What is Smart TV or Connected TV?
Latest news for Smart TV and Connected TVIf you’re buying a TV or Blu-ray player today, the chances are that it will come with ‘smart TV’ or ‘connected TV’ - but should this make a difference?
There’s no easy answer, and it’s quite likely you already have a smart TV or connected TV device, but you don’t even know it.
Smart TV and connected TV are catch-all terms for home entertainment devices that can connect to the internet via your broadband connection to get hold of films and TV shows, go on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, read news and weather, or play games.
Just about everyone making home entertainment kit has seen the money that other people are making, and they want a slice of it for themselves.
The upshot is that games consoles are becoming video streamers, TVs and Blu-ray players are becoming games consoles, and we can all do a lot more with just one piece of hardware. It’s also launched a new category of device: the smart TV adapter, which lets you connect to internet-based services on any TV.
'Appiness starts with iPlayer
The minimum requirement for anything in the UK to be a smart TV device is a BBC iPlayer streaming video player, and you’ll usually find a YouTube browser as well.
That’s because they’re both supplying free content, and most brands will spend money on software development to make sure they have iPlayer.
There are also catch-up video players from ITV (ITV Player), Channel 4 (4oD and Film 4oD) and Channel 5 (Demand Five), but they’re nowhere near as widely-available as iPlayer.
These make your new TV or games console more attractive to buy, but it’s the paid-for services that make money for the manufacturers, who get either a slice of cash from each rental or subscription, or a fee for being on their platform.
The entry-level paid-for service is Acetrax, a pay-per-view HD film library that’s on Panasonic, LG, and Samsung TVs. You’ll also find the subscription-based Netflix and Lovefilm, which cost from £4.99/month for streaming HD movies and - with Netflix - TV shows.
More recent arrivals include the potentially game-changing Now TV from Sky, which will become a fully-fledged pay-TV service by late 2012, with a ‘semi-skimmed’ version of Sky’s films, sports, and entertainment channels, including Premier League football and Sky Atlantic.
Most smart TV devices are app-based, like Android and iPhones, so you can connect to an online store to download the apps you want to add to the basic selection delivered with your TV.
Video-streaming apps are usually free, but as with smartphones, games and other apps are usually either ad-funded or paid-for.
Does Smart TV affect my download allowance?
Most of us aren’t used to thinking about how much it costs to transmit the BBC, or even Sky, but with smart TV you have to pay for what you watch as part of your monthly download allowance.
That’s not a problem if you have an unlimited broadband subscription, but even then, some ISPs will restrict video streaming at peak hours to keep their networks from crashing.
Even games can put a heavy load on your bandwidth, because they increasingly use cloud-based processing to create whizzy graphics instead of your TV or set-top box.
What can I do on my Smart TV device?
It might be easier to list the things you can't do on smart TV devices, such as word-processing and text messaging or other tasks better-suited to personal screens like a PC or tablet.
Here are some of the leading smart TV applications:
- Watch on-demand films and TV shows on pay-as-you-go services such as Acetrax, Blinkbox, and NOW TV, or subscription services like Lovefilm, Netflix and (again) NOW TV.
- Catch-up with recent TV shows via the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, or Sky Go.
- Play video games, from simple arcade and puzzle games through the likes of Playjam, to console-style major releases from OnLive or Gaikai.
- Read news headlines or watch video bulletins from Euronews or CNN.
- Watch sports videos and read latest news stories from Eurosport or Livesport.tv.
- Follow and post on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
- Make HD video phone calls via Skype.
- Watch YouTube videos.
- Stream music, videos and photos from your smartphone or tablet.
Who makes Smart TV devices?
Many TV, Blu-ray player and home electronics manufacturers have a smart TV platform through which you can board a variety of smart TV applications and services.
- Apple: Apple TV
- Google: Google TV (made by Sony and LG)
- LG: Smart TV
- Microsoft: Xbox 360
- Panasonic: Smart Viera
- Philips: Smart TV
- Roku: Roku Player
- Samsung: Smart TV
- Sky: Sky On Demand on Sky+HD
- Sony: Sony Entertainment Network on Bravia TVs, Blu-ray products, tablets, phones and PlayStation 3
- Toshiba: Toshiba Places
- Virgin Media: TiVo
- YouView: YouView
- PlayStation 3 YouTube app finally arrives in the UK
- Intel working on Netflix-style service and set-top box
- Crackle's free on-demand films coming to Samsung and LG sets
- Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 11 puts the smart in smart TV
- Big names ahead: YouView, Google TV and Apple TV
With Sony expected to reveal the PlayStation 4 any day now, it seems like an odd time for a standalone YouTube app to land on the PlayStation 3 in the UK. Still, better late than never right?
