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Smart TV | Update June 2016

The Rhoonet Guide to Smart TVs

Video streaming is currently poised to overtake network television as the dominant viewing platform for video content. This means that the television set is now just one of many devices with the ability to play video. Internet connected, so called “smart,” TVs make peace with the television set’s decline by embracing video streaming, diverse functionality, and the network of devices. This guide profiles the six major smart TV manufacturers of 2015 and the two most popular Internet connecting devices that turn dumb TVs into smart ones.  

Smart TV Manufacturers

LG Electronics, the Seoul-based electronics company, builds smart TVs with state of the art hardware and a streamlined interface. Last year, when LG introduced WebOS – its new, clean, deconstructed interface – the company raised the bar on intuitive, easy to navigate design. This year, CNET praised the picture quality of the LG 55EC9300 (which costs approximately $2,500 for a 55” screen) as the best of any television it has ever reviewed.   Panasonic opts for Firefox OS on its smart TV line. The highly customizable operating system with a similar distribution strategy is Android TV OS’s closest competitor. Panasonic smart TV’s Anglocentric features (including the popular Freetime app that lets users view the past week’s worth of English television for free) make the televisions most successful in the United Kingdom. The UK-based TechAdvisor ranked the Panasonic TX50AX802 the second best smart TV of 2015 for its premium dynamics, detail, and color depth.  

 

Securing the South Korean corner on the smart TV market is electronics giant Samsung. The company currently holds the largest market share of smart TV sales. The company dominates competitors, at the end of 2013 Samsung held over a quarter of the total smart TV market share. The reason? Desirable products. This year, CNET found that the Samsung UNHU8550 (which costs approximately $2,100 for a 55” screen) has the best combination of picture quality and smart features.  

 

Japanese electronics veteran Sony is the most prominent television manufacturer to use Google’s Android TV OS on its line of smart TVs. Because it is built on the work Google has already done for smartphones, the Android TV operating system is user-friendly and relatively glitch-free. Rtings.com prefers the Sony X850C 4k TV (which costs approximately $1,500 for a 55” screen) for its good motion handling and its picture quality.

 

  The Chinese television set expert TCL partners with video streaming king Roku on its successful line of smart TVs. TCL FS4610R (Roku TV) (which costs approximately $355 for a 40” screen) has the best smart-TV suite of any smart TV model. Roku has been working on perfecting video streaming for a while and the TCL-Roku line is definitely benefiting from the acquired expertise.

 

  In the smart TV market, California-based Vizio is doing what it does best in any electronics market: selling good products at competitive prices. Aggressive pricing is, after all, Vizio’s signature move. CNET ranked the Vizio EOi-B series (which costs approximately $570 for a 48” screen) the best overall value. The Vizio’s other series were likewise lauded for value.

 

 

Internet Connected Devices

The Roku Streaming Player is a device that uses a WiFi connection to transfer online data (typically a video stream) to a television screen. Roku sources video content from multiple free, subscription, and rental services including YouTube, Netflix, ESPN, and 1700 other web channels. Like a modern gaming console or an AppleTV, Roku lets users watch online content on televisions that are not smart televisions. Televisions are different from computers, tablets, and smartphones because they are large and public. Roku users reap the benefits of streaming (cost and convenience) without forfeiting the advantages of a television. Second generation Roku devices include a search that aggregates results from all a user’s channels. This feature lets the user access the video he or she wants and instantaneously compare results across competitors. Roku devices cost between $49.99 and $99.99.

 

  The Apple TV streaming player uses a WiFi connection to transfer online data (typically music or a video stream) to a television. Like Roku, Apple TV sources video content from multiple free, subscription, and rental services including YouTube, Netflix, iTunes, and about 60 other web channels. Apple TV content includes, exclusively, HBO Now, HBO’s streaming service that includes on-demand access to Game of Thrones. Apple TV lets users watch online content on televisions that are not smart televisions. As video content migrates from traditional satellite television to online streaming services, connected television sets are increasingly essential. A device like Apple TV connects any television to the Internet. The Apple TV costs $69.00.

Smart TV

Seven Unconventional Smart TV Apps

When it comes to popular smart TV apps, the old video streaming classics (think Netflix and Hulu) dominate the field. Not surprisingly,  
 
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a 2012 study showed that less than half of smart TV owners used their television set on a weekly basis to do anything other than stream movies and television shows [1].  
 
But smart TVs do more than just stream video. Every smart TV can also stream music, access social networks, send and receive email, access printed news, and support online gaming and shopping. Although few consumers think of the smart TV as versatile a product as a smartphone, in many ways it has identical “smart” capabilities.
 
Here are six unconventional smart TV apps i.e. apps that provide services and diversions independent of video streaming: 
 
newsticker1. AP News Ticker: When enabled, this handy app from Associated Press places a news crawler at the foot of your screen. That way you’ll stay informed even while you watch your soaps. The crawler can be customized to show world, U.S., business, sport, technology, and/or entertainment news.
 
2. vTuner: The smart TV has a misplaced reputation as a sort of 1984-esque digital machine that feeds us feelies and spies on us. But, right besides voice recognition, smart TVs also have a lot of old school content. Like radio. The vTuner app lets users search and play Internet radio and podcasts on their smart TVs. Users can browse popular radio stations, view editors’ picks, or save stations to their favorites.
 
3. AccuWeather:This trusted weather app includes useful features like hyper-localized (think street address) and minute-by-minute forecasting. It also crowd sources from users in order to provide an accurate account of the current weather conditions in any given place. When you turn on the television in the morning, open this app instead of waiting for the weatherman.
 
4. Skype:: It’s time to go all 2001: A Space Odyssey up in your living room and take advantage of your smart TV’s videophone capability. Because we all grew up with television video calling as a science fiction trope, it might seem a little silly to use Skype on your smart TV, but a large and stationary screen is actually a very practical means to videochat. Captain Kirk had it right.
 
5. Fitness VOD: Because smart TVs give output, but also receive input, connected workout programs are more interactive and, therefore, more engaging than your old Jane Fonda tapes. The personal training app includes abs, strength, toning, yoga, and cardio exercises, a workout history, a calorie calculator, and a customizable favorite exercises list.
 
6. Chess:As smart TVs and gaming consoles begin to mesh around the edges (see the Samsung-Playstation relationship) the selection of gaming apps for smart TV expands. With all these new games available, it’s always good to keep the classics around. The Chess app, available from the Samsung Smart Hub, lets users play human vs. human, human vs. television, clocked, and untimed matches.
 
7. Spotify:Music streaming is the most popular smart TV feature after video streaming [1]. The Spotify app lets users search tracks, albums, and artists or browse Spotify’s new releases, top tracks, and top albums. Users can share their musical taste by creating playlists that their friends can access or can discover new music by browsing friends’ playlists.
 
If you should come across any smart TV Apps you would like to share, please visit us at Rhoonet.com and let us know. I am starting to wonder about what my life was like before Smart TV.
 
The next piece will focus on “Making Your Dumb TV Smarter”.
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