/ 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

Loss of functionality within a few years is obviously an important issue for anyone considering purchasing a smart TV. With computers, there are sometimes ways of getting round obsolescence, but few options with a TV.

With most TV faults, the law is clear that the retailer has limited liability for six years after purchase (five in Scotland) but the legislation was created long before we had smart TVs and other products dependent on software and services that are independent of the manufacturer.

Every TV manufacturer will be aware of the problem, but I see little chance of a coordinated effort to find a practical solution. We need legislation and standards that manufacturers to work to. Hopefully Which? can do something to help set the wheels in motion and perhaps tell us if any manufacturers are doing more than others in finding solutions.

George says:
2 February 2015

Yep, from bad to worse 🙁

Just noticed on my Panasonic TVs YouTube app today, a nice text box saying “Please be aware that as of 20th April 2015, Google will no longer support the YouTube app on this device. Please visit http://youtube.com/devicesupport for more information. Note: On the Google page you can leave feedback – hint hint 😉

I guess that means both Panasonic ( those nice people committed to customer service etc as they claimed to Which ) AND Google and the rest of them are going to get away with it.

I have learned one lesson and I think Which should consider this in any future Smart TV tests – Recommendations: If you want smart facilities DONT buy a smart TV. Support will end in a year or so and the apps will start be removed in 2-3 years. Save some money, get a cheaper TV and add a cheaper streaming device like a Roku Streaming stick ( or similar ) for £35-£45.

Then if in a few years that stops working, its cheap and easy to get a newer version. AVOID smart TVs they are cons!

Any comment from Which on the progress of this campaign?

loosecanons says:
3 February 2015

I’ve just noticed this on my Panasonic TV.
As it has a 5 year warranty from Panasonic themselves I am going to ask for a new model. I don’t hold out any hope but they need to know how unhappy this makes their customers

Skyeye says:
11 February 2015

Totally agree.
I look after my stuff and it usually plods on above ten years, but my shiny Samsung Blue Ray player started to sink when BBCi became unsupported a few months ago, now You Tube is being dropped in March.

I don’t tend to use its blue ray player attributes which are very good – but I bought it for its BBCi and You Tube streaming abilities.

It’s a bit of a connivance between the streaming providers and the manufacturers. If it costs the manufacturers a license fee and that will not be continuously supported, the manufacturer should tell their customers at point of purchase.

Wayne says:
12 April 2015

Spot on !

Bimbonot says:
17 April 2015

I purchased a Roku HD box about £80 to stream TV like channel 4 on demand, and other catch up tv plus you tube. It has not disappointed, unlike my “smart” Sony TV which seems less smart but a bril TV though, just wish I had gone for a non smart version and saved £’s

Richard Harris says:
23 February 2015

I use a PANASONIC Blue ray player and have received the same message that Google will not support Youtube after April 20st. This has been my most favorite App as i love to play old video’s of country artists. Is there a way to upload version 3 of the software?

George says:
28 February 2015

Ive asked Panasonic in the past if the apps could be transferred from the newer sets to the older sets ( or vice-versa ) and they were not interested. A definite NO!

Even, if they could get the newer versions of the apps into the store for the older sets as a replacement when the older apps expire. Again NO!

I’m sure it could be done in some cases at least ( recompile of the code or similar minor tweak ) but they don’t appear to be interested in doing it. I guess they’d prefer you to buy a new TV or BR player every two to three years to keep the services running.

George says:
28 February 2015

I was in contact with Panasonic again, as my ‘Daily Motion’ video app is now apparently not working.
They have asked me to try a few things on the set, and claim that the service is still functioning OK. Investigating. The last option they suggested being contact ‘Daily Motion’ not us.

However, they did state in the reply “To continue, we inform you that the services through VIERA Connect are operated by their respective service providers, and service may be discontinued either temporarily or permanently without notice. Therefore, Panasonic will make no warranty for the content or the continuity of the services” which to me is a bit different to the “‘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.” statement they gave Which.

The reply they gave me, seems to say “tough luck, the service ends when it ends”, hardly committed to customer service.

My advice, stay clear of SMART TVs, get a cheaper non-smart set and an add-on streamer like a ROKU or similar IF you want SMART., especially in the light of Panasonics recent reply (above) which includes “Therefore, Panasonic will make no warranty for the content or the continuity of the services”.

Tim Tester says:
9 March 2015

As the various manufacturers (Panasonic, Sony etc) seem to blame the app providers not themselves for the poor support, couldn’t Which contact Google in the case of the YouTube app which is about to be removed, on Google’s link https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6098135?p=yt_devicesupport&hl=en-GB&rd=1 then click the ‘upgrade the data API’ link, and comment and explain who you are, the purpose of your campaign, and ask them directly why they are removing support so soon?

Alan says:
24 March 2015

From the link to google’s blog given above, there are many comments re a ‘class action’.

