The global smart TV market was estimated at 268.9 million units in 2020, and from 2021 to 2028, it’s expected to expand at a CAGR of 20.8%. An increasing use of such devices drives the demand for smart TV expertise. However, smart TV app development has an array of challenges. Read on to find out what they are and how our development team solves them to help clients get a competitive edge and increase the bottom line.
Dealing with platform fragmentation
Unlike the mobile app development world in which iOS and Android have conquered almost 100% of the global mobile market, the world of smart TV development is much more fragmented.
Smart TV viewers are not especially loyal to a particular device and can use multiple platforms during a day. So if content distributors want to provide all-the-time experiences, they should build a smart TV application that would work well with a variety of TV devices. Moreover, smart TVs in a broader sense include STB-devices and solutions for such platforms as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Android TV, and Roku.
To help our customers better target their resources towards specific brands, expand the viewership, and increase ROI, we thoroughly analyze the smart TV market, define a matrix of the preferable smart TV and set-top box platforms, and build a future app compatible with these platforms.
Also, different devices mean different SDKs and APIs that are frequently updated by vendors. To avoid compatibility problems in this regard, we scrutinize the documentation for every particular smart TV platform, strictly follow the required guidelines when deploying the app, and provide comprehensive API update support.
Besides smart TV device diversity, the things are complicated further with new operating systems constantly entering the market. The problem is that new versions are not always compatible with older TV hardware, which might lead to the smart TV app not supporting new features.
To solve this challenge, we first define a matrix of the necessary OSes, test the feasibility of supporting extremely old televisions, and add custom code to make the smart TV app backwards compatible with legacy TV hardware.
Enabling great usability and UX
TV differs a lot from smaller screens, so smart TV app development has its peculiarities when it comes to UI and UX.
To enable smooth watching from a 3-4 meter distance that is typical for TVs, developers have to get into the ins and outs of CSS style libraries and implement them in the optimal way. Also, TVs have blinking and backlight bleeding problems. To address this, we pay particular attention to color usage — avoiding pure black and white — and accurately distribute the content across the screen.
Ensuring frictionless navigation is another must. In smart TV development, it usually means avoiding drop-down menus, prioritizing lists and smooth transitions between pages, and building an intuitive back button. Remote controls should also be easy to configure and navigate — so that even complex commands could be completed by users with a minimum number of clicks and the best navigation pathways across menu items.
Smart TV app development might include a lot of customized features such as voice-powered control or a custom keyboard with auto-complete functionality. This presupposes additional research, effort, and money, which should be thoroughly discussed during requirements elaboration.
Ensuring solid performance
Smart TV solution approval in an app store can take a long time — about 2-3 months, depending on the version. One of the reasons for rejection might be a poor video streaming speed. To avoid re-submitting the app and postponing the market release, it’s key to ensure great solution performance.
When handling multiple platform versions, it’s key to timely switch off the functionality that isn’t supported on older versions. Simplifying UI is another way to significantly improve frontend performance. This can be done by using React renderers with canvas instead of HTML DOM elements and by omitting complicated CSS styles like shadows or 3D.
Considering the fact that TV is a low-memory device, and its characteristics differ from that of PCs, we pay particular attention to performance profiling. This helps us detect TV’s memory errors, CPU limitation, uninitialized memory, as well as improper allocation or deallocation of memory.
We also write custom code for smart TV apps with backend performance in mind, implement CDN set-ups, and conduct highly-performant automated smart TV testing. To deal with hardware performance challenges, we optimize the app for older TVs when needed and implement graceful degradation.
Solving QA problems
Smart TV testing is a complex process that presupposes a great volume of work due to TV device fragmentation.
To deal with this efficiently, we define a matrix of platforms for testing as well as test the feasibility of using real-time devices. As practice shows, real-time devices are key to testing particular features like video streams or custom navigation. For the rest of the scenarios, emulators come in handy. Moreover, real-time TVs are not apt to screenshot testing, and with emulators we get screenshots through a host OS.
To ensure stability and greater speed, we recharge emulators every 30 minutes.
Among other methods we use to speed up the QA processes are:
Parallel testing across various emulators
Avoiding sending large messages (over 1,000 symbols) via WebSockets
Dividing large messages into several smaller ones
When testing on TV devices, debug connections might be lost due to high loads. With this in mind, we use real-life devices only to test the functionality that can’t be tested on emulators and timely restart the debugging process.
Develop your smart TV solution
Smart TV sales are only increasing. And although major players are leading the market, you can always join the competition and find your niche. Underpinned by multi-year smart TV knowledge, we know how to solve the major challenges around platform fragmentation, performance, and UI — to help you expand your viewer base.