CES 2024: LG promises four years of WebOS upgrades

The company finally committing to a support roadmap for its new TVs, but what does this actually mean for consumers?


It seems that LG plans to provide operating system upgrades for many of its Smart TVs for the next four years – but are these upgrades actually of value to consumers more than to LG itself? (Image: LG)


It’s not unusual for major players in the tech market to make a few announcements, normally planned for important events such as CES, ahead of time – if nothing else, so as to attract more media attention before the avalanche of all the other press releases hits everyone’s mailbox – and LG is no stranger to this approach. But following the company’s press release regarding its new soundbars, included in a press release about its new QNED TV models, is a piece of information that’s way more important than the products themselves. Here’s the paragraph in question:

With the webOS Re:New program,* LG is offering an upgrade to the latest version of its webOS smart TV platform to give more smart TV owners the most up-to-date user experience for the next five years. This notable offer comes to LG QNED Mini LED 8K models launched in 2022 (QNED99 and QNED95 series) and will be extended to additional models in the QNED TV lineup worldwide in the future.

Τhis marks the first time LG is officially committing to a support roadmap for any of its TV lines, regardless of production year or screen type. In fact, this is the first time any TV manufacturer is publicly committing to a specific support roadmap for these products: not just LG, but also Samsung, Sony or Panasonic – let alone TCL, Vizio or Hisense – have all been extremely reluctant to make promises regarding regular software support for their televisions in the past. Some manufacturers provide software updates and upgrades for their TVs for several years – but they do so in a manner not following any specific pattern or timetable – while others stop doing so after 9 to 12 months or even sooner. If that.

It’s a sad, often infuriating, state of affairs and a major issue with modern Smart TVs that will have to be resolved somehow. It’s great to see, then, that this company at least is moving in the right direction with these future LG WebOS upgrades. The careful wording and that asterisk deserve a careful look, though. Here is why.

LG TV WebOS updates: the devil is in the fine print

The asterisk within that paragraph points to a sentence at the bottom of this press release, reading: “This upgrade does not cover the TV’s hardware performance, features or durability”. What this means in plain English is simple: LG does not in any way guarantee that the software support it will be providing for these new TVs is going to necessarily improve them. These firmware upgrades will not make these TV sets perform better in any meaningful way, they will not prolong the natural lifespan of these products and no major new functionality will be added.

LG redesigned the user interface of WebOS, the operating system its Smart TVs are built around, so as to accommodate more ads and promotional spots for paid services. Will this be all that LG customers can expect from these “up-to-date user experience” updates in the future? (Image: LG)


By stating this, LG is obviously limiting the scope of these software upgrades considerably. The only things not excluded from a list of possible benefits these firmware updates could bring to LG’s Smart TVs relate to either their user interface or security of operation. WebOS, the company’s own operating system for its TV sets, does not have the kind of malware or spyware issues e.g. Android TV or Google TV face from time to time – there are not nearly enough apps available or general development interest for that – so chances are that these future firmware upgrades will not be focused on security. This leaves the user interface of future WebOS versions as the only important area where meaningful improvements can be expected, which is… well, rather underwhelming.

It is, unfortunately, in line with LG’s new direction in terms of future revenue expected from its TV business. Back in July CEO William Cho announced LG’s intent to become “a smart life solution company”, focusing on network-connected software and services more than ever before. In practice, this means that consumers can expect even more advertisements and paid services featured on the home screen of their LG Smart TVs going forward – which is why the company needs to be able to “upgrade” the user interface of its TV sets in the future. This has already been done on several occasions, in fact, as LG updated some of its older OLED TV models to the more ad-centric (and less responsive) “full-screen” user interface of recent models.

But how will future WebOS versions perform on older TVs?

As already mentioned, the company states that it will be offering consumers “the most up-to-date user experience for the next five years”, meaning that 2024 LG TVs sporting WebOS 24 will be getting WebOS 25 in 2025, WebOS 26 in 2026, WebOS 27 in 2027 and WebOS 28 in 2028. As owners of some past Sony Bravia models can confirm, though, upgrading the operating system of a Smart TV to a later version than the one it shipped with (from Android TV 9 to Android TV 10 for instance) can actually make things worse in terms of operation speed and responsiveness.

In other words, there’s no guarantee that future versions of WebOS will perform on 2024 LG TVs as well as WebOS 24 presumably does – and, what’s more, there is no way to know for sure until one has actually upgraded a past LG TV model to a new version of WebOS and used it for a while. It’s for this reason that LG’s choice to make these future WebOS upgrades optional is welcome. In any case, here’s hope that the Korean manufacturer will at the very least try to offer consumers some extra functionality along with all the promoted apps, content and services those WebOS upgrades will feature left, right and center. It’s people’s TVs, after all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

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