Smart televisions may lose features and functionality or even pose a security risk after as little as two years from launch when manufacturers fail to provide technology updates. Research by the consumer group Which? found that few brands came close to matching the expected lifespan of their products with their smart update policies. A new law in the United Kingdom will require that manufacturers disclose identified vulnerabilities in products and state how long they will provide security updates.
Although the estimated product lifetime for a television is approaching seven years, many may lose features or functions long before that.
Unlike traditional hardware products, most smart networked devices require software that needs to be maintained and updated. They may even become vulnerable to security flaws that are exposed if they are not routinely updated.
Reputable manufacturers maintain and secure their smart products after they are sold to protect their brand, but they may have little financial incentive to do so. Supporting legacy devices is difficult and expensive. They may be more interested in bringing out new features to differentiate their products and sell new ones.
Which? approached over a hundred brands about hundreds of smart products, capable of being connected to the internet, across 20 different categories. Only half of the companies replied with information on support periods.
Which estimates that the lifetime of a smart television is 6.8 years from launch. That is from the first release of the product, which may be some time before it is purchased.
Yet some leading brands only offer guaranteed support for two or three years from launch.
Samsung said that it supports televisions for at least three years from launch and will comply fully with new legislation when it comes into force.
LG said that it only guarantees support for two years but says that televisions will be supported with firmware security updates up to five years from launch for critical security vulnerabilities.
Sony said that it provides new software updates every two years and the latest software version released is then available for a period of eight years.
Philips offers guaranteed software support for three years from launch, while Panasonic extends this to 5 years. Hisense says that offers guaranteed support for ten years.
The recently passed Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022 requires manufacturers and distributors to be upfront about how long their products will be supported with updates.
This includes a requirement for connectable products to have a vulnerability disclosure policy through which any security weakness in a product is identified and notified and a transparency requirement on how long a manufacturer will provide security updates for the product.
“It’s unfair for manufacturers to sell expensive products that should last for many years and then abandon them,” said Rocio Concha, of Which? “This means the product could lose the features that justified the hefty price tag and potentially create a security risk or add to the electrical waste mountain if it has to be replaced.”
The consumer organisation says that manufacturers should proactively extend the minimum lengths of time that they support smart products. Otherwise, it says the government should build on the action it has already taken and mandate manufacturers to set longer minimum support periods.