LG Electronics, which this year is fielding a dozen Ultra HD models from 49 to 105 inches, is counting on its new Smart+ TV webOS interface, which was explained and demonstrated Thursday at its Silicon Valley Lab in Santa Clara, Calif., to be a standout feature within the line. All told, 27 of LG’s total of 47 2014 models will include it, said Tim Alessi, director of new product development, who characterized the new platform as “a cornerstone launch” for the company.
“We realized we had to double down on making the software easy to use,” said Sam Chang, senior vice president of LG Silicon Valley Lab, in describing the platform’s enhancements. The technology improves upon the earlier Smart TV software with tweaks that were inspired by what Colin Zhao, the Lab’s director of product management, said was the simplicity of tube TV operability, which involved basic functions like channel changing and on/off switching. Smart+ TV betters the too-complex “lean forward” experience of most smart TV platforms that are merely “blown-up” versions of user interfaces for smartphones and tablets, he said. “We felt you need a ‘lean back’ experience for TV,” he said. “‘Make TV Simple Again’ was our thesis this year.”
LG’s Smart+ TV webOS focuses on providing simple switching between devices, channels, and content sources, simpler content discovery, and an easier way for users to set up and connect the TV to other devices. Lag time is greatly reduced when switching between Full HD content and 4K streaming content (demo’ed there using the Netflix 4K feed of the series “House of Cards”). A content discovery feature provides recommendations to the viewer across sources, giving streaming option information and pricing information where applicable at the screen’s bottom. And TV setup has been made less arduous with the introduction of a “bean bird” cartoon character that appears throughout the process, designed to defuse setup frustration and keep the experience user-friendly.