/ 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.

George says:
15 April 2015

Some slight good news for a change. My 2011 (dt30) Panasonic set had a software upgrade last night. Its given me access to some of the ‘streaming’ channels like “Motors”, “TVPlayer” and “Vintage TV”. But not all of them, “VuTV” and “Vision TV” still say my set does not currently support the service.

YouTube is still claiming its about to be removed though 🙁

Still, a small step in the right direction at least.

My only reason for buying my Sony streaming box was for bbci player and youtube!

As these are the two apps are the ones that are destined to go I feel I have been cheated, by Sony!

StevenJ says:
20 April 2015

I am absolutely gutted that the you tube app is going from my panasonic tv and hope we can do something about it. I use it a lot and as someone has suggested it may be down to the advertising. I didn’t realise there wasn’t any on the smart tv but surely if they found a solution to that we would still have it and put up with the ads.

George says:
20 April 2015

TO WHICH – YouTube app ceased.

Oh well, from the slight good news above to very bad news. As promised by google their youtube app has been withdrawn today. No more youtube on my Panasonic ‘smart’ TV.

Due to lack of real support from Which, I think I’ll cancel my Which membership. The one time I’ve really needed your support and nothing was there except a few comments.

Which membership down by one.

Hi George, thanks for your post – I’m sorry to hear that you’ve thinking about cancelling your Which? membership, because of this matter.

As Rich previously mentioned, we’re imminently meeting with the major TV manufacturers, including the problem with the Youtube app removed from some models. We’re soon to publish an update about it, too.

If you decide you still wish to stop the subscription, you’re more than welcome to call Member Services on 01992 822 800.

Nick says:
20 April 2015

I too am dismayed to see that the YouTube app has been stopped on my Panasonic PVR; this makes the Panasonic smart TV offering even more pathetic than it was already. The only useful app left is BBC iPlayer (and Netflix for those prepared to pay). I had been hoping that, rather than lose apps, we would over time get new ones supporting the likes of 4OD, ITV Player and Demand5. Something I have been waiting for since I bought it in 2012.

In my opinion, in order to be described as a smart TV, ALL catch-up TV services should be present on ALL Smart TVs as an absolute minimum. I do hope this somewhat wider issue up will be addressed by WHICH at the same time as the YouTube question.

Tim Debagio says:
22 April 2015

I too have lost YouTube on my Sony W32HX753. There’s another app on it called YouTube TV – it’s been there a while and I tried it a few times but found it sluggish. Now I’ve been forced to try it again now the original YouTube app is gone – however it doesn’t work. It either tells me ‘Not enough memory’ or crashes completely. I’m seriously unimpressed; the convenience of YouTube on my TV was a major buying point. Thankfully I can still get YouTube via my Wetek Play but the point is I bought the television for a reason and the manufacturer isn’t fulfilling their side of the bargain. Hope to hear something positive in the coming weeks about this issue but I’m not holding my breath.

Matthew Cotton says:
25 April 2015

Same problem with my Sony Bravia . It keeps saying not enough memory. Wondering if there is a streaming device or memory device available to get around this issue?

Marlene Ray says:
30 April 2015

I have gone back to my supplier with the receipt, for my Sony smart tv that no longer gets you tube or Facebook, the 2 apps I wanted when I purchased the tv which 3 years ago hadn’t even been made. I have said that the tv is no longer fit for purpose, if I wanted a basic tv I would have purchased a £200 one. I will not be fobbed off. The tv is not any longer the tv I purchased, and I want my money back or the apps restored for the life of the tv.

Rita Lupton says:
12 May 2015

I lost YouTube on my Samsung smart TV 11th May. . I watched this a lot and am very disappointed. It is only 3yrs old TV set

badwulf says:
14 May 2015

How is your attempt to cite sale goods act going?

Steve says:
24 April 2015

I think its one BIG con! I cannot see why the TV internal firmware cannot be updated to respond to the new API upgrade, they are all trying to pull a fast one! It is part of a silly game that all manufactures play today, making you constantly upgrade!

