Battle for eyeballs: How TV companies are wooing consumers with their smart TV platforms

Major manufacturers out to woo consumers with their smart TV platforms, each with their distinctive features

The operating system (OS) war has moved to a new battleground - the living room.

At least four major TV manufacturers support a different smart TV OS each in their 2015 TV models - and they are looking to dominate the space in your TV console.

Korean electronics giant LG will continue to use its webOS platform, which it licensed from US tech firm HP in 2013, to power its smart TVs. The OS was originally designed for smartphones and tablets, and first introduced to LG's TVs last year.

Samsung is using its own Tizen OS, which it created for mobile devices such as phones and watches.

Sony has adopted Google's Android TV platform, which is an established one. Based on Android 5.0 Lollipop, Android TV is a conduit to the thousands of apps available in the Google Play store.

Panasonic is using Mozilla's Firefox OS. The OS was released for use in phones in 2013, but has not been offered in mobile devices meant for the local market.

EYE ON THE FUTURE

I went with Google because it has the best chance of continuing with the ecosystem and developers would be more likely to build on the platform... It's really more about the potential apps.

CONSUMER GERALD CHAN, on why he decided to go with a Sony smart TV

These types of software are designed for more powerful mobile devices. And reviews by The Straits Times show that the interface on the new 2015 TVs is smoother and much faster, compared to smart TV models from last year.

But, like last year's models, this year's smart TV platforms are still limited in their features when it comes to local units.

Unlike their counterparts in Europe and the United States, smart TV features here offer some games, apps and Internet connectivity but key features in the form of content streaming apps such as Netflix and Pandora are restricted by their service's regional availability.

Luckily, at least three of the four TV brands have workarounds that enable local users to access the full features of their smart TV OS.

Social media manager Gerald Chan, 31, waited for Sony, Samsung and LG to launch their 2015 smart TV models, studying their features before deciding on Sony's 55-inch W800c Full HD Android TV.

It was the compatibility with streaming software Plex, which he uses to stream family photos and videos, as well as overall functionality of his many Android phones and tablets, that drew him to the Android TV platform.

"I went with Google because it has the best chance of continuing with the ecosystem and developers are also more likely to build on the platform," said the father of one.

 
 
 

Meanwhile, retailers are hoping this move to new smarts will spur TV sales.

Research company GfK Asia says over 93,300 non-smart TVs have been sold here this year, compared with 152,400 smart TVs which are more expensive.

Mr Alvin Lee, managing director of electronics retailer Audio House, noted that there are cost-conscious customers who just want feature-free TVs. This is because some of them have Android set-top boxes that are able to provide the smart features.

A smart TV has an app store and requires an Internet connection.

"Generally, the choice of OS is still not a major purchase consideration factor," said a spokesman for electronics retail giant Courts.

"But it has already generated interest among the more tech-savvy customers, who are keen on the wider range of apps and compatibility with mobile devices, such as screen mirroring. Android OS seems to be the most popular choice."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Battle for eyeballs'. Print Edition | Subscribe