The age of smart TVs is said to have dawned around 2010, when some Internet-hooked up gadgets came out of the January Consumer Electronics show, but it feels like we're still waiting for a smarter television set. Two years ago, we saw the debut (and failure) of the Google TV. In 2011 smart TVs made up 10 percent of the TV showing at the gadget mecca, up from 8 percent the year before. And by CES 2012 they were everywhere. And we thus got a bunch of blog posts talking up the rise of the smart TV. Today, there are two more additions to the smart TV world, as LG confirmed it would ship two new, better versions of Google's latest try and Lenovo now selling its 55-inch K91 smart TV to Chinese consumers. If this is the Smart TV era, we may just wait it out until the next era arrives. It shouldn't be too long.
We've lamented this Smart TV fallacy before. Smart just means Internet connected and that's just not all that exciting to us or consumers. A recent survey by YouGov found that most buyers of smart TVs upgraded because they wanted a more up-to-date set -- not because the smart TV won them over with its smarts. Even these new Smart TVs aren't much of a departure from the stuff we've seen before. The new LG Google TV will run faster and have a Magic Remote, which allows for motion and voice enabled controls. Google also upgraded its software last fall, which did improve the experience. But, stripped down, it's still a TV with an Internet port.
Of course, this does not mean we're not evolving to something better. Trusted gadget guru Brian Lam has plenty of nice things to say about his favorite TV of right now (as of May 3, 2012), the Panasonic TC-PST50, which has a lot of Internet doo-dads. He writes:
It's desirability comes in down to black levels, color accuracy, ability to handle bright lighting (which it does using Panasonic's Louvre filter, which act like venetian blinds for overhead lighting.) It also uses less power than a comparable Samsung Plasma, albeit more than an LCD, obviously. It has built in apps, including Netflix, Hulu and others, as well as an SD card for playing back video and photos from. It also has built in Wi-Fi.
Though, much of his excitement he reserves for the technical aspects -- like the picture and sound. And not much for the smart parts. But, probably the most exciting part of his review is the following reservation: "I fully expect the top of the line Panasonic and Samsung's to out perform this TV–but at a large price premium," he writes. "So, I wouldn't call you foolish if you waited two months to see what Samsung is up to." That right there is evolution. And though it might look incremental now, at some point, we'll get beyond the Smart TV era and into something better. Say, the Genius TV era?
We already see some hints of what this new, hopefully more exciting age, will look like, via this rumor of the possibly real, but don't trust it entirely -- it is an Apple rumor after-all -- Apple TV HD prototype. If CultofMac's report is legit, which is a huge if, it will have the following features: "Apple's current lineup of LED-backlit Cinema Displays but is 'much bigger.' It [also] has a built-in iSight camera for making free FaceTime video conference calls. And it has Siri, the iPhone 4S' voice-activated virtual assistant." It's not exactly the all-streaming dream the world is waiting for. But we hear, again, from the rumormongers, that that's in the works, too. Until then, for TV, the future is not now.