Our current Panasonic still has 18 months left of its 5 year guarantee and replacement is no option with this still left to run.I got around the problem by buying an Android TV box from ebay for £30 that does loads more than ever the internal Smartware did on the Panasonic?

Next time the television requires replacement we will just buy a standard “Dumb TV” and plug, in the clever box.

James Grinter says:
3 May 2015

It doesn’t even require TV firmware updates. In Panasonic’s case, most of the “interface” for the “smart” TV services is hosted on the Internet by each service provider.

But the YouTube app was clearly put together by Panasonic and not YouTube/Google themselves, and for whatever reason (in absence of any official statement, I’d guess it’s a financial/marketing decision, but it could be that Google wanted to impose different terms to continue to access YouTube’s new advertising-centric APIs) Panasonic have decided not to update the interface for the older model TVs.

Sue says:
25 April 2015

I am in Australia. Brought my Panasonic smart TV just over 12 months ago. Very expensive. I already had a tv but wanted a smart TV for only one reason, YOU TUBE! On the 20th April the App was no longer supported. I feel so disheartened and ripped off. I left Apple for the same sort of crap games they were playing with consumers. YES panasonic can fix this but choose not too. Google are just as responsible. Its it a breach of contract when you buy something bases on being told it has something that it doesn’t or it is time limited but no one tells you? If someone told me I was going to spend $1000 on a TV that was useless to me in 12 months I would never have brought it!! Last Smart TV I will ever waste my money on. I have informed 3 friends and 5 family members who were in the process of updating to a smart TV so at least they won’t get burnt. B***tds.

Karen Grantham England says:
28 April 2015

The Apps service has been withdrawn from April. I have had the TV for three years and bought a camera so I could use Skype to speak to my son in Aberdeen. I am so disappointed that I cannot see him on the TV, and will have to call him and just hear his voice. Poor customer service Panasonic your customers will leave you in their droves. I will have to wait for my son to get this other piece of kit that is suggested- yet more expense. Panasonic You have made one older Mum extremely sad

Mark says:
28 April 2015

There is something very odd going on with the Panasonic Youtube app. Quite frankly it stinks. My viera smart tv prompted me to upgrade the software when I switched it on this evening. I carried out the update then but when I went into smart mode and tried to select youtube I could see a small message saying that youtube would be terminated on the 20th. Anyway I selected the icon, did a search in the youtube app and it worked fine! (Don’t forget, this is after the update). Then after turning off (standby) and turning on again the app doesn’t work? So here’s my question. If were past the 20th and the app worked (perfectly) to watch a couple of videos, why, literally minutes later is it blocked? It’s not a technical problem, it’s Panasonic/youtube blocking the app and it would appear lying to us.

Marlene Ray says:
30 April 2015

I have gone back to my supplier with the receipt, for my Sony smart tv that no longer gets you tube or Facebook, the 2 apps I wanted when I purchased the tv which 3 years ago hadn’t even been made. I have said that the tv is no longer fit for purpose, if I wanted a basic tv I would have purchased a £200 one. I will not be fobbed off. The tv is not any longer the tv I purchased, and I want my money back or the apps restored for the life of the tv.

Elena says:
3 May 2015

The same here. We are very frustrated about losing YouTube on our Panasonic Viera Plasma TV. This was the main feature we were taking into consideration buying the TV set only 2 years ago. What a shame to pay for something which was used only for couple of years. Something is certainly wrong with the manufacturer when they replied: “Please go ahead and cancel your membership if you want to…”
My understanding is that we have to be compensated or at least offered a new model of TV!

Ben Parkinson says:
5 May 2015

Found a possible way round this…

I loved the now defunct you tube app on my Bravia but like everyone else the new app does NOT WORK!.

