Because they contain advertisements and tracking tools, smart TVs are much cheaper than the “dumb” TVs of our past. They also provide a convenient path to our favorite streaming services—at least, that’s what they’re supposed to do. Smart TVs aren’t smart enough, and their built-in software often becomes useless after less than a year.
It’s a frustrating reality. Your smart TV is too stupid to run its own software, yet it’s still phoning home to tell its manufacturer what you’re watching, which products are plugged into your TV, and how much time you spend using your TV. That doesn’t sound fair!
From a consumer standpoint, the only solution is to disconnect your smart TV from the internet and start using a streaming stick. But manufacturers can solve this problem any time they want. The solution is so simple that it’s almost laughable.
The Easy Fix for Stupid Smart TVs
Of all the great products that debuted during CES 2022, Anker’s new portable projector, the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K, is what really managed to catch my attention. Not because of its fancy features or anything like that—I honestly don’t remember any of the projector’s real “selling points.” There’s just one detail that’s ingrained in my mind; the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K runs all of its smart software off a dongle.
Now, that’s a pretty odd idea. Smart TVs and projectors usually have internal hardware that powers all their “smart” features. But Anker literally just stuck one of its Nebula streaming dongles in the back of its new projector and called it a day.
Maybe Anker thinks of this as a cost-cutting measure; I don’t know. But as far as I’m concerned, and many Anker customers agree with me, the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K is a user-upgradable smart device that could technically last forever without turning into a stupid, buggy, laggy mess. When the included smart dongle goes out of date and can’t run Android TV anymore, you can just buy a new dongle for under $100 (or under $50, for that matter).
Every smart TV should follow the example set by Anker. Yeah, I know that you can already connect a streaming stick to your smart TV—that’s not the point. If smart TVs came with an easily replaceable component that contains streaming hardware (even if it was proprietary or screwed in), it would make smart TVs easier to use, as it would eliminate the need for add-on streaming sticks that hide behind an HDMI input setting and require a new remote.
Easily replaceable streaming hardware would still give manufacturers the ability to track your activities, which is gross and scary, but it also means that the TVs wouldn’t get more expensive. Plus, certain customers who are less tech-savvy wouldn’t feel the need to replace their smart TV when it starts getting slow.
Smart Appliances Also Need Upgradable Parts
Why stop at TVs? Smart appliances, like smart fridges, ovens, and washing machines, suffer from the same problems as our internet-connected TVs. Technology moves too fast for these appliances to keep up, so they become “stupid” a lot sooner than they should.
That’s a big problem for two reasons. First of all, outdated internet-connected hardware is vulnerable to hackers, and you really don’t need someone hijacking your smart dishwasher or using your smart fridge to access other devices on your network.
But a more immediate concern is that people buy smart appliances because of their smart features. These appliance may last for decades, as they should, but their smart software won’t run properly for more than ten years. The result is that people end up replacing their appliances more often than they should, which is super wasteful.
The solution, as with smart TVs, is user-upgradeable components. Buying a new brain for your fridge every few years would suck, I agree, but it’s a lot better than replacing the whole fridge!
Will manufacturers ever add user-replaceable brains to their smart products? Unless customers or regulators start demanding the change, I doubt that we’ll ever see it.
We’re talking about an incredibly simple fix for an obvious problem, and the fact that this fix didn’t arrive at the dawn of the IoT craze tells you everything you need to know about the companies selling smart products.