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Bit by bit, technology inches forward and the world changes around us. Even things that we take for granted evolve dramatically from year to year. TVs, in particular, have changed significantly over the past several decades. Just 50 years ago, black and white TVs were still more common than their color-capable counterparts. Now, there are many different types of TVs with a variety of capabilities, sizes, and shapes. Among them, many TVs carry the “smart” designation, but what exactly makes them smart?

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What Does “Smart” Entail?

Technically, smart is just a marketing buzzword that indicates that competing products are “dumb,” even if they are comparable. Because of this, there is no exact definition of what a smart product is or is capable of doing. In general, there are a couple of types of smart technologies. Some smart devices require no connection to the internet or any other network but do have intuitive user interfaces that allow for automation and programming. Smart connected devices use systems such as WiFi or Bluetooth to communicate with each other or the internet. This allows them to link together, provide useful information, and stay up-to-date. Most smart TVs fall under this category.

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Application Platforms

When manufacturers describe a TV as “smart,” it usually implies two things: the TV is capable of connecting to the internet, and it has its own application platform. An application platform is similar to a cable provider. Just as a cable provider may offer a channel to their customers, application platforms allow users to download an application. Different brands of smart TVs have different application platforms. There are dozens of manufacturers with dozens of application platforms. Some use Google’s Chromecast, some use Roku TV, and others rely on Amazon’s Fire TV. Generally, most of these platforms are incredibly similar, and most offer access to popular streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

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How They Work

To provide access to the various applications, a smart TV needs access to an internet connection. In most homes, this means connecting it to a WiFi network. Most WiFi networks have a name that distinguishes it from other networks and a password that protects it from unauthorized access. In order to connect the TV to a WiFi network, users will need to select their wireless connection from a list and then manually input the password. Some TVs have remotes with full keyboards, though most display a keyboard on the screen that users will navigate using their remote. Once the TV connects to the internet, it will be able to access the application platform and offer hundreds of different streaming services. The specifics of this will vary for different brands and models.

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Benefit Over Standard TVs

What most people want to know before they purchase a smart TV is if it’s worth the cost. Most smart TVs are a bit more expensive than standard TVs of a similar size, so it can be tempting to choose the standard option. The main benefit that smart TVs have over their counterparts is the sheer level of content that they offer. Standard TVs require a signal from a cable box or a similar device that allows them to display content. Ultimately, this requires users to subscribe to different content packages from a cable provider. In comparison to streaming services, these content packages are often significantly more expensive. Additionally, some smart TVs offer web browsing, gaming, and access to non-TV applications. Some people may find it helpful to visualize a smart TV as a large tablet or smartphone.

TV applications content scanrail / Getty Images

Interesting Features

Because they can connect to the internet, smart TVs offer some unique and interesting features. Most notably, they are capable of connecting to and working with other devices. This means that users can send images and videos from their phones to their TVs. Some TVs can even do the process in reverse, allowing users to take their content anywhere in their home. Some brands call this SmartShare while others call it SmartView, screen mirroring, or screen sharing.

smart screen mirroring adventtr / Getty Images

Smart Home

Aside from phones, some smart TVs are capable of connecting to other smart devices. For example, there are security systems that connect to wireless networks to upload videos from cameras. Some application platforms may carry an application that allows users to look at their security camera feed from their TV. This may even expand to a fully customizable routine. A person could create a morning program that would automatically turn on a smart coffee pot and the lights while switching the TV to the person’s favorite morning show.

smart home TV milindri / Getty Images

Other Costs

Smart TVs do have costs other than the TV itself. Though most application platforms offer hundreds of free apps, many of the more popular streaming services require a monthly subscription or some sort of pay-per-view fee. In addition, users will have to provide an internet connection for the TV to use, meaning they must pay for internet service. However, many people already have internet service in their homes. Plus, even with internet bills and streaming services, costs are still usually lower than the average cable subscription.

services pay fee kupicoo / Getty Images

Internet Requirements

Because smart TVs require an internet connection, many people may wonder if there is a specific internet package that they will need in order to use their smart TV. This is a complicated question because there is no correct answer. Beyond having an internet connection available, there is technically not any internet service requirements. However, different streaming services will recommend different internet speeds in order to use their services properly. Additionally, some internet packages have a limit on how much data customers can use each month. Because streaming can use a significant amount of data, it’s important to check with internet service providers and pick the most compatible package.

router internet requirements deepblue4you / Getty Images

Updates

One of the biggest benefits of a smart TV is that its applications will receive frequent updates. These updates can range from simple user interface changes to the removal of various issues. However, some application developers may choose not to update their applications for older televisions. This means individuals who plan to purchase a TV and use it for many years to come may benefit from choosing a third-party streaming device that connects to their TV rather than purchasing a smart TV.

smart tv updates tomazl / Getty Images

Security Issues

There are some concerns about privacy issues involving smart TVs. Many people are concerned about nefarious individuals hacking their WiFi networks and using their TVs to spy on them. Though this is a possibility, it is incredibly unlikely that the average person’s TV is at risk. However, to avoid potential issues, it would be prudent not to send personal or financial information through the TV. Instead, it would be better to use a computer with a wired connection for these purposes.

hacker tv security xijian / Getty Images

Disclaimer

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