Could WHICH please comment to say if in their legal opinion such an action is either possible or likely to succeed? If so, could WHICH launch such an action on your members behalf or at the very least advise about how to proceed IF its thought likely to get a positive result.

The google YouTube App expires in less than one month, about 3 years after some of these smart TVs were purchased. As it happens to be withdrawn during your WHICH campaign, to me it seems an ideal case in point for you to challenge.

Additionally, there are a lot of comments in both blogs, but no response from WHICH themselves to say what you are actually doing or trying to do. Some feedback would assist.

steven Adelson says:
25 March 2015

Hello

I am ‘another’ ‘VERY UPSET’ Panasonic Vierra – You Tube user.

It took a long time to consider to purchase this item, if they really do take out You Tube,
that’s it, I am ‘Not’ going to be quiet about it anymore… every one of my 267 relatives,
friends and people I talk with will hear my story and hopefully remember my conversation
and stay away from Panasonic.

People remember bad news over good news everytime… come on Panasonic, how many millions of people go on and use You Tube for a million different reasons, it was a huge deciding feature when purchasing this TV, now they just give us a month to take it away permanently ??? – it is time to remember 2nd choice Sony who seem to be going overboard in bringing back their customers.

If someone knows how to put together a class-action law suit, please contact and include me.

Panasonic needs to stand behind their products and services, not Cancel at their whim.

Thank you

A few posts previously, George has explained that the TV manufacturers can give no guarantee that they will carry any particular service provider’s output. It might be because a supply contract ends and the manufacturer and the service provider cannot agree on terms to continue, or there might be some other reason. Whatever the cause, this potential loss of service should be made clear to intending purchasers, whether by the retailer of their own volition or only if directly asked is a moot point that will no doubt have to be wrangled over by the lawyers. I would argue that since the ability to access many more services than are possible through a ‘regular’ TV this is a critical part of its functionality that is reflected in the price and therefore has a bearing on the purchase contract even if not explicitly declared at the time. When considering the purchase of a new TV in John Lewis last year we were properly informed by the sales Partner of this potential limitation with smart TV’s. We bought one because we liked its overall TV performance. We haven’t made any use of its ‘smart’ features yet. It’s probably increasingly unlikely that you can buy a decent TV now that isn’t a smart TV; if there is a particular application or function that is critical to your purchase decision it is advisable to tell the retailer directly and check its availability status. It might even be worth renting a TV while all these developmental issues are still in a state of flux.

With computers we generally manage to accommodate changes in technology and for many years I have been installing software updates without problems, so that services such as iPlayer carry on working. If computers can be updated easily, the same should apply to smart TVs.

Am I right in thinking that the operating system in a smart TV is inaccessible to users?

I will leave that for someone else to answer, John. I would also be interested to know if TVs have proprietary operating systems or if there are common standards, as have developed with computer and phone operating systems.

D Johnson says:
27 March 2015

I am most disappointed to find that in less than a month my Panasonic Smart TV will no longer be able to receive U Tube. I chose Panasonic for its reliability and new technology against much cheaper TVs thinking it would be of use for a considerable period of time, 4 years is not enough for an expensive model. I note many others people are similarly affected; what are our legal rights under the sale of goods act and is it possible for an agreement to be made between Google and Panasonic to continue the service?

Mjay says:
27 March 2015

I wanted to see what other people thought about this and unsurprisingly there are a lot of annoyed consumers. Consumer being the correct word as we are not customers any more. We are all marks. I am starting to think that it is best to learn to live without as all this technology is full of empty promises and only serves to screw us out of more money for things we do not really need.

So many things I have bought in recent years have stopped working in two to three years. I save up hard to buy nice things then constantly have to keep replacing them, the old ones often still serviceable if only the software could be updated. I recently purchased a new Panasonic smart Blue-Ray player and it is barely fit for purpose. It is slow, crashes a lot and half the functions do not work as sold. It was very expensive too. I feel very cheated and increasingly angry at being constantly ripped off.

I am tired of it and think that the future revolves around living with less and to stop being fooled by it all. I have some really old AM/FM radios that are sill working after forty plus years (before I was born) yet a digital WiFi radio I purchased two years ago has stopped working. It was my second one in about four years, each one costing me over £100. I will not be replacing it this time. No more digital radios. I’ll go outside and do something more healthy, or read a book instead!

As far as You Tube support goes, older players did not support advertising. I wonder if Google not supporting older players has anything to do with that?

RICHARD KING says:
28 March 2015

TVs no longer supporting apps apps withdrawn A world wide class action suite is needed to stop this practice Utube finishing on Panasonic less than 4 years old False advertising misleading at least at purchase Come on people lets get together and stop this now Imagine if all users got together on this Each payed $1.00 to cover action Thats millions of viewers and millions of $$$ That should wake up utube and the manufacturers as well

It’s probably easier for you to start this on Facebook and build up support than through this channel. Best of luck.

