TV manufacturers: I want an opt out / delay on software updates

I don’t have a lot of room to complain having been given a couple of displays from Vizio to review, but as they (and my Roku,) have become a staple in my house there are… things. I’m going to be talking about Smartcast on Vizio, but the issue is broader than that and involves old displays getting software updates that might not work particularly well.

Your base TV these days is an operating system, a display, and apps. With the Vizio series it appears that’s all bundled into one Smartcast package, but I might be mistaken. It seems any time I see an app logo/design change I get to deal with something new.

On the Vizio side I’ve got my standard volume issues, and a new and lovely input issue in which my HDMI ports will all just randomly stop showing input until I reboot the TV. The Roku side is a bit more difficult to explain and has not popped up in a couple of months.

You might also not think that needing a TV is a real thing, but let me tell you when there are 70mph winds and the internet is waffling in and out and all you’re attempting to do is turn the TV on to a OTA weather station to find out if there’s a tornado incoming, seeing the message “Smartcast is updating itself behind the scenes” with no ability to stop it, change input, etc… uh, I needed a TV. Yes, the NWS weather radio tower was down as well now that you ask.

I think we’ve pretty much shown that most of these TVs can be hacked with a terminal emulator, so security is probably not what manufacturers are pushing to you. It’s generally more advertising and app suite updates with the ability to track you more effectively.

Now, not updating software is not a wise idea generally, but the ability to stop it for now, see that a tornado is going to kill me, and schedule it to update if there’s still a roof on the house seems like a fairly easy to implement option “hey, we’ve got a software update for you, can we install it now?”

On the less severe side, I’m a bit tired of finding bugs in manufacturer’s software. These updates, you know, I know they test them, but when you’re dealing with a decade’s worth of rigging to get all these products working on the same OS and you’ve got 400 models to support, there’s no way that they’re going to find that every other HDMI port on a 7 year old moderately selling flat screen will go out if your kid hits the Netflix button then the Redbox button then the Netflix button then powers the system off within the space of 10 seconds.

There’s pretty much no way they could. I fully understand that. But the end user never has an option to wait for a couple of days, skip an update, check Reddit for the “so, my TV is toast after the update,” posts, or even go back to a version of the OS that wasn’t damaged.

That’s it – just a request. I can’t imagine I’ve had a particularly unique situation in which someone needed a TV for OTA local weather emergency and couldn’t get it.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts