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LG is repairing its webOS TV software – and may be ruining it

There really isn’t much in common between the webOS software that runs on LG TVs and the Palm smartphones where the operating system began many years ago. But the interface of the LG TV has become one of my favorites because of its efficiency to stay away. When you press the button to start the remote control, the shortcut bar with applications, HDMI inputs and other destinations slides up at the bottom of the screen, but does not completely overtake anything on the screen. Highlight a streaming app and an extra line slides up to reveal the recommended photos and what is being transmitted.

Well, so much for that.

LG is overhauling webOS for its 2021

TVs. Software version 6.0 completely gets rid of the sliding bar and now has a full home screen it looks similar to what you would find on, well, any other TV. The color interface of webOS “blades” has completely disappeared. At least on the surface, everything looks more boring. This is just a long list of things. You have a character area at the top with large banners, then “best photos”, followed by apps, the home control panel / your entrances and a bunch of other categories.

Image: LG

LG says “the new home screen provides faster access to the most commonly used applications and streamlines content discovery with the ability to receive recommendations based on user preferences and viewing history.” You can see a large “sponsored” slot in the upper left corner there, so yes, you can expect some ads and recommendations for paid placement on the home screen of your future LG TV. (LG’s latest Magic Remote will also have shortcuts for select streaming applications, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus.)

There will be separate shopping lines, sports scores and ad-sponsored LG Channels – where you can stream free programming – on the home screen. First of all, these were separate areas of webOS, but now they have been moved to the spotlight. Unfortunately, LG told me that there is no way to hide lines that are of no use to you. I really hope that changes.

LG does not usually offer the new version of webOS on past TVs every year. So, if you have purchased an LG OLED or LCD TV somewhere in the last few years, this is so probably you will stay with the previous interface. But I asked LG to confirm this, as the annual changes are usually not as drastic.

Earlier versions of webOS were colorful and less intrusive.
Image: LG

I don’t want to give a thumbs up or down to webOS 6.0 until I see it first hand, but my early feeling is that it looks like a regression. It may only take a few days with one of the new kits to get acquainted with this refreshed layout, and this approach is likely to be easier to navigate and more intuitive for non-technologies. But I will miss the touch of whim that webOS on LG TVs has had so far.

On the upside, LG says the new remote will have NFC capabilities, so you can tap a smartphone against it to share content on the TV screen. And the list of voice commands for Alexa and Google Assistant has been further expanded in webOS 6.0.

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