Once a TV that could connect to the internet was a luxury item; today almost every TV is a smart TV.
By the 4th quarter of 2019, there were 1.26 billion Smart TVs in use worldwide.
Smart TVs are fast and convenient, but will smart TVs become obsolete?
Smart TVs may become obsolete when the SoC will stop receiving necessary updates or run your favorite apps. Smart TVs use a processor to manage video and control the operating system that runs these apps. Older smart TVs may be unable to run upgraded apps and can be more vulnerable to hacking.
In this article, I explain more about how smart TVs operate.
You will learn how hackers get into your system and some ways you can keep them out.
You will find out if your older smart TV is obsolete and learn how to keep your smart TV working longer.
What Is a Smart TV?
Before, TVs played video transmitted through a cable or television antenna.
Today, a smart TV lets you stream movies to your screen through your wireless internet connection. TV manufacturers load their TV with an operating system like Fire, Roku, Tizen, or Android.
These systems run apps that allow you to watch YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video, or other popular video services. You can even browse the web on your big screen!
You no longer need bulky devices to use streaming services like Roku or Amazon Fire. Those services come with your TV, or you can download them.
A smart TV includes a central processing unit (CPU). Mstar, a Taiwanese company, makes most of these CPU Systems on Chips (SoCs). A few of the things a smart TV’s SoC does include:
- Upsamples and scales video to ensure you get the sharpest possible picture.
- Adjusts screen brightness in response to room lighting.
- Stores playlists, preferences, and other user data
- Manages HDMI connections to gaming devices and audio systems.
The SoC also runs the smart TV’s operating system. Different brands use different TV OSes:
- Samsung uses Tizen
- LG uses WebOS
- TCL uses Roku
- Sony, Sharp, Phillips, and Hisense use Android
- Toshiba and Insignia use Fire
- Vizio uses SmartCast
These OSes allow you to run apps from various services.
They also let you search for movies or shows through typing or voice commands. They even allow you to use your TV as a smart home hub to monitor your electrical usage or security cameras.
How Long Do Smart TVs Last?
According to Samsung, the estimated lifespan of an LED screen is between seven and ten years.
But with a smart TV, you also have to worry about whether or not your SoC will continue to receive necessary updates or run your favorite apps.
Your smart TV’s processor can become obsolete before your video screen dies.
In November 2019, owners of older Samsung and Vizio TVs learned that their TVs would no longer support Netflix.
Netflix switched to Microsoft PlayReady to handle its digital rights management (DRM). TVs running Windows DRM, the older version, could no longer decode Netflix signals.
Only a few smart TVs built after 2018 can download and run the AppleTV app.
Did you just buy a new iPhone and get a free year of Apple TV?
Smart TV manufacturers can update your TV’s OS and firmware via the internet. They do this to patch vulnerabilities and leaks and to make sure your system stays up to date.
But as your system gets older, the upgrades grow less frequent.
If there is sufficient public outcry, manufacturers may resolve the issues. But if your smart TV is more than a few years old, they may suggest you buy a new smart TV.
Are Older Smart TVs Easier To Hack?
Like your computer, smart TVs run an operating system and connect to the internet.
Hackers exploit holes or back doors in these operating systems.
Hackers who gain access to your smart TV can change channels, adjust volume levels, or show inappropriate content on your screen.
They can also turn on your smart TV’s camera and microphone to spy on you.
A smart TV hacker may get access to your app passwords. Darknet forums run a brisk business selling hacked accounts for Netflix, HBO, and other services.
And if you, like many of us, reuse your passwords, this may make you more vulnerable to a credit card or bank fraud.
Once a hacker gets into your smart TV, they have penetrated your home network. Your smart TV can become a base to launch attacks against your router, computers, and data storage.
End of Support Life
Older versions of operating systems get less support than newer ones. If your manufacturer does not regularly upgrade your smart TV, it may be running an obsolete operating system.
Upgrading a smart TV can be tricky. If a company’s new upgrade causes performance issues, they get a lot of angry support calls. Many avoid upgrading obsolete smart TVs altogether.
If your older smart TV has not been patched against those issues, hackers can exploit it.
How Do I Protect My Old Smart TV From Hacking?
It is difficult to know how many hackers target smart TVs.
Most hacks are silent.
You never know hackers got your data until you find unauthorized charges on your statement. Then you have no idea whether the hackers stole data from your home or through a corporate security breach.
Some ways you can protect your obsolete smart TV, or any smart TV, include:
- Changing passwords frequently to limit the damage and access if a password gets stolen.
- Use unique passwords for your smart TV and apps.
- Check the settings on mobile apps. Make sure you know what permissions they have and what kind of personal information they are collecting.
- Turn off microphones and cameras in your settings when not using those devices.
You may also wonder: Should a smart TV be on 5G or 2G?
Some Apps Won’t Run on My Older Smart TV
If your older smart TV won’t run the latest version of your favorite app, here are two possible workarounds that may let you enjoy your app without buying a new TV.
Buy a Streaming Device
Streaming devices are relatively inexpensive and certainly cheaper than getting a brand new smart TV.
Using a streaming device may not be so convenient as handling all your apps through your smart TV.
But streaming devices are more hacker-resistant than most smart TVs.
- The Roku Premiere HD/4K UHD Streaming Media Player with HDR comes with an app that turns your phone into a remote voice search. And this streaming player is more likely to get updates than your older Roku TV.
- You can add an Amazon 4k Fire TV Stick and use voice commands through Alexa to access Amazon Movies or Music and hundreds of apps ranging from Facebook to Minecraft.
- A Google Chromecast Ultra, available on Amazon.com, connected to Google Home can serve up your favorite apps in 4K. And with Chromecast, you can cast movies and videos from your phone or tablet using Google Cast.
Further reading: Can You Use a Roku Box With a Smart TV? 3 Device Facts
Use Your Gaming Device
Playstations and Xboxes aren’t just gaming devices.
They can also be used as media centers.
The Xbox and Playstation stores feature apps for many popular video services like Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, and other providers.
Your gaming device has a processor comparable to a high-end desktop and is far more powerful than any smart TV.
The only downside is that gaming devices use a lot of power. But since gaming devices are designed for hours of intense playing time, playing HBO or Disney+ shouldn’t cause too much wear and tear on the electronics.