App stores lie at the heart of the TV concept. This week, we're taking a look at what you can expect from each of the major vendor's app store offerings. While Apps are the core appeal of any Smart TV platform, it's been slow going to date. We grabbed Smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic to check out what the app stores that are available actually offer.
Gizmodo's Smart TV Buying Guide
- Part 1: Basics You Need To Know
- Part 2: App Stores Compared
- Part 3: Latest Models Roundup
- Part 4: Smart TV Tips And Tricks
What We Liked Samsung's Smart Hub has a really neat and clear to read layout; this looks like you'd imagine a Smart TV interface should look, taking advantage of the screen real estate on offer to make the most of additional services. The breakdown of apps is intelligent, with categories for video, games , sports, lifestyle, information and education categories. There's genuinely a little bit of something for everybody here, and the option to flick between an icon view and a list view makes it easier to pick good Apps out.
What We Didn't Like The interface can be a little slow to start up and refresh pages. Also, while there's some nice key apps, there's also some dross in there, as seems to happen with App stores over time.
It's also worth noting that Samsung looks set to release a Google TV sometime next year; whether they'll adopt a dual TV strategy, similar to what they do with Android and Bada, remains to be seen.
What we liked LG breaks its apps up into games, entertainment, life, education and News/info categories. LG also got provision for paid apps; while that might not seem like a plus in that you have to pay for some apps, it could be vital in attracting app developers to LG. There's a good mix of applications here, including some that are 3D specific if that appeals to you. What we didn't like It may have been our testing network, but LG's Apps portal had a nasty tendency to time out on us. The layout breaks each section into hot, new, top paid, top free and all groupings, but there's no easy way that I could spot for listings, meaning you've got to flick between groups of icons that are freshly loaded up each time.
What we liked: Panasonic's market is simply laid out, breaking apps into a catch-all featured category, as well as video & movie, music, sports, games, social networking, news & lifestyle and health and fitness. Standout apps include Panasonic's Social TV which allows you to check Facebook and Twitter in a column that runs down the side of the TV screen while you watch.
What we didn't like: As with the LG, it's a large icon approach which works well when you're talking TV screens for individual apps, but once you've got a lot to deal with, it becomes much less manageable.
What we liked Sony's approach to its Apps has been marked by the fact that, to date, it's not offered an App store offering per se. Instead, as new "Smart" apps become available for Sony's BRAVIA TVs (and selected Blu-Ray players) they're downloaded pretty much immediately, as long as your TV is already connected to a network. It's certainly easy to use, and TV usage should be all about easy. Sony's concentration on entertainment apps also pays off, with access to its Qriocity music streaming service a particular highlight.
What we didn't like The only problem with this approach is that it doesn't offer a whole lot of choice; you're not selecting Smart TV apps, because they're being selected for you.