After Google introduced the world to Chromecast and we witnessed the crush of interest in the simple device that makes streaming content so easy to view, others have been trying to replicate the same success. One of those in pursuit is Amazon, which released the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices. Amazon was hoping access to Amazon’s Prime video offerings, along with other features like voice search, would provide a compelling case for users to jump on board. Amazon has just announced some new features that will address some shortcomings that have vexed owners of Chromecast devices and perhaps help Fire TV and Fire TV Stick that much more competitive.
One of the problems owners of streaming dongles have dealt with is the trouble in setting up and connecting the devices on networks away from home where they do not control security, such as in hotel rooms or at dorms. Many times the WiFi networks at these locations require separate logins by users or isolate devices in a way that make it difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy the benefits of a streaming dongle. Amazon is now including a method out of the box to connect in a “captive portal” situation.
Amazon is adding another feature that frequently pops up on user’s wish lists – the ability to stream the audio portion of something being viewed to a set of headphones. Fire TV will be getting this ability via Bluetooth so that users can enjoy movies and TV shows without bothering others with the sound. Fire TV is also getting support for USB storage devices to be connected to provide expanded space for apps and games.
Some other new additions to the devices include a new PIN entry screen that hides the numbers being entered, limiting them to your smartphone or tablet device instead of displaying them on the big screen. Amazon is adding some playlists to Prime Music that can be accessed using the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick and the Home button on the remote will now be able to sleep or enable display mirroring with a long press.
Finally, Amazon announced they are starting to take pre-orders for the Fire TV Stick in the U.K. and Germany with a shipping date of April 15th. As far as the improvements that all Fire TV and Fire TV Stick users will be getting, those will be rolled out via an over-the-air update, although Amazon just says that will take place in “the coming weeks.” You can read the full press release from Amazon below.
SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mar. 24, 2015– (NASDAQ:AMZN)–Amazon today announced new features are coming to the best-selling Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. These features will be delivered as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks. Amazon also announced today that Fire TV Stick is now available in the UK and Germany, joining the #1-selling streaming media box, Amazon Fire TV.
“Customer response to Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick has been overwhelming–we’ve been working hard to build more of both as quickly as possible, and we’re excited to be adding new features we think customers will love,” said Peter Larsen, Vice President, Amazon Devices. “In the UK and Germany, Fire TV is already the best-selling streaming media box on Amazon, and we’re thrilled to be bringing our fastest-selling Amazon device ever–Fire TV Stick–to the UK and Germany. We think millions of customers in the UK andGermany are going to love this product.”
New features coming as part of the free, over-the-air software update include:
- Expandable USB storage on Amazon Fire TV–You can now use a connected USB mass storage device to expand your Fire TV storage for downloaded apps and games–this enables you to have more games downloaded for easy access.
- Connect to your hotel or dorm room Wi-Fi with captive portal support out of the box–Take your favorite movies, TV shows, games, and more with you away from home–Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are the first streaming media devices to enable you to connect to Wi-Fi that requires web authentication–this includes Wi-Fi at most major hotels, as well as some universities.
- Private listening on Fire TV–Enjoy favorite movies and TV shows after the kids go to sleep, without worrying about waking them up. Support for wireless Bluetooth headphones to Fire TV lets you listen to your movie, TV show, or music without bothering others in your household.
- Browse and search Prime Playlists–Prime members can now take advantage of hand-crafted Prime Music playlists directly from Fire TV and Fire TV Stick–there are hundreds of expertly curated Prime Playlists to choose from based on your mood, activity or even artist or decade of choice.
- Hidden PIN entry–With the new PIN entry screen that hides the numbers selected, you can now make sure your kids (or freeloading friends) can’t see your device PIN as you enter it on-screen to confirm a purchase on Fire TV or Fire TV Stick.
- New shortcuts–Quickly put your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick to sleep or enable display mirroring by pressing and holding the Home button on your remote.
Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are available for purchase at www.amazon.com/firetv andwww.amazon.com/firetvstick. Fire TV Stick is available to order starting today in the UK and Germany–it will start shipping on April 15. Learn more at www.amazon.co.uk/firetvstickandwww.amazon.de/firetvstick.