What is a smart TV and what can you do with it?
It has been a few years since we discussed the subject of smart TV in detail. However, things have changed in recent years and that is why in this article we once again consider what a smart TV is and what you can do with it.
What is a smart TV?
In principle, you cannot see if the television is smart if it is off. It can be deduced from, for example, the buttons on the remote control: often smart TVs have their own button for, for example, Netflix or Rakuten. However, it is not the button that makes the television smart.
Simply put, a smart TV is a TV that you can connect to the internet and that gives you access to interact with the TV and online content through this internet connection and a user-friendly interface. Where a few years ago different terms were used for these TVs, almost all manufacturers have now switched to the term ‘smart TV’. Broadly speaking, the point is that the TV is connected to the internet and therefore offers extra functionalities that are described below.
The interface has become increasingly important in recent years. We’ve gone from highly sophisticated and extensive menus and pages to a simplistic design, with no bells and whistles and only the most important functions. The current smart TV platforms are all about ease of use; with clear and easy-to-use menus that sometimes no longer occupy the entire image, but lie over your image as a fan or bar.
At the same time, we also see an advance in slightly less user-friendly menus on this type of television, namely the presence of many advertisements and advertisements. Sometimes these take up a large part of the menu. While it may seem strange to see ads on a device you’ve already spent so much money on, chances are your television would have been even more expensive if it weren’t for those ads. Nowadays it is even easier to buy an OLED television for less than 1,000 euros, which may be partly due to the commercial deals that manufacturers can conclude.
Related to this is also the resale of your data, so that others gain insight into what you are watching or what your data is. This is a common method by which television manufacturers make money. If you are not happy with this, do good research on your television and the manufacturer or opt for a non-smart TV if you want to be sure that your data stays with you.
A first part of smart TVs is the ability to connect the TV to different devices and the internet, also known as connectivity. First of all, it is possible to connect your TV wirelessly (via WiFi) or via an Ethernet cable to your router/modem and thus gain access to the internet. This is very important as most functions depend on a (fast) internet connection.
These are all different options for connecting equipment in the house to the TV. Think, for example, of your laptop, your tablet, your desktop and your smartphone. For example, you can display photos, music and videos on your TV, Miracast offers the option to display images from your mobile devices on TV, Google Cast (Chromecast) makes it possible to show content from apps on your TV and so on. by means of.
This allows you, for example, to pause, fast-forward or play back a series or movie from your phone. It is also possible to turn the volume of the television up or down via your phone. There are even manufacturers that make it possible to show the content of TV (for example a TV channel) on your smartphone or tablet. However, this is often incorporated in the manufacturer’s app.
Since there are many different options for connecting devices and streaming media, we recommend that you read our article on connecting your tablet or smartphone to your TV . In addition, we wrote an article about streaming media to your TV .
Control your TV with an app
The operation of smart TVs is also a lot smarter than the operation of traditional TVs. In most cases, manufacturers have developed their own application for smartphones and tablets with which the TV can be operated. This app provides access to your channels, the menus and even additional functions such as launching apps and streaming media. The possibilities of the apps differ per manufacturer. You can read more about controlling your TV in our article about controlling everything with one remote .
Remotes, Voice and Cameras
The operation of a smart TV can also take place in another ‘smart’ way. LG has the Magic Remote with which you can select parts by pointing at the screen: it is a kind of magic wand with which you scroll through the menus in the air. Some remotes have a full keyboard on the back, which makes it easier to type texts. For example, think of search terms, URLs and passwords.
The webcam that some TVs had a few years ago – and which was also used for video calls and logging into your TV – has proven to be too sensitive to privacy issues and voice control is still not simple and accurate enough. As a result, you see few webcams. We do see many voice assistants, with many televisions even having a special button to enable Google Assistant . This way you don’t have to look up every letter of a series yourself, but you can just say this to your remote control.
Apps for smart TVs
Perhaps the most well-known part of the smart TV are the apps. These apps are small programs that are or can be placed on your smart TV by downloading them from the TV’s app store. Apps come in all kinds of categories and the offer is highly dependent on the smart TV operating system that is used. Android TV, developed by Google, for example, offers many more apps than LG’s webOS platform. However, this says nothing about the quality; most platforms provide access to the most popular services. Below you will find a list of the services that you will find on almost every smart TV.
- NPO Start
- RTL XL
- Video country
- Pathé Home
- Prime Video
Smart TVs provide access to an application store where you can download various applications (programs). See your TV as a kind of computer in that respect. You download an application (paid or free) and it is installed on your TV. By default, various apps are often already installed on the TV.
To use a streaming service such as Netflix, Videoland or Disney+, a paid subscription is required, to which you log in with an account. This has advantages, because the app can keep track of where you left off with a movie or series. Even if, for example, this is on your smartphone (where you can also install those apps), you can continue watching from your television where you left off on your smartphone.
Now that we come across more and more streaming services as apps on smart TVs, the speed of your internet connection is also becoming increasingly important. Of course you want to enjoy the videos in the highest quality.
Surfing the Internet
A function that is being paid less and less attention, but which is still present on many smart TVs, is the internet browser. Many smart TVs still come standard with a browser, with which you can in principle visit all websites that you also visit on your other devices. It may not be as convenient to operate as a smartphone, tablet or PC – although TV manufacturers can also supply accessories such as keyboards – but it gives you more options when you’re sitting in front of your TV. Sometimes you can also use the keyboard of your smartphone for input on your smart TV. That just works a little easier.
There are a lot of different smart TV platforms and within those platforms the functions can also differ. It is therefore almost impossible to list all the features of a smart TV, but we can still highlight a few. For example, various manufacturers make it possible to display the image ‘picture-in-picture’. This means that you see TV channel A on a small screen and a connected source (for example, a media player) on the large screen. Here you can choose the sources per window yourself. It is also possible on some platforms to place a Twitter feed over the image so that you can directly tweet about programs, and various smart TVs offer the possibility to record programs on a connected USB disk.
Smart TV platforms
At the moment, there are five smart TV platforms that are the most important and therefore the most used. We see WebOS on LG TVs, Tizen OS on Samsung smart TVs and Android TV can be found on TVs from Sony and Philips, among others. Panasonic has exchanged Firefox OS for My Home Screen and in addition to Android TV there is Google TV.
WebOs and Tizen are basically comparable. The platforms offer similar functions and use a fan/bar that contains all options, functions and resources. The platforms are very user-friendly, fully equipped, beautifully designed and provide access to the most important apps. Want to know more about WebOS? Then read our update on WebOS 6. Everything about the Tizen smart hub can be found in the article ‘Everything you need to know about Samsung Tizen Smart Hub
Panasonic televisions used to work on Firefox OS, but now Panasonic My Home Screen. This is a menu for televisions on which you can do a lot with speech, but with Viera Remote you can also use your smartphone as a remote control.
Android TV is the largest platform and can also be found on TVs from multiple manufacturers. Android TV offers a very large library of apps and has a somewhat busier interface than the aforementioned platforms. Want to know more about how Android TV works? In our article Android TV on a Philips TV we explain more about it.
In addition to Android TV, there is also Google TV. This is the operating system that you can find on a Chromecast, for example. Although Android TV and Google TV are starting to look more and more alike, they still exist separately. You will learn more about Google TV in the article ‘Everything you need to know about Google TV‘.
The operating system is very slow on some televisions, but the quality of your internet can also play a role. If the internet quality is too bad, apps may even freeze and won’t start anymore. So always check this before blaming the operating system. Also make sure you have the latest update of your television operating system installed.