Updated: Smart TV in 2016: How Android TV, webOS + others are changing the game


The world of Smart TV has been an absolute shambles for years. Interfaces are shonky and features clunky.

The maturation of Smart TV has been appallingly slow, with all the big names pulling in different directions and causing themselves all manner of problems.

The problem is that with every big brand developing their own systems and with no open standards, diversity and non conformity has led to overwhelmingly poor user experiences.

It’s the exact opposite situation to the way the industry adoption of Android as a mobile OS has supercharged the smartphone industry and enabled it to grow exponentially.

You only need to look at how all the big TV brands have been radically changing their Smart TV platforms every year to see how they’ve been really struggling to get it right.

Android TV
Sony’s Android TV is as easy to use and as helpful as your other Google devices

LG leads the charge with webOS 2.0

LG has been the front runner in Smart TV for two or three years and took a big lead in the Smart TV wars when it bought webOS and started shipping the formerly mobile OS on its TVs at the start of 2014.

Mobile operating systems adapted for the big screen appeared to be the silver bullet for Smart TV.

Meanwhile, the rest of the big hitters laboured to get things right. But the great news for anyone thinking about buying a new TV this year is that in 2015, Smart TV has finally come of age in an unprecedented industry-wide way.

webos 2 0
LG’s webOS has been joined in the Smart TV winner’s circle by Android TV, Tizen and Firefox OS

LG has launched all its 2015 range with updated webOS 2.0 which is bigger and better than ever.

And the other big brands – namely Sony, Samsung, Sharp and Panasonic – but many smaller players as well, have effectively scrapped their bespoke Smart TV systems in favour of adopting a similar model and buying in mature mobile OS’s from established players.

Sony and Sharp TVs in 2015 are now powered by Google’s excellent Android TV system which has now replaced Google TV as the big G’s home entertainment platform of choice. Meanwhile, Samsung is using its own web-tastic Tizen OS to streamline its smart features, and Panasonic has opted for Mozilla’s Firefox OS.

android tv
If you think it should be possible to do on your TV, it now is…

Smart TV has finally come of age

The result is a cosmic shift in the quality of the Smart TV experience across the board. We’re talking operating systems that can competently handle multitasking, boot up in seconds and offer the kind of experience that users have come to expect rather than wasting our time with poor interfaces, slow apps and incomprehensible design.

Sony and Sharp’s Android-powered TVs are now fully integrated with Google Now, so you can talk to your remote and find what you’re looking for as fast as you’d be able to on your phone.

With TV’s coming with 16GB internal storage, you can install all your favourite mobile apps on your living room screen

You can now pause a Netflix stream, exit to the BBC Weather app, look at your EPG and then return to Netflix and resume without having to boot every app from scratch every time.

android tv games
Play your favourite mobile games on your big screen

You can install the same games that run on your phone and use Bluetooth controllers like the PS4’s DualShock 4 pad to play them in high res on your big screen.

And because the software is universal, developers no longer need to port their apps, games and services into 20 different systems, meaning there’s more content to look at, more games to play and more functionality to explore.

firefox os
Panasonic TVs are now running the excellent Firefox OS open platform

IOT and the digital home

And this is just as big a boost for the Internet of Things as anything else. With TVs now running the same software as everything else, their ability to talk to the other electronics in your home – whether its your fridge, your washing machine or your kettle – is now massively improved.

So in 2015, with your TVs, Blu-ray players, phones, tablets, smartwatches and home appliances all running on the same platforms, the Internet of Things can mature and the digital home finally has a chance to become a reality.

You’ll just need to choose your brand and your platform wisely because you’ll likely be tied in for many years to come. Watch this space.

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