I used the ‘search internet tv’ tab on my bravia for my favourite Youtube gig and hey presto it found it and played it

George says:
5 May 2015
Anita says:
6 May 2015

I bought Sony Bravia smart TV in April 2012 so it’s now only 3 years old. I posted already in January this year about the BBC news app disappearing. After complaining to Sony it came back. You Tube app is gone, now I saw that 5Demand app ( TV channel 5) is being discontinued on 7 May I.e. tomorrow. After paying so much money I could have and should have expected the apps to last for at least 5 years if not longer! This is absolutely appaling that things already paid for are taken away from customers without our knowledge or our agreement.

Kane Roberts says:
10 May 2015

It not just content providers dropping apps because they feel like, its content providers changing their apps so they can charge more for their crap. I am will always be a supporter of free tv over thee air. I am no longer paying for cable, satellite, or internet video if I have to watch commercials too. I dont mind commercials on free TV, thats whats paying the bill but I am not subscribing to commercials. Thats like spending money for a dumb newspaper thats 75% ads.

Simon Kelly says:
10 May 2015

I have just noticed this has happened on our Panasonic TV.
All Panasonic need to do is update the YouTube application to use the new Google API.
There is no excuse not to do this.
I too will be looking to Which? for results.

Andy says:
14 May 2015

Is there anybody from Which available to coment on when the meeting with representatives from the major TV manufacturers including Google will take place?

Tim says:
24 May 2015

Which have published some info in their latest magazine ( June 2015 – page 6 ).
I guess they want you to subscribe to see the responses rather than post a summary here.

Basically, it seems its Googles fault as they “declined to comment”. Panasonic claims to have asked Google to carry on supporting the app but claimed Google declined. Similar story for Sony.

We are told we may still be able to see YouTube through a browser, but of course the 2010 and 2011 Panasonic sets were never offered a browser, and from what I’ve seen from Panasonics browser offering in the later sets, I can see why ( i.e. Its rubbish ).

Personally, I’d have thought if Panasonic ( and Sony etc ) are really that concerned then they could stop offering YouTube as an app to hit back at Google, but I don’t suppose they’ll do that – bad for business. However, Panasonic claim they will make users aware that apps may be discontinued, which I’d assume is good for their business as you’ll need a new TV to keep up every few years. I would have thought the answer is obvious, when a large app provider like Google is commissioned to provide an app, or allowed to put an app into the store, the providers should be contracted to support the app for at least 5-10 years minimum, else the TV companies don’t allow it into the store.

No comment as to if the various TV providers were asked why they cannot put the new app into the old store for the old sets as a replacement app. If Panasonic etc were as concerned as they claim to be surely this is a logical step, but I guess it’ll require investment, testing and updates for the TV companies so I assume sadly this is unlikely to happen.

Apart from that, it appears there is not much hope for the older sets getting the App back or a replacement it seems, (anytime soon at least, if at all).

WHICH – Is the above a reasonable summery?

techie says:
26 May 2015

Well so much for junktube. Personally I wouldn’t spend a penny to support Google, and have no need for any of there invasion of privacy services any longer. That’s right, today I decided I was getting a new shiny Apple phone, not anything android, so much for a Samsung S6, not if uses android, had been waiting to make a decision and wasn’t in a hurry. Google made it an easy decision.

Google invades your privacy everyday and people don’t seem to care. Are you really that stupid??? Think about it. Google is for Google and has forgot who and why there where there at now. Let’s just shut off millions of devices, TV’s, smartplayers, Smart DVD players, Apple devices, we are to big to give a poop about you or those millions of people, is Google’s attitude. Time for a reality check Google. Do no harm is a joke.

If it wasn’t for Microsoft, Apple and there OS systems and other browsers out there Google wouldn’t exist. They have proven time and time again, it’s about the shareholders and not you. Google+ has to be the worst slapped together mishap ever thrown at people. Andorid Kitkat 5 pretty much ruined the Android experience , another junk software piece from Google, to make the shareholders more money.

If it says google, the smart thing to do is avoid it like the plaque. Older devices less than 3 years old are not acient.