SMART TVs: a one-stop shop?

In just six years, the smart phone has gone from novelty gadget to a must-have of modern life. Smart phones now account for two-thirds of all mobile sales in Europe and for many of us it would be hard to imagine life without the Internet always at our fingertips. Using a smart phone has transformed the way that I shop, travel, work, plan my social life, watch TV, entertain my children and find information.

So will smart TVs be as central to our lives as smart phones in a decade’s time? According to recent research, 50 per cent of British households now posses an internet-enabled TV and the UK smart TV market is predicted to be worth around £2.5 bn in the near future. These figures certainly suggest that smart TVs will become as ubiquitous as smartphones, but will they have the same transformational effect on how we use the Internet?

Looking at the current generation of smart TVs, I have my doubts. At Redemption Media we have recently purchased a top-of-the-range Samsung smart TV (for the purposes of developing TV apps of course). Whilst the picture quality is amazing, voice control amusing and the ‘on-demand’ services outstanding, the ‘smart’ features of the TV leave much to be desired. In one month of owning the TV I have never used the Facebook app and only once tried the web browser. The pre-installed Love Film app is a favourite but I have not had the inclination to search for new apps or explore other existing apps. In short, it has affected my Internet use not a jot.

There is one very simple reason for this: I am a touch screen junky. My new TV comes with two different remote controls (one traditional, one with a laptop style ‘mouse pad’), and can be controlled by voice or motion, but all these controls are clunky, slow and frustrating compared to the ‘touchscreen’ navigation of the Internet to which I have become accustomed.

On my phone, I tap a field, a qwerty keyboard appears, I begin to type my search criteria and autocorrect fills in the rest.

On my smart TV, I have to use the arrow buttons on my remote control to find the field, select the field, wait for the alphabetized keyboard to appear, select the letters one at a time in an unfamiliar layout, enter the whole word or sentence….and that’s before I make a mistake and have to delete everything. Er…no, I can’t be bothered.

At present, smart TVs cannot compete with the touchscreens of smartphones and tablets for Internet browsing. Although tempted by the huge 46” screen, I’d never use the TV for my Internet grocery shop because it would be faster to grow the food myself.

However, Samsung have announced a simplification of their smart TV user interface (, which should improve the user experience. But until smart TV remote controls can replicate the convenience of touch screen browsing, it seems unlikely that TVs will become the hub of family Internet use.

Unless of course the smartphone comes to the rescue. There are already a number of free smartphone/tablet apps that allow the user to control a smart TV via their mobile device. Since the new generation of smart TVs have wifi connectivity, this sounds like an ideal solution. Unfortunately, the current range of available apps are fairly poor and, crucially, do not include a qwerty keyboard. Samsung sell a ‘tablet’ remote control, but who wants another device?

If a high-quality remote control app was available for smart TV users, the combination of touchscreen convenience and family-sized screens would surely catalyse another internet revolution and make smart TVs as essential to modern life as the smartphone has become. Smart TV apps would become as popular as mobile apps and the convenience of shopping, gaming and socializing via apps would be replicated on a large screen.

Sounds like a job for Redemption Media.