Ameya DalviApr 09, 2020 14:08:11 IST
I’ve seen Smart TVs evolve at a fair pace over the past 12 months. I’ve seen the picture and sound on budget TVs get better, and official Android OS get adopted by most of the popular brands. Netflix and Prime Video support, which was missing in the first half of 2019, is also a non-issue now in most cases. But, there are some areas where progress has been scant or non-existent, and I hope that gets addressed this year.
Here are seven things on my wishlist that I hope to see become common in Smart TVs by the end of this year. Some may be very basic, but they matter, and need to be there.
1. A proper TV OS with a good app ecosystem
To be brutally honest, AOSP (Android Open Source Project) based platforms have no place on Full HD and 4K TVs in 2020. In simple terms, AOSP is nothing more than a basic phone platform repurposed for TV. In the majority of cases, the video resolution is capped at 480p or 720p, even for services like Netflix and Prime Video, thus not letting you get the best out of your high-resolution TVs. AOSP is serviceable at best on 32-inch or smaller TVs with 768p resolutions or lower, but the experience is really bad on larger screens. The paying consumer deserves better.
The other prominent issue ailing Smart TVs is the lack of a decent app ecosystem, especially on Linux-based TV OSes. Some of these TVs can play content at a higher resolution in apps like YouTube or Netflix, but most of them lack support for popular Indian services like Hotstar, Sony Liv, etc. And this has been an issue for a long time. Since these brands are looking to sell their TVs in India, the knowledge of what Indian consumers prefer to watch should be put to good use and not put on the back-burner.
Either the TV manufacturers should upgrade their respective OSes to address the above issues, or opt for more matured platforms like Official Android for TV, or Amazon’s Fire TV OS.
2. Ultra HD (4K) TVs based on Fire TV OS
Speaking of Fire TV OS, this platform certainly deserves better. Onida released a couple of models on this platform at the start of this year — one 32-inch HD ready model, and one 43-inch Full HD one, and that’s that. I had a great experience with its 43-inch TV and have been looking forward to more. Surprisingly, there is no news about any other manufacturer looking to release newer models based on Fire TV OS. Nor have I heard anything concrete about bigger 4K models from Onida.
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K is one of the finest media streaming devices in India, and a combination of that with a good quality display would be a recipe for success, or so we think. Hopefully, some good TV manufacturers will soon start thinking along those lines too. I’m looking forward to a bunch of quality Fire TV OS based 4K TVs later this year, and with good sound too, I hope.
3. An improved Prime Video app
The Prime Video app made its way on to Official Android TVs in the second half of last year. It is sort of hard coded on those TVs as it still isn’t available on the Google Play Store for TVs, and hence cannot be updated from time to time either. The app is sluggish, buggy at times, and a shadow of its avatar on Fire TV OS. This is the case with the Prime Video app on several other popular TV platforms too. A revamp is overdue, and I hope it happens soon.
4. Faster boot times
Pretty much self-explanatory that. Boot times for most Official Android TVs still hover around the 40-seconds mark. This really needs to come down to well under 30 seconds. The Philips Smart TV based on Saphi OS that I reviewed recently would boot in about five seconds. I know it’s a different OS, but still, 40 seconds is too slow. Thankfully, almost every TV released in the past couple of quarters, except the ones from Xiaomi, has incorporated an instant resume from standby feature. It’s time to reduce boot times, too.
Can be done, should be done.
5. A viable Chromecast alternative
All Official Android TVs have Chromecast built in, and let you cast content from compatible apps onto the TV. All other TVs support mirroring at best. Mirroring is not the same as casting and it is quite counterproductive. Nothing much has changed in Miracast as a technology in a while. Either it needs to evolve to a point where one can do selective mirroring, especially when watching videos, without keeping the source device entirely occupied, or manufacturers need to look for a viable alternative to Chromecast. Yes, this is more of wishful thinking, but it’s not entirely outside the realms of possibility.
6. Easy to reach ports
This is a very simple wish. In fact, some manufacturers have been doing the right thing by placing the ports closer to one edge of the TV rather than near the centre. I would like to see all of them do this. Once you wall mount a TV, it is very difficult to reach the ports if they are closer to the centre. The problem grows manifold as the size of the TV increases. For 55-inch and larger screens, they are nearly a foot and a half to two feet away from the edge, making it near impossible to reach them.
You cannot expect one to unmount the TV to simply connect an HDMI cable, can you? Something as simple as placing the ports six to eight inches from the edge can solve this problem. All you need is a common-sense design approach at the back of the TV. It has been done before, and it needs to be done by everyone from here on.
7. Desktop stand at the centre of the TV
This is an even simpler wish. The Majority of manufacturers today opt for a pair of desktop stands that connect to the device near the left and right edges of the TV. If you plan to wall-mount the TV, this is inconsequential. But it poses a problem for those who choose to place their TV on a desk. The problem is simple, one needs a broad enough table or platform to accommodate the stands at either end. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to accommodate such a wide stand.
A centre stand eliminates that problem and lets you place a much larger TV on a much smaller desk. It would be nice if manufacturers can give this a serious thought and save consumers some space and furniture cost.
These are a few things that I would like to see in Smart TVs over the next few months. If there’s something that you would like to add, I’d love to hear about it!
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