Why Don’t People Use Smart TV Apps?

These days, it’s practically impossible to buy a new HDTV that doesn’t come pre-installed with numerous internet apps and streaming video services. Yet, according to a recent report from the NPD Group, barely half of so-called “Smart TV” owners bother to connect them to the internet at all. Does anyone actually find this surprising?

The study claims that only about 50% of consumers with internet-capable TVs link them online. Of those that do, 60% use the internet features exclusively to stream video from services like Netflix or Hulu, while less than 10% use web browsing or social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter.

A further study from the Council on Research Excellence adds:

The 50% ratio of smart TVs to actual Internet-connected smart TVs has held steady since the debut of smart TVs in the latter part of the last decade. It’s a conundrum no one industry has been able to solve.

Really? No one has been able to solve this conundrum? I can think of several possible reasons for this, and they largely come down to convenience. For one thing, many people don’t necessarily keep their TV near an internet router for easy connection, and don’t trust WiFi (if the TV even offers it), with its erratic signal drop-outs, for streaming video, especially not high-def video. As far as web browsing goes, it’s just a pain in the neck to do that on a television. In even a best case scenario, the graphics will overlay any program you may be watching. Then you either need to navigate a keypad emulator with the remote control (a torturous experience) or connect a wireless keyboard to the TV. It’s a thousand times easier to browse the web on a smartphone or tablet while dividing your attention to an unobstructed TV screen. We just don’t need these features to be built into the TV itself.

Frankly, the paradigm of TV watching didn’t need to be revolutionized with internet widgets. The TV is good for watching broadcast programs and movies. We have other, more convenient devices to surf the web with.

Even when it comes to streaming video, we’ve come to perceive the television as a simple display monitor into which we can plug various video sources. For many viewers, it makes more sense to stream movies from hub devices such as set-top boxes, Blu-ray players or game consoles that we probably already have connected anyway. What’s the point of duplicating those features inside the TV?

Despite the failure of these features to catch on with consumers, don’t expect TV makers to stop offering them. They’re fairly cheap and easy to program into the TV, and are useful as “value add” bullet points in the sales marketing, whether anyone uses them or not.

If you have a Smart TV, do you use its internet features?

Do You Use Smart TV Internet Features?

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  1. Alex

    I think it’s the couch.

    Hear me out on this. People sit down on the couch to watch television. The couch is a comfortable, enveloping piece of furniture, one that allows you to sink away in relaxation, and take part in what is, essentially, a passive experience. Even the most mentally stimulating film or TV show is still a passive experience.

    Web browsing, Facebook-ing, and miscellaneous app-using are all inherently active activities. While they might be mindless (and goodness knows they usually are), they require button pushing, page scanning, even responding to others’ inquiries. By it’s very nature, there is interaction. Hence, it is all inappropriate couch activity.

    Now, please understand, I’m just using the couch as the dividing line between active and passive entertainment. I use my laptop on the couch. I watch TV in my home office. My point is that active and passive entertainment are fundamentally and essentially different and don’t need to coexist in a single device.

    • Pyronaut

      I may be in the minority, but I use the couch for both passive and active on the same screen.

      I have an HTPC hooked up to a projector in my living room, and I do things like manage my video library and read forums/articles about other stuff I do on my HTPC, in addition to watching shows/movies (with a remote, so as to simulate the “TV” experience on the PC).

      I have an older LCD TV in my kitchen and it doesn’t have any “smart” capabilities so I had to hook up an external streaming box in order to be able to access media on my network and USB sticks, but if the TV was already capable of doing those things then I would probably try them out.

      The problem is that an external device is usually much more customizable and performs better than what’s built into most TVs, so I imagine I would probably end up going back to my external device anyway.

  2. Alex

    As to why I use an external device for streaming instead of my TV? Two reasons.

    One, everything runs into my receiver and then out to the TV. I don’t feel like hassling with the Audio Return Channel to hear Netflix through my speakers.

    Two, order of arrival. I had my Xbox long before I got a Smart TV. Shoot, I even had a Roku before I had a Smart TV. I’m used to using those devices and they work well. No reason to change my paradigm.

  3. Rcorman

    I have tried using some of the applications that I can get for my TV, but they are just too slow. I can get up, walk over to my computer (or grab my tablet) and do something quicker than trying to load up the app on my TV and use it.

    Also, most of the apps do not have full functionality or have a dumbed down interface due to having to use a remote to control the software. And things such as Netflix are so much nicer on the PS3 than my TV.

