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%. In 2021, about 41.7% of the US households owned Samsung Smart TVs, while in 2020, Samsung accounted for 31.8% of global Smart TV sales. Other TVs and streaming devices like LG, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV are also popular among consumers.

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 TV app development team solves them to help clients get a competitive edge and increase the bottom line.

Dealing with Smart TV 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 fragmentation: statistics

Smart TV fragmentation: statistics

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 TV application development in a broader sense includes STB devices and solutions for such platforms as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Android TV, and Roku.

To help your customers better target their resources towards specific brands, expand the viewership, and increase ROI, 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, 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, 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, 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.
Matrix of TV platforms and OSes

Matrix of TV platforms and OSes

What to consider for 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.

Must-have features to comply with app store standards

  • Optimal usage of CSS style libraries

    To enable smooth watching from a 3-4 meter distance that is typical for TVs, you 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, pay particular attention to color usage — avoiding pure black and white — and accurately distribute the content across the screen. Font size is another tricky thing: it should be well-read for viewers, no matter if they watch TV within one meter or at a longer distance.

  • Intuitive in-app navigation

    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.

  • Transparent focus state development

    A focus state is a crucial UI element that helps TV viewers understand where they are while navigating through a Smart TV app. We manage the app usage with a remote control, so it’s impossible to just tap on the screen, like we do with smartphones, to reach the menu sections. So, when designing a focus, you need to ensure it’s recognizable and doesn’t merge with other elements. For example, avoid using the same color that will highlight the focus and be applied to menu buttons or interface background.

UX features to engage TV viewers

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 the requirements elaboration. Some of the features that TV viewers would expect from Smart TV applications may include the following ones:

  • Personalized content search

    In the time of user-driven OTT, enabling the personalized discoverability of content is what can give viewers the videos they would like to watch without scrolling through the full library.

  • Voice search

    Following the changing UX habits of consumers, TV device manufacturers are adding a voice control feature to the latest TV devices. If you decide to enable the voice search, you’ll have to integrate Alexa, Google Assistant, or Amazon Echo digital assistants to enable this option.

  • Synchronized usage for multiple platforms

    It’s a great idea to connect Smart TV user accounts with other platforms used by consumers. For instance, they can set up parental controls on a Smart TV app, which will be available on mobile and web platforms, too. Or they can continue watching a film on a smartphone, while going to work.

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How we can serve your needs

Why not add interactivity to your OTT platforms and boost TV viewer engagement? Let your users feel special by giving them a personalized user experience.

How to deal with digital rights management

When developing Smart TV apps for webOS and Tizen, you should consider the compatibility of older TV versions with streaming techniques. For example, Samsung and LG devices released between 2015 and 2017 don’t support the combination of DASH streaming and PlayReady DRM. So, if you have configured such a streaming combination, you need to remember that the app will not play videos on webOS 3.5, Tizen 3.0, and their earlier versions. There are two possible ways to solve this challenge. You can either change the streaming combination or configure the player.

How to avoid rejections when submitting Smart TV apps to app stores

Smart TV solution approval in an app store can take a long time — about 2-3 months, depending on the version. If you don’t go into details about the solution approval process and its tricky cases, you may get your Smart TV app rejected.

For submission, Smart TV app developers need to provide an app store with a complete application map describing its functional capabilities, navigation scenarios, and other UX components. The next stage includes a substantial test checklist and test execution as per it for an app to go through an approval process. Frequently, some of the must-have points are missed, which leads to rejections. To eliminate the “rejected” status and not get into a vicious circle, it’s vital to strictly follow the checklist to get your Smart TV app submitted and approved by the app store.

How to ensure solid performance in Smart TV application development

One of the reasons for app store rejection might be a poor video streaming speed. If you want to avoid re-submitting the app and postponing the market release, enhance the solution performance.

Smart TV performance

Smart TV 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. However, canvas isn’t applicable for older TVs, as it will reduce the Smart TV app’s performance and rendering.

Considering the fact that TV is a low-memory device, and its characteristics differ from that of PCs, pay particular attention to performance profiling. This will help detect TV’s memory errors, CPU limitation, uninitialized memory, as well as the improper allocation or deallocation of memory.

We also recommend writing custom code for Smart TV apps with backend performance in mind, implementing CDN set-ups, and conducting highly-performant automated Smart TV testing. To deal with hardware performance challenges, you should optimize the app for older TVs when needed and implement graceful degradation. Sharing one codebase logic for scaling to multiple platforms may be viable for Smart TV development projects with several devices in mind. This allows using a single code architecture as the core, saving on the project costs and customizing specific needs for each platform.

Case in point: Modular OTT app with a single codebase for 13 platforms and 25 devices

Find out how Oxagile created an easily configurable frontend OTT solution with further adaptations for various telcos in mind. The team designed the solution architecture allowing for a massive code reuse.

Modular OTT solution

Smart TV app: 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, define a matrix of platforms for testing as well as test the feasibility of using real-life devices. As practice shows, real-life devices are key to testing particular features like video streams or custom navigation. For the rest of the scenarios, emulators come in handy. Moreover, TVs are not apt to screenshot testing, and with emulators you can get screenshots through a host OS.

Among other methods you can use to speed up the QA processes are:

  • Automated 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, capitalize on real-life devices only to test the functionality that can’t be tested on emulators and timely restart the debugging process.

Smart TV development projects typically combine both manual and automated testing. Though the latter is considered to be more expensive due to the technologies involved, it will pay off in the future. Compared to native TV app development, it saves the project time and makes it faster and easier to debug even “invisible” bugs.


Smart TV sales are only increasing. And although major players are leading the market, you can always join the competition and find your niche. Being in the loop about our recommendations on platform fragmentation, performance, and UI, you’ll be able to expand your client base.