Consumer champion Which? says that high-end smart products may lose features and functionality, or become a hacking risk, after as little as two years because manufacturers may stop tech updates.
Stopping The Smart Updates Limits Lifespan
Which? says it discovered the risk after analysing smart appliances in six key household product areas – washing machines, dishwashers, televisions, smartphones, printers, and smartwatches/fitness trackers. Following the analysis, it was found that hardly any brands even came close to matching expected lifespans with their smart update policies.
Also, Which? found that many brands don’t give any guarantees, meaning that consumers don’t know exactly how long an appliance will remain safe to use.
Which? reached is conclusion about the risk to smart appliance lifespans after a survey of 119 product brands behind hundreds of smart devices about their update support policies. Analysis of the November 2022 survey results enabled Which? to estimate the average time a product is expected to last before it breaks down or deteriorates significantly. Which? called this estimate this the “estimated lifetime (ELT)”.
The key findings for ELT relating to specific brands include:
- LG dishwashers, smart TVs and washing machines are all only guaranteed support for two years from when the product is launched, not when it was bought. The ELT for LG televisions is 6.8 years, washing machines may last 11 years and dishwashers 13 years.
- Sony also only guarantees updates for its TVs two years after launch and Samsung only guarantees updates for its TVs three years.
- Even though the estimated lifetime for inkjet printers is 13 years, HP only guarantees support for its smart printers for just three years (although it does at least have a policy).
- Some companies do provide product support for longer. E.g., Hisense supports its smart TVs for 10 years, and Miele supports smart dishwashers and washing machines for 10 years.
Which? criticised big smart appliance brands for not being transparent about how long their product support will actually last. For example, only half (49 per cent) actually replied with clear information on minimum support periods and some who did reply only gave vague commitments and confusing policies.
New Legislation Could Help
The recently passed Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Act could help because it will require makers of smartphones, washing machines, televisions, and other products to state minimum guarantee periods for updates when someone makes their purchase.
Manufacturers Should Be Proactive
Which? believes that rather than waiting for legislation to enforce transparency, manufacturers should proactively extend the minimum lengths of time they support smart products.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Which?’s own survey of 1,051 members (Oct 2022) showed that 9 out of 10 consumers think that security updates are an important factor when buying a smart product, although many people may simply buy a smart product without giving much or any thought to how long the smart updates will last. In this respect, publishing these Which? results may be helpful in highlighting an important issue and raising awareness among buyers.
It does seem unfair for manufacturers to sell expensive products that buyers would expect to last for many years and then just abandon them. This could mean that a product could lose the features that justified the high price tag, while the lack of updates could create a security risk. Replacing the essentially obsolete smart product could also be bad for the environment because it’s added to the growing e-waste mountain. As highlighted by Which?, smart appliance manufacturers are facing legislation anyway, and could face further intervention such as a minimum number of years that products have to be supported unless they up their game and become more proactive and more transparent about the length of time that products will be supported with updates.
By Mike Knight