    The only thing my TV works good for is video streamed directly from my computer as it seems to be able to handle any video format that I can throw at it.

  4. My TV’s apps are almost all identical to the ps3 versions (except Hulu plus, which suuuuucks on my tv.) I use the tv so I don’t put more wear and tear on the ps3. I’ve had three ps3s die on me, so…

  5. My Panasonic HDTV actually has faster apps than my Panasonic Blu-ray player. However I use the Bluray player because I would have to run an extra HDMI cable from the TV back to my receiver to get to use my surround sound and that just seems stupid.

    Also, the Twitter and Facebook apps are just silly considering I can use my smart phone or ipad.

  6. Jason

    I have a boxee box in my bedroom that I use for streaming Netflix and any movies that I’ve ripped. In my home theater I use my Panny blu-ray player to stream. I have both hard wired to my router to prevent any wifi dropouts.

  7. JM

    TVs only became sentient in 2010.

    How many TVs are sold in the US per year?

    115 million households, 30% don’t have internet.

    70 million households own 115 million video game consoles.

    So the conundrum is that a roomful of engineers can’t figure out how to get 5 million dudes to twitter on their Samsung…?

    Have they tried ponies?

  8. Then you either need to navigate a keypad emulator with the remote control (a torturous experience) or connect a wireless keyboard to the TV

    Vizio TVs have a two sided remote. On the back is a full QWERTY keyboard. It works fairly well.

    I use the streaming apps on the TV when I don’t want to turn on the reciever and disturb my neighbors. So late at night or early in the morning (I have to be at work at 5, so I am normally shuffling around with the TV about 3:30 or 4 in the morning). The rest of the time, though, it goes through the PS3 because I have no clue how to use the audio return channel, and the Toslink out on my TV is only 2.0 channels.


    Strange, but I purchased an OPPO player and a Panasonic GT-50 Plasma set over the holidays. and I only watch cable or Blu Ray. I guess I only watch that which is fleeting or what I own. Sorry…

  10. Hastor

    My main reason is that my HDTV was made before these apps were added to TVs. Still though, by using my Blu-ray player’s apps, the setup is easier. I already have surround configured for my BD player, I don’t want to bother setting it up for a TV unless it can offer something that I want which my BD player doesn’t. Currently, the only apps I use are Netflix and Hulu (and always use the free $5.99 credit on Vudu that you get with every new device, then never again). I also use my Onkyo receiver’s app which allows me to stream my iTunes library from the Onkyo iOS app wirelessly. I sometimes, but rarely, use Pandora on the receiver as well. Aside from that, I haven’t had much use for any other apps. I feel like TV apps are better for people that are using TV speakers. Once you get into people that want good sound, it is a lot of extra setup for something you can do from devices that are already set up.

    Prior to my current BD player and receiver, I used my PS3 for Netflix/Hulu, my PC for Pandora, and played my iTunes either from the PC, or a headphone to RCA cable plugged into my receiver and connected to my iPod touch.

  11. August J Lehe

    Did I miss the end-of-year Blu Ray Dream/Wish List?

    1) Song of the South (Disney)
    2) The Innocents (Deborah Kerr)
    3) El Cid
    4) Vacation from Marriage (Deb. Kerr)
    5) SHANE
    6) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disney)

  12. Chris

    I use my TV to watch television and Blu-rays.

    I use my iPad, iPhone, and Macs for the Internet.

    I have no reason to use, and it frustrates me to be paying for, what will always be an inferior PC implementation on TVs and Blu-ray players. What happened to the days of TVs and players starting up immediately because all they did was show content? Now they have all sorts of other crapware on them that have to load and them pop up in your face.

  13. All of my TV’s are connected to the internet for streaming in some way. I have a Roku on my daughter’s TV, a Sony Streamer and connected Blu Ray player on the basement TV, and a new Samsung smart TV in the living room. Of the three the Smart TV is by far the worst user experience of them all. The Roku is awesome and super easy to use (that is why the kid gets it). The Blu ray player and Sony are OK. But the TV is horrible and at times unusable. Perhaps if a smart TV could function properly and be easy to use like a Roku more would use it.

  14. Ben

    Samsung 40″ so-called smart tv here.

    Connected to the net, installed three, maybe four apps. At that point I wasn’t sure about the usefulness, but liked the options. Until a forced update not only updated the ‘Smart Hub’ software, it bundled a sh*tload of unremovable crapware apps, drowning out the few I was kinda, sorta interested in.

    Bullshit. Disconnected, reset the tv (crapware gone, tv dumb again). Cannot recommend Samsung here.