rich warren | Have you tried updating it? | Scientific technology


Get more for your money without spending a dime. From big screen TVs to smartphones, all it takes is downloading a few updates and making a few tweaks to improve performance.

When you buy a new TV, choose a retailer who delivers and configures it. The TV leaves the factory set to dazzle in the showroom, not necessarily to reproduce the most faithful image. A good dealer knows the key parameters to improve accuracy while satisfying your visual taste.

Most televisions have more than 20 built-in settings that, when properly tuned, provide a more realistic viewing experience. You can browse the internet to find online guides for these adjustments, but unless you understand what you’re doing, it’s best to leave it to a professional. Most local retailers charge little, if any, extra for simple adjustments when the TV is delivered.

If you’re left to your own devices, choose the “cinema” setting for greater accuracy, although for many people this results in a less vibrant image. Bright, deeply saturated images end up wearing out the eyes and not what content creators intended.

Most manufacturers also update the software and firmware that runs your TV, at least for the first year. If you leave it permanently connected to the internet to access the “smart TV” functions, most televisions update automatically.

The downside to leaving your TV permanently connected to the internet, whether wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi, is that it sends your viewing habits back to the manufacturer, who resells the data to an advertising network.

Some companies even use the possibility of inserting their own advertising on your television set in addition to the program provider’s advertising.

If you don’t use the “smart” features, leave your TV offline and connect to the internet once a month. Access the setup menu, which if not labeled, is likely invoked by the little gear button on the remote. Go to the “help” or configuration section and click on “update”. Some updates only change the capabilities of the smart TV, but can significantly improve the performance of your TV.

Similarly, smartphones usually, but not always, update automatically. Many Android phones require a nudge from you. Most manufacturers send out security updates (patches) anywhere from once a month to a few times a year. Often they accompany these security patches with performance improvements.

For example, my Google Pixel 6 came with half-baked software in October. In January, Google finally sent out a new code that dramatically improved the overall operation of the phone. Apple and Android also send operating system updates once a year. Apple updates the operating systems of its phones for about five years, while Android phones, depending on the manufacturer, get two or three years of updates. They may be automatic or you may need to access the system menu to download and install them.

Set your Android phone to automatically update all of your apps, or do it manually every week. This provides additional security as well as enhancements from app developers. You may experience issues booking your next flight if you don’t update the airline’s app.

When you’re at home, use Wi-Fi to download updates, especially if you don’t have an unlimited data plan. Wi-Fi generally downloads apps faster and without impacting your data plan. When you’re not downloading or away from home, turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi to improve battery life. If you’re not using Bluetooth for connectivity, turn that off as well. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth both rely on separate radios within your phone that draw considerable power even when not active.

Turning off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Near Field Communication when not in use also increases security when you’re away from home. Nefarious hackers can seize on these signals to infiltrate your phone in order to steal personal information or plant malware, not to mention track you beyond the existing capability of your mobile provider.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime critic of consumer electronics. Email him at [email protected]


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