Google TVs to Support a Basic Mode

Posted on February 25, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 19 Comments

New smart TVs running the new Google TV platform will support a Basic mode in which the TV’s smart features are all disabled.

News of this feature comes via 9to5Google, but it was confirmed by Google. And to be clear, it applies only to a coming generation of new smart TVs—from Sony, TCL, and others—that will be based on Google TV, the replacement for Android TV. It does not apply to the new Chromecast with Google TV or other set-top boxes.

Anyone who owns a smart TV will understand the appeal of this option: While smart TV software is OK at first, the underlying hardware quickly grows outdated, performance lags, and modern apps and app updates stop appearing. This way, those who want to use Google TV will have access to that, while those that do not—or those with an aging TV—can disable it entirely.

According to the screenshots shown by 9to5Google, the full Google TV experience will include movies and TV shows from streaming video apps, personalized recommendations, Google Assistant voice capabilities, live TV capabilities, and external device support over HDMI. The Basic TV mode supports HDMI inputs, live over-the-air TV, and a settings interface. You can move between the two modes as needed as well.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Google TVs to Support a Basic Mode”

  1. crunchyfrog

    That's a great idea, similar to Roku TV but I really can't trust Google here. They can't even make up their minds what to call their offerings.

    • ronv42

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      The real question is do they stop collecting data in basic mode, I guess if you disconnect the TV from your network you would be fine but other manufactures make it impossible to disable Wi-Fi once it's setup and you have to factory reset.

  2. thalter

    This is outstanding. I don't own any Google devices (I use Apple TV boxes on all my TVs), so it is immensely annoying that I can't just disable the unused Android TV experience on my Sony TV and just use it as a damn TV set. Not everyone wants a Smart TV!

    My only complaint is that they are not making this available on existing Sony TVs. Surely it can't be that hard to port back. Anyways, a step in the right direction: Not everyone replaces their TV every 2-3 years. Other manufacturers need to take note.

    • wright_is

      In reply to thalter:

      I just disabled the Wi-Fi on my Android TV and it has all the features that Google has announced here - I guess the difference maybe that the Android apps won't be shown?

    • IanYates82

      In reply to thalter:

      The bit they can update is the Android bit. That's also the bit you want to disable. Catch 22 unfortunately, like trying to remote install a Linux partition on your PC whilst you're in your running Windows partition that's on the same drive and currently occupying all of the drive's space

  3. cnc123

    Does anyone know of a definitive (or even partial) guide to what kind of data collection each TV brand does? Specifically, I'm wondering whether (and which) TVs collect data while offline and then upload it all if you connect for a firmware update.

  4. wright_is

    I have a Sony Bravia Android TV. I stopped getting security updates 2 years ago. I just turned off Wi-Fi and carried on using it as a dumb TV and plugged in a FireTV for the smarts. What is the difference here?

    I get basic OTA TV (satellite in my case) and HDMI inputs and the settings interface...

  5. txag

    Last time I bought a TV I specifically shopped for a “dumb tv” because of obsolescence ... and spying.

  6. datameister

    Every time I get ready to replace my 10 year old TV they come out with a feature worth waiting for. Last year it was waiting for Filmmaker mode. Now there's the even better option to disable all of the smart features. Hopefully there will be TVs next year having both. For me, that alone is going to give Google TVs the edge over all other brands that don't offer something similar.

  7. codymesh

    finally, a smart TV that won't be rendered worthless when the software updates stop

  8. faustxd9

    This is one of those perennial issues with IoT devices, once support disappears you have what could amount to a trojan horse on your network. At some point we will most likely have to run an IoT LAN and a "home" LAN that are protected from each other. I would love to see IoT devices start putting their support lifetimes on the box. It won't matter for a "echo type device" but if you buy a multi-k fridge that gets ridiculous.

    • ebockelman

      In reply to faustxd9:

      Yeah, if you haven't already, it's time to carve out an IoT network. You might even want separate IoT networks - one that performs client isolation and one that lets devices talk to each other. That way bespoke devices only reach the internet, but devices that coordinate on the same network can still chat with each other and get internet access.

      At least the hardware to do this is now well within the means (both financial and technical) of home users.

  9. waethorn

    Finally some sanity.

  10. jtdennis

    I got a Vizio TV a few years ago that advertised having no apps. It was everything I wanted, just a way to display from the various inputs I gave it. Then they added "smart" features and apps via an unavoidable update a couple years ago. I use none of them because they're slow and not as good IMO as the ones on my AppleTV or Roku.

  11. jgraebner

    This should be a standard feature on every TV. Glad to see them doing this

  12. scovious

    Is "personalized recommendations" a fancy way of saying advertisements? I find it hard to believe Google would disable Ads on anything they do, for free.

  13. remc86007

    Now if they could work with Sony to make it so my $3k television doesn't require 13 button inputs to switch between gaming mode and standard mode on a single input, that would be great.......

  14. ianbetteridge

    The key question is whether this mode will also turn off the ability of TV manufacturers to track everything you watch and sell that data to third parties.

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