The future of smart TV has landed – LG webOS

LG´s new webOS smart TV platform promises to simplify smart TV - here´s why it lives up to the hype...

14 May 2014

The world of smart TV has a new kid on the block, one that promises to be simple to set up, easy to use and good for flitting between programmes and apps.

LG racked up headlines at the International CES tech show in January with webOS - a smart TV platform designed to keep things simple.

Reviewers have now got their hands on the first TVs to run it. We spoke to Tom Parsons, Stuff magazine TV expert, to find out whether it keeps its promise.


What is smart TV?

A smart TV is a TV that connects to the web so you can watch catch-up TV such as iPlayer and ITV Player and stream movies and TV shows from apps such as Netflix. You can also chat on Skype and browse the web.


What is webOS?

WebOS is a new approach to smart TV software. LG bought webOS from HP last year. You may remember it from the Palm Pre smartphone. However it has since been transformed into a smart TV platform.


Web OS Dashboard1

(Credit: LG)

The main benefits of webOS - in brief 

  • Easy to set up and navigate 

  • Find the content you want fast - reduces number of steps to switch between content

  • Pause one programme for another then pick up the first one in the same place you left it

  • Collates day's best content across live TV, Sky, apps and on-demand in one place 


Is webOS easy to use?

The webOS platform is designed to "make TV simple again". It does this primarily by allowing you to access the content you want faster, with less fuss.

It's designed to significantly reduce the number steps it takes to between your content options.

Tom at Stuff said: "It's definitely easier and quicker to use than the old OS, partly because it's been designed from the off to work with the motion-sensing Magic Remote, and partly because it's a purpose-built, optimised OS, rather than simple a menu of disparate apps, menus and features."


What are those colourful rectangles?

LG's New Web OS Smart TV Platform


The home screen of webOS is made up of colourful vertical rectangles. Each of these represents one of your apps. The apps you use most are shifted toward the left of the screen - whether that's Netflix, YouTube, iPlayer or live TV listings.

On previous generations of smart TVs these have been laid out in a less-uniform way, sporadically dotted across the screen.

Tom at Stuff explains: "The colour makes them pretty quick to distinguish from one another, and the size and shape of them makes them easy to click on using the Magic Remote.
"They can be very easily reordered, too. It's a very simple and bold system, but it's that that should make it easy, quick and instinctive to use in the long run."


Switching between content is simple

One of the main features of webOS is its ability to run multiple apps at the same time. You can access the Launcher menu by pressing the home button, and search for programmes while watching something else, for example. 

This means you can go from watching Breaking Bad on Netflix to checking out the iPlayer in just two clicks - and then pick up Breaking Bad again from the same place you left it. 

Tom explains: "No matter what you're running you can bring up the pop-up menu and switch to something else. The app you navigated away from pauses (if it has a pause feature) so that you can return where you left off.
"This is session-based, so when you put the TV on standby the apps you had open will all close."


The Today feature - puts all your content in one place

Ever stuck for something to watch? The Today feature picks the best of the day's TV and on-demand services and presents them on your home screen. 
This could include a show from BBC or ITV primetime, something being broadcast on Netflix for the first time or a new film available on Sky.

Tom said the feature "brings in content from your TV tuner, PVR ( set top boxes) and on-demand services and puts it all in one place".

He explains:  "It's a feature that brings back the notion of browsing and discovering something to watch that you hadn't thought of. On most TVs you'd have to look through a massive TV EPG (electronic programme guide) and open a bunch of different apps."


WebOS - easy to use, easy to set-up

Ever struggled to set up a new TV? WebOS has the Bean Bird cartoon character to make it as easy as apple pie. Bean Bird gives you a crash course in the Magic Remote, and walks you through set up with simple on-screen instructions.

Tom says the Bean Bird is more than just a "cute cartoon".

He explains: "He talks you through the process of connecting your components, web connection and TV service in a way that's pretty much foolproof. It automatically detects all of the devices you've got connected, and in most cases will even control them via the Magic Remote.

"Picture settings can be adjusted with an easy Picture Wizard, too. Those with complicated systems will have a slightly more convoluted setup process, but those guys (I'm one of them) sort of enjoy that anyway!"

Check out Tom's hands-on with WebOS at Stuff HQ here.


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