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Vizio Walks Back on Chromecast-Only TVs, Adds Apps to Latest Models

Variety logo Variety 4/28/2017 Janko Roettgers

A year after introducing the world’s first TV sets that ditched all on-screen apps for built-in Chromecast functionality, Vizio is set to walk back on part of that premise. The company announced this week that its 2017 M-Series and P-Series TVs will once again come with TV-based apps that can be used with a remote control.

The company is also going to send out a firmware upgrade to its 2016 Ultra-HD TVs and all other 2017 models later this summer that will add apps to the big screen. All 2016 and 2017 models will still offer Chromecast built-in as well, so consumers will continue to be able to control them with their phone, and launch playback of videos from within mobile apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.

Vizio took the radical step to ditch all on-screen apps in early 2016, and even shipped some of its TV sets with a tablet instead of a traditional remote control. The company also developed its own program guide app, dubbed SmartCast, for those tablets and other mobile devices in an attempt to simplify casting for its consumers.

However, the decision to ditch on-screen apps altogether didn’t go over well with all consumers. Scan the reviews for Vizio’s 2016 TVs on Walmart.com, for example, and you’ll find plenty of reviewers complaining about the need to download apps to their phones, with some of them mentioning that it was the reason they ended up returning the device.

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A review of Vizio’s cast-only TVs on Walmart.com. Screenshot: Janko Roettgers/Variety

Vizio released only limited details on its new TV apps platform. A release promised apps for Crackle, Hulu, iHeartRadio, Vudu, and XUMO. Netflix notably wasn’t mentioned, but a spokesperson told Variety that the company will reveal additional apps in the coming weeks.

Vizio’s decision to once again add apps to its TVs could be seen as a set-back for Google and its attempts to make Chromecast the default interface for TV-based streaming. Google first released its Chromecast streaming adapter in 2013, and integrated it into its Android TV platform in 2014.

The company struck a first partnership with Vizio to add Chromecast directly to TVs last year, and has since forged similar alliances with a number of other TV brands, including Skyworth, Philips, Toshiba, and Polaroid. Vizio is the first of these companies to integrate Chromecast with a built-in app platform that’s not made by Google.

Then again, combining Chromecast with built-in apps could also help to give the technology a wider distribution without scaring off customers that aren’t as comfortable with using streaming apps on their mobile devices.

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