The new YouTube app for PlayStation 3 is similar to the Wii U app, featuring an easy to navigate acrostic-style menu plus the option to sign in an access your favourites.
Where available, there’s 720p HD video streams and you can also pair an iPad or Sony tablet to watch videos on your TV and have multiple devices paired at once. It’s a vast improvement on the browser-based affair which we put up with before and a welcome addition to the PS3’s Smart TV arsenal.
Our American and Canadian friends have been able to enjoy this for a while now, it’s just hard cheese that us Brits and those on the continent have had to wait so long. Quite how much this will catalyse PS3 sales at its successor is days away from being announced is another matter...
Image courtesy of iBurbia's Twitter feed, which has posted done a quick hands-on with the app itself.
February 15, 2013
Intel is working on a Netflix-style smart TV service and a connected set-top box that it hopes to launch this year.
The company, which previously made chips for Google TV sets, announced its plans at AllThingsDigital’s D: Dive Into Media conference yesterday.
Intel Media's corporate VP Erik Huggers revealed that talks with content providers are happening but he declined to drop any names.
As well as launching hardware and streaming software, Huggers also outlined plans to deliver TV without heavily eating into people’s data plans. Subscribers with slower speed broadband packages, often without the safety net of unlimited downloads need to keep an eye on things like Netflix and Lovefilm.
Speaking of keeping an eye on things, the Intel TV set-top box reportedly will feature a camera which can track movements and recognise who is on the sofa. The idea is that when a family all sits down to watch a movie, the box will recognise this and queue up family friendly films (and adverts) when you’re on your own you’ll be served your personal favourites as well as adverts specifically tailored for you.
Quite how all this personalisation data, adverts and video on demand content will be piped over a broadband line without chowing down on bandwidth is another thing but as Huggers says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” That’s true, but if Intel plans to launch this as-of-yet unnamed service this year, Rome will have to do some hurrying up.
February 13, 2013
Crackle, the Sony-owned video on-demand service, is now available in app form on Samsung and LG smart TVs.
Unlike Netflix, Lovefilm and the rest of the video on demand gang, Crackle’s unique angle is that all of its movies and TV shows are free to stream.
Though the selection is less wide-ranging and not as front-loaded with recent blockbuster hits as its rivals, you’ll never pay to watch anything you find on Crackle.
Formerly only available online, on iOS and Android and on a handful of Sony connected devices, Crackle will be also be heading to Samsung Blu-ray players in the future as well as Samsung smart TV sets.
January 28, 2013
Bang & Olufsen has launched the BeoVision 11, the first smart TV set from the Danish design company.
There’s an emphasis on style here; the BeoVision 11 comes in 44-inch, 46-inch and 55-inch editions, all Full HD 1080p and all understated minimalist squares available in silver or black.
Within each frame sits six speakers, each with their own amplifier, promising a rich audio experience right out of the box. If you want to connect exterior B&O surround sound speakers, there’s a built in module allowing you to do this.
Other features include 360 degree Automatic Picture Control which senses the ambient light from all around the room and adjusts the brightness accordingly.
All of the BeoVision 11 panels can display 2D and 3D video, come with six HDMI ports, two USB ports, WiFi and DLNA compatibility.
The BeoVision 11 works with Apple TV, NAS servers and practically every type of external drive. There’s also the option buy a BeoVision 11 with a 500GB hard drive built in should you wish - the standard models don’t come with one.
In terms of smart TV features, there’s a web browser built in plus BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Facebook apps - all standard features of a smart TV these days but welcome ones. You can access the BeoVision 11’s apps using the remote which comes included or if you’ve got a new iPad or Nexus 7 then you can download these BeoRemote apps and turn your tablet into a snazzy control.
But how much does one expect to pay for this luxury?
- 40-inch: £5,250
- 46-inch: £6,750
- 55-inch: £9,499
- With the 500GB hard drive: £599
- With a wall bracket: £355
- With a motorised floor stand: £725
Perhaps something for lottery winners, shipping magnates or those who are married to the B&O brand in the same way iPhone owners are the Apple brand.
October 11, 2012
YouView is a combination of Freeview HD and smart TV, which not only gives much better red button services but has all of the free broadcasters’ on-demand catch-up TV services via broadband. It will also host paid-for services from Now TV, among others.
Google TV is like Android for the big screen, and already has thousands of apps including video players, music players, and web browsers. The first UK products will come from Sony and feature their own extensive media store.
Apple TV is a tiny set-top box that features Netflix and iTunes, but it doesn’t have iPlayer or any other UK catch-up apps. Apple fanbois are salivating at the prospect Apple may integrate it with a big-screen TV by the end of 2012.
October 10, 2012