The big problem with smart TVs isn’t that they interrupt your viewing with ads or listen to your private conversations like a horrible corporate-branded take on Nineteen Eighty-Four’s telescreens. It’s that they’re unnecessary. They’re the product of companies jostling to remain relevant and desperate to shovel more apps your way.
Of course it makes sense to TV manufacturers to build smart TVs. They get to hawk us a hulking great screen that will become rapidly obsolete, meaning we’ll have to cough up for a new one in a couple of years. And while we struggle with the ridiculously button-stuffed remotes and incomprehensible menus, they’ve got another place to push apps we don’t need and commercials we don’t want to see.
We don’t need all of that crammed into our TVs. A truly brilliant set combines a great picture with decent sound and enough connectivity to hook up the devices you want to use. That it doesn’t look so grotesque that you feel like slinging a sheet over it whenever it’s not in use is a bonus. Beyond those basic features, your TV should get out of the way.
No one in their right mind wants their tweets to pop up on their TV. That Samsung and Yahoo have been working together on a scheme to bring pop-up ads to our television screens just shows how wrongheaded executives at both companies are. We’ve spent years squashing pop-ups on the Web, so it’s obviously now time to force them into our TV viewing.
Meanwhile, voice control for your TV is still basically a feature you use when you’re showing off to friends about all the cool things your newly purchased panel can do. When you’re trying to find something to watch and competing with the various sounds of domestic bliss created by kids, pets and partners, you’ll soon revert back to the trusty remote.
I’m not a luddite craving a return to the soothing hum of the cathode ray tube. I like having access to Netflix, streaming from my iPad and on-demand viewing but all of those things can be supplied by better, cheaper devices like Apple TV or Chromecast. A smart TV is just another dumb beachhead in the battle with awful ads and even more awful apps.
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