Each smart TV platform utilizes an OS (Operation System), providing various features and user experiences.
In this article, we will explore the many OS options on the market and their impact on the smart TV’s functionality.
Let’s dive in!
What exactly do TVs Operating Systems control?
A TV’s operating system (OS) is the backbone of a smart TV, controlling various aspects of its functionality and user experience. One of the primary functions of a TV OS is to manage the apps and content available to users.
This includes preloaded apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, as well as allowing users to download and install additional apps from an app store.
Additionally, the TV OS is responsible for handling updates, ensuring that both the OS itself and installed apps remain up-to-date and secure.
This is crucial for maintaining a smooth streaming experience and keeping the smart TV compatible with the latest media formats.
The User Interface (User-friendliness)
Another important aspect of a TV OS is its user interface (UI).
The UI must be easy to navigate, visually appealing, and responsive to the user’s commands. This includes everything from the layout of app icons to the functionality of the remote control. A good UI should provide a seamless and intuitive experience for users as they browse and select their desired content.
Moreover, a smart TV OS also takes care of connectivity features. This means managing Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections, as well as being compatible with various screen-sharing technologies like Miracast or Chromecast.
In some cases, the OS may also support voice assistance (e.g., Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) to make it even easier for users to control their TV.
Finally, the OS needs to efficiently manage system resources such as:
- and storage.
This ensures a smooth and stable performance for users when streaming high-quality content or running multiple apps simultaneously.
Popular Smart TV Brands and Their OS
Samsung, a leading brand in the market, uses Tizen OS for its smart TVs.
Tizen OS is known for its simple and user-friendly interface, making it easy for users to navigate through apps and settings. It offers seamless access to popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.
Samsung also provides regular updates to their Tizen OS to ensure a smooth and up-to-date user experience.
In my experience, though, Tizen is pretty slow. It often takes 2-3 seconds from you touch the remote till something happens on the screen.
You can check the most common issues with Samsung OS here.
LG, another popular brand, utilizes webOS as its smart TV operating system. WebOS is known for its intuitive and colorful interface with a unique card-style layout.
It allows users to effortlessly switch between apps, live TV, and other connected devices. LG’s webOS also has a notable feature called “Magic Remote” which provides voice control and navigation using a simple point-and-click motion.
Sony smart TVs typically run on Google TV (formerly known as Android TV).
As it is based on Android, it offers a wide range of apps and games available on the Google Play Store. In addition to that, Google TV integrates well with other Google services such as Google Assistant, allowing users to control their TVs with voice commands.
This OS also supports Chromecast, enabling users to easily cast their favorite content from their smartphones or tablets.
Hisense smart TVs use a variety of operating systems depending on the model.
Some Hisense TVs run on the Roku TV platform, which offers a straightforward and easy-to-use interface. Roku TV features access to thousands of apps and streaming services, including popular platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and HBO Max.
Other Hisense models use the Android TV platform or their proprietary VIDAA U platform, which also offers a user-friendly experience with access to popular apps and streaming services.
6 Popular Smart TV Operating Systems
In this section, we will briefly discuss five popular smart TV OS: Tizen, WebOS, Android TV, Roku, and Fire TV.
Tizen is an open-source smart TV OS developed by Samsung. It is mainly used in Samsung smart TVs and offers a smooth and user-friendly interface.
- A customizable home screen, allowing users to arrange apps according to their preference
- Integration with Samsung SmartThings for seamless control of smart home devices
- Access to a wide range of popular streaming apps, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu
I’m not a big fan of Tizen. I find it to require too many button-clicks to enter relevant menus (such as brightness, apps, etc.). That said, it’s IS easy to use – just kinda slow and tedious.
WebOS is another popular smart TV OS, originally developed by Palm, later by HP, and finally acquired by LG. It is primarily used in LG smart TVs.
- A unique and intuitive user interface, known as “card-based” for easy navigation
- Integration with LG ThinQ AI for voice control and smart home integration
- Compatibility with a variety of popular streaming apps, including Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video
Android TV is a smart TV OS developed by Google, based on the Android operating system. It is used in various TV brands, including Sony, Hisense, and Philips.
Android TV provides:
- Access to the Google Play Store, offering thousands of apps and games
- Integration with Google Assistant for voice control and smart home management
- Chromecast built-in, for easy content sharing from Android devices and Google Chrome browser
I personally like Android TV, though I use Tizen and Apple TV on a daily basis. I think it’s intuitive and easy to use.
Roku offers its own smart TV OS, called Roku TV, which is a variation of the Roku OS found in its streaming sticks and boxes. TCL, Hisense, Hitachi, and other TV brands use Roku TV.
