In 2016, India officially arrived as an Internet country by surpassing the US in the total number of connected users. Television has been always a big part of the Indian home. We are an entertainment and sports crazy country. According to a TAM media research report published in 2015, over 200 million households in India own TV sets. With more and more people getting connected to the Internet every day, online content consumption is rising as well.
While many consumers currently watch their shows and videos on a mobile device, many are keen to take that experience to the big screen. We weigh the options on how they could make the transition.
First things first -- if you are buying a new TV or you have a TV which was launched within the past couple of years, chances are that you do have an HDMI port. So, here are your options to make your TV smart.
1. Chromecast or any other streaming stick
This is the cheapest way to making your TV smart. Chromecast is a streaming stick by Google that lets you stream any content from your phone, PC or tablet. It is a small WiFi-enabled dongle device that connects to the television via the HDMI port to wirelessly stream the video and music content to the TV screen. Most well-known video apps such as YouTube, Dailymotion, Netflix and Hotstar have the option of casting the content to the TV screen.
Chromecast 2 is available from ₹3,000 in India, with the price varying on different websites. The older version, which is not bad at all, is available for around ₹2,200. You can also stream your local photos and videos through the various apps on the TV screen. The catch is that there are apps such as Amazon Prime and Apple Music which are not supported by Chromecast 2. Also, you will find some video formats not playing as well as expected.
While Chromecast team is constantly resolving connectivity issues, its reliability is not as high as an Apple TV/Android TV or a smart TV. There are other options such as the TeeWee 2 stick but the supported apps and the interface are not quite up to the mark. It supports far few codecs and formats. TeeWee 2 is available for ₹2,300.
2. Apple TV or Android TV
While Chromecast is great, it might drain battery from the device you are streaming from and you would also not be able to use a remote control. Apple TV offers that experience to you with the addition of fitness, news, and gaming apps. Think of Apple TV as a digital set-top box. The good thing is that it works even if you don't have an iPhone or an iPad.
The 4th generation Apple TV with 32 GB storage capacity costs ₹13,390 in India. While some might say that the price is high, you get better app support than a smart TV, with new apps being constantly added. It, of course, has all your major video streaming apps, and in addition, you can get fitness training, daily news, gaming experience through apps such as Strava, Reuters, and Crossy Road. Apple TV remote has voice recognition and touch control to easily navigate through the interface.
On the other hand, Android is also present as an interface of choice through streaming boxes such as Nvidia Shield and Mi Box. While both of these are not officially available in India, you can order them through websites such as eBay and Amazon. Reportedly, Reliance Jio is going to bring Shield boxes to India soon. If companies like Nvidia continue to produce more boxes with better graphics support, chances are that game developers will have an incentive to publish more games on the platform.
While chances are that you will need an HDMI cable for Chromecast and Apple TV or Android TV, smart TVs come with in-built WiFi connectivity. Be it LG's WebOS interface or Samsung's Tizen, you will get all your apps directly controlled with your remote. So, you would be able to stream your local files from the computer, as well as surf the web to a limited extent.
The problem with smart TVs is that, with the growing popularity of the devices such as Chromecast and Apple TV, fewer developers are focusing on developing apps for these interfaces. This results in half-baked experience with the apps and unpleasant typing on an interface. Also, if you lose the specialised remote, there is hardly any way for you to control the smarts of the TV.
There have been many incidents where hackers have taken control of smart TV and hacked the TV's webcam. Also, future updates of the apps present on the platform is not guaranteed. It might be possible that if a streaming company such as Netflix decides to stream in a different codec, the smart TV might not support it.
Another costly option is to get your streaming through consoles such as Playstation or Xbox but if you are not a serious gamer, an Apple TV or Android TV is sufficient for you. You might get a smart TV by some brands at the price of a non-connected TV but it is always better to invest in a better panel so that you can get the best content experience.