Smart TV Explained
What does smart TV mean?
Like a smartphone, a smart TV offers a number of "Internet-connected services" that normal televisions can't offer. It has the equivalent of a computer built into it, giving you a greater number of services. These televisions offer apps, media streaming, Web browsing, games and, perhaps most importantly, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). IPTV is a specific Internet video standard, but is also used nowadays as shorthand for any video streamed via the Internet to your TV. It can take the form of short clips or continuous "live" channels.
While these features aren't new, and have been a part of some televisions and settop boxes since 2005, the term "smart TV" has given them a name.
How do I connect my TV to the Internet?
Simply connect an ethernet cable from the back of the TV to your router, or if the TV has a built in WiFi antenna, you can lock the TV onto your wireless router's signal.
Did you know?
Smart devices have been with us for a long time. According to Wikipedia, the first smartphone was released in 1993. The IBM Simon was a touchscreen phone before its time with applications that we now take for granted, such as email, a calendar, an address book and games.
What can I do on a smart TV?
Aside from lacking productivity functions, such as email and word processing, a smart TV is a lot like a computer. It enables you to browse the Web, watch YouTube and catch up on social networking. However, internet browsers on Tv's are still very basic and you will nearly always get a faster, more powerful browsing experience using a PC hooked up to the TV itself.
As the category evolves, there are inevitably features that will come and go. For example, how many people will use Facebook--which many regard as a private activity--on a TV in front of their family when they can easily use a laptop or smartphone in front of the TV?
Smart TV also has various video on demand (Netflix, Crackle, HBO etc) You'll find dozens of specialty channels offering surfing, football, music and almost anything else you can imagine - many of them free..
Skype is another useful application, which, with the addition of a Webcam, and increasingly integrated into the TV, lets you talk to friends and family on your TV.
How do TV apps work?
All of the smart TVs have a homepage that lets you access the different functions, and from there are also links to individual app stores. At the moment, most of the apps available on smart TVs are free, but the manufacturers are hoping to translate the popularity of paid apps on mobile devices to televisions. Sony and Panasonic have traditionally been different in that new features are automatically downloaded once available, and become selectable from the main page. However, Panasonic has its own app store, so this may change. There're currently apps for Internet radio, weather forecasts and entertainment as well as games.
Overall, application experience is similar to the smartphone universe, some apps are good, some are bad, some are woefully buggy and barely functional. As always, try it and see.
Can I use apps across TVs or devices?
In some cases, yes. Samsung and Sony's phones both have ways to control the TV, using apps 'mirrored' is still evolving however.
What if I don't want a new television?
That's fine, you can have the smart experience, just by buying with this enabled. Apple TV is a great example. Little boxes by Roku, Western Digital, the USB stick Chromecast all do similar jobs. Even many inexpensive Bluray players also make your 'dumb' TV 'Smart'. is also an economical way to bring streaming content to your home theater system.
Video game consoles such as Playstation 3 and 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One are also options. Xbox One currently unifies and talks to Windows 10 computers within network range.
How do I control the TV?
To many people, a "smartphone" is a handset with a touchscreen, but when your TV is 2m away this makes it hard to "touch". As a way to get around this, manufacturers have come up with several different methods for controlling smart TV.
Most if not all TV makers make an application that can be downloaded on iPhone, Windows Phone, Android etc that can control - with varying degrees of success - the TV.