RICHARD KING says:
28 March 2015

Just want to add that Im from New Zealand so if we can do this world wide ……….

pete says:
2 April 2015

Please see this link, it follows the lack of progress we have encountered with toshiba on a netflix issue
http://forums.toshiba.com/t5/Blu-ray-DVD-Players-Recorders/BDX2400-netflix-amp-iPlayer-icons-missing/td-p/644078/highlight/false

mr. X says:
3 April 2015

SPECIFICALLY TO WHICH STAFF.

Is anyone reading these blog posts? Have you any comments or feedback to offer?
YOU started this blog, people have responded but you’ve added nothing of use.

Soon (20th April) as people have said above the YouTube app will be removed from some sets, have you done anything to follow this up? There’s been talk of class actions and requests for advice from you, again no comment?

Are you serious about this campaign? If so surely the YouTube specific example ( and others like the recent removal of Netflix and iPlayer from some devices ) are perfect examples for your campaign to ‘attack’, yet apparently nothing from you.

Can someone from WHICH please comment?
Thank you.

Hi from the tech team at Which? – our apologies for appearing quiet of late on this forum, and we’ve not joined in with comments as often as we should have. But it’s been tremendously helpful to have had such an overwhelming response from others who’ve commented. We’re continuing to drive on this issue behind the scenes, and the numerous examples that the commenters on this site have brought to light have really helped us to gauge the scale of this issue and the impact it has on consumers.

We are imminently meeting with representatives from the major TV manufacturers to discuss a variety of issues, including our feedback on their products, and we’ll be ensuring that the problem of commitment to maintaining the smart TV apps that prompted purchases in the first place is properly discussed. We’ve had responses previously from the main manufacturers, but we’re seeking to influence them further and to drive some real commitment to customers.

The scale of the problem has only increased since we first made comment on this issue, and the comments and experiences shared by everyone on this site help us to drive the discussions with manufacturers. Thanks to everyone who’s spoken up, and please be reassured that we’re very much listening and we’re primed to take this further.

mr. X says:
7 April 2015

Thanks for the feedback.

Any chance of contacting Google as well as the various TV manufacturers, re their YouTube app which is about to be removed?

Thanks again.

A user of a Panasonic TV. says:
3 April 2015

Thus us a blog post from 2014. Perhaos Which are not longer campaigning on this issue and therefore less interested in people’s views.

mr. X says:
3 April 2015

Sadly for us, may be you are right. But if that’s the case I guess the campaign failed as the TVs etc are still losing their apps after a few years 🙁

Still a quick closing statement from WHICH would not go a miss.

Kate says:
5 April 2015

So disappointed that my You tube will be removed as from the 20 April 2015. I bought this Panasonic Viera Smart TV after careful consideration and did not mind paying extra for getting bbci and Youtube on it but what a let down! Shouldn’t we be compensated for services we paid for?

James Phillips says:
8 April 2015

Google, You-tube and Panasonic are RAT B**ds!! My purchase if the Blue-ray Recorder DMR-BWT700 / 720 / 820 was highly influenced by the sales rep’s comments regarding the use of You-tube on the Blue-ray and that it will be removed as from the 20 April 2015 is not good customer relations. I bought this Panasonic Vieira Blue-ray recorder after careful consideration and did not mind paying extra for getting YouTube on it but what a let down! I will be informing every one I know of this poor treatment and I know lots of people.

Wayne says:
12 April 2015

Gutted that I lost iplayer first from my Sony bd e370 player now to find out on the 20th April will be loosing utube , I use the onLine service more than the DVD player having the freedom to watch what I want when I want , I can use other devices for utube but feel I will be loosing sound quality due to the Sony TV not having a audio socket

The retailer should notifie the buyer of this issue but that’s never going to happen !

IanC says:
14 April 2015

Having noticed only last night that Google is withdrawing YouTube from my Panasonic “Smart” TV next Monday, I must fully support and endorse all the above comments. As an electronics engineer, I have bought many Panasonic appliances for their features, engineering, support and reliability.

I the light of this action, I shall be reviewing my continued support for Panasonic.

Ian

Andy says:
14 April 2015

I find it absolutely disgusting that I will lose the Youtube app from my Panasinic TV, all I will say is that I will now be telling friends and colleagues what’s happened!!

[This comment has been slightly tweaked to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Hi Andy, as Rich mentioned above, we’re soon to meet with representatives from the major TV manufacturers, including Google, so the tech team will be discussing this matter. They’ll have an update to share soon.

Here is a question that could be put to the major TV manufacturers, Andrew.

I would like to buy a smart TV that has features that will still work in ten years time, a reasonable working life for a TV. Can I be sure that if I buy one of your TVs it will meet this requirement?