The platform delivers:
- A simplified home screen with access to popular streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV
- The Roku Channel, featuring free movies and TV shows for users
- Voice search and control through the Roku mobile app or compatible voice assistants
Fire TV is a smart TV OS developed by Amazon and built into some models of Toshiba, Insignia, and Amazon Fire TVs.
Fire TV offers:
- Seamless integration with Amazon services, such as Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Music
- Access to popular streaming apps, like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu
- Compatibility with Alexa for voice control and smart home device management
tvOS is a proprietary smart TV OS developed by Apple, primarily used for its Apple TV boxes and built into some smart TVs.
It integrates seamlessly with other Apple services and devices, providing a rich and intuitive user experience.
- Access to Apple’s vast ecosystem, including Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and the App Store with a multitude of apps and games.
- Integration with Siri for voice control and search across multiple apps. You can ask Siri to play a specific show, movie, or even control smart home devices connected via HomeKit.
- AirPlay 2 support, allowing users to stream or mirror content from their iOS or MacOS devices to their TV.
- HomeKit support, enabling users to control their smart home devices through the Apple Home app or using Siri.
- Multi-user support, where each family member can have a personalized profile with tailored recommendations and access to their Apple Music playlists.
My personal thoughts about tvOS are quite positive. As an Apple user, I find the seamless integration between my devices incredibly convenient.
The user interface is simple, responsive, and aesthetically pleasing. However, those deeply ingrained in non-Apple ecosystems might find it less appealing due to its strong focus on Apple’s own services.
Pros and Cons of Different OS
- User-friendly interface, making it easier for users to navigate and find content.
- Vast selection of streaming channels and apps.
- Frequent software updates, ensuring the system stays up to date with new features.
- Limited customization options, with a locked-down interface.
- Lack of out-of-the-box support for common video file types.
- Fewer built-in voice assistant features compared to other systems.
Google TV & Android TV
- Offers access to the Google Play Store, giving users a wide variety of apps and games to choose from.
- Well-integrated with other Google services, such as YouTube and Google Assistant.
- Supports popular media formats, making it easier to play local files.
- Less intuitive interface compared to some competitors, which may take time to get used to.
- Occasional compatibility issues with older apps or content, due to frequent software updates.
- Potential privacy concerns due to Google’s data collection practices.
webOS (LG Smart TVs)
- Simplistic and visually appealing user interface, making it easy to find and access content.
- Efficient performance, thanks to LG’s optimization efforts.
- Good integration with popular streaming services and mobile devices.
- Limited app selection compared to Android TV or Roku TV.
- Lacks comprehensive voice assistant support.
- The user experience may vary depending on the age of the LG TV model.
TizenOS (Samsung Smart TVs)
- Clean and responsive user interface, making it simple for users to navigate.
- Wide range of apps and streaming services, including popular apps such as Netflix and Hulu.
- Samsung’s SmartThings integration allows for easy access and control of smart home devices.
- Limited customization options and a more rigid interface.
- Often slow and rigid (especially when just connecting to Wi-Fi)
- Occasional performance issues on older or lower-end Samsung TV models.
- The app store could be more extensive in terms of available applications.
Fire TV (Amazon Smart TVs)
- Smooth performance and easy navigation through content.
- Integration with Amazon Prime Video and other popular streaming services.
- Built-in Alexa voice assistant for easy search and control capabilities.
- The interface heavily prioritizes Amazon content, which may be intrusive for some users.
- Limited app store compared to competitors like Android TV or Roku TV.
- Privacy concerns due to Amazon’s data collection practices.
Future of Smart TV Operating Systems
One important development is the licensing of proprietary operating systems, such as Samsung’s TizenOS and LG’s webOS, to third-party TV manufacturers.
This move allows more TV makers to integrate these operating systems into their devices, fostering increased competition and innovation in the industry.
Furthermore, it paves the way for a more uniform user experience across various brands and models.
In my opinion, we don’t need 5-6 big OS systems for our TVs!
In addition to the licensing trend, integration with voice assistants and smart home ecosystems is becoming a key feature for smart TV operating systems. Major platforms such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV, and Google TV are already compatible with popular voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.
As smart home adoption continues to grow, we can expect these operating systems to offer deeper and more seamless connections with other smart devices.
Another aspect of the future of smart TV operating systems is related to the ongoing battle for content and app partnerships.
Platform providers will continue to strike deals with streaming services and app developers to provide users with exclusive access to movies, TV shows, and games. As a result, consumers can expect an ever-expanding range of entertainment options available on their smart TVs.