Sensible home equipment may cease working after two years, says Which?

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By Shiona McCallumTechnology reporter

Smart appliances could stop working properly after just two years because manufacturers are failing to provide tech updates, according to Which?.

Research by the consumer champion found products like expensive dishwashers, TVs, and washing machines – which might be expected to last more than a decade – are "being abandoned" by brands.

A lack of software support from firms means devices do not get updated.

The older they get, the risk of online hacking also increases, Which? says.

It found that "hardly any brands even came close to matching their expected lifespan" with their smart update policies, while others failed to respond when they were asked to clarify the length of support.

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Products' operating systems need updates, because if support ends, then their functionality cannot improve.

The updates also include security patches, which can fix flaws if any come to light.

What is a smart appliance?

Traditionally smart – or internet-connected – products bring enhanced features including options like voice controls.

For example, you can power up or pause a machine with an app, on a smartwatch, or by using a smart speaker.

Apps can determine, say, the most suitable cycle for a dishwasher and choose one to buy that is water and energy efficient. It can also recognise how many dishwasher tablets you have left and automatically reorder more when you are running low.

According to Which?, these types of appliances cost almost £300 more than average ones and the general expectation is that they will last longer.

Boy learning from mother while using mobile app over dishwasher in kitchen at smart home.Getty Images

Which? looked at popular smart TVs, dishwashers, washing machines, smartphones, inkjet printers, smartwatches and fitness trackers. It found that hardly any brands even came close to matching their expected lifespan with their smart update policies.

A total of 119 brands were approached about hundreds of products, across 20 different categories, and, as of November 2022, only half (49%) had replied with clear information on length of support periods.

Of those who did reply:

  • LG dishwashers, washing machines and smart TVs could lose support just two years after launch despite their estimated lifetime being 13 years
  • LG's TVs might get up to five years of support for critical security vulnerabilities
  • Sony only offers guaranteed support of its smart TVs for two years from launch with the latest software version available for eight years
  • Samsung supports smart TVs for at least three years and will fully comply with the new law on product security and telecommunications infrastructure
  • Miele and Hisense offer smart TV assistance for 10 years

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: "It's unfair for manufacturers to sell expensive products that should last for many years and then abandon them.

"This means the product could lose the features that justified the hefty price tag, and potentially create a security risk or add to the electrical waste mountain if it has to be replaced.

"Manufacturers must up their game and provide vital tech updates for their smart products for longer, otherwise the government should consider further intervention in this area, including specifying a minimum number of years that these products have to be supported for."

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