Dumb TV

Abstract image from Flickr

TVs last a long time and the upgrade cycle is very slow. In the six years or so that I’ve owned my current TV I’ve gone through 3 smartphones, 3 laptops, 2 games consoles and two tablets. My TV just keeps soldiering on. The things connected to my TV have changed too — where there used to be a Mac Mini with EyeTV there is now a YouView box and an Apple TV. Treating my TV as purely a display gives me the freedom to choose how I get that content on to the screen.

Pretty much every TV announced so far at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has got “smart” features and is running some kind of user facing operating system. This, despite the fact that if you want to add those features to your existing TV you can do so with a tiny £50 box. Go the £50 box route and in two years time when some magic technology makes it possible to stream 4K content, all you have to do is buy a new £50 box and not a new £3k TV.

This feature obsession is partly down to manufacturers trying to speed up the upgrade cycle. Adding 3D, curved screens, 4K, network connectivity, ondemand services etc. is all designed to make you want to upgrade your TV to their latest and greatest. But we should also point a finger of blame at the consumer tech press who list out every feature in great detail in their reviews and knock off a star if the TV doesn’t have Spotify built into the 80 button Bluetooth LE remote control with touch screen and slide out keyboard. It’s technology porn where the only people who get off on it are the reviewers and manufacturers.

TV makers are still wedded to the idea of convergence, where all our devices become melded into a single all singing, all dancing device. They seem to be unaware that this has already happened — the smartphone is the convergence device. TV manufacturers should be removing features from televisions, not adding them. Changes in technology should be allowed to happen in the areas where upgrade cycles are fast. Let all the smart stuff happen on mobile devices and just let the TV be a display that they can output to.

I want a Dumb TV. Nothing more than a great display panel and some inputs. No 3D, no Android, not even a tuner. I want a remote control with one button, on/off.