c7000 samsung smart led tv end of 2010 , the main reason i bought this tv for
youtube , i spend £1399 for this tv and now they say i can not use YouTube app after march 2015
this is too bad ,how can i make a complaint against samsung , in the future if i buy a samsung tv
how can i know the stop content services after few years , please help or advice
thanks

anita says:
26 January 2015

Hi I have sony 32″ bravia smart which I bought from Amazon in march 2012. I still have iPlayer working (wonder now how long for) but BBC news app stopped working a few weeks back, icon still there on screen but “app not found”.

Phoned Sony help centre (in Egypt out of all places), they took all the details, said didn’t know if/when app will work again. What a total waste!!
Am wondering if still can go back to Amazon and request money back? I was using the app several times a day.

Here’s yet another example. YouTube app to be discontinued on many devices from 20 April 2015

http://www.sony.co.uk/support/en/content/cnt-hn/prd-tvhc/youtube-app-announcement

http://esupport.sony.com/US/p/news-item.pl?news_id=487

https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6098135

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