Tale of Two Updates

This month — the first anniversary of the Fire TV launch — Amazon and Roku ‘refreshed’ their product lines.  Exactly how this was done says a lot about the two companies. Roku added voice search to their Roku 3.  This change required a new remote and a software update.  Instead of sending out a software update and offering a new remote, Roku is forcing customers to purchase a ‘new’ Roku 3 to get the new remote.  Worse, the new remote did not add a button for search, so Roku reassigned the instant replay button.  In summary, for $100, you get voice search but lose instant replay.  The old Roku 3 is now being sold with an IR remote and is called the Roku 2.  This stripped down Roku 3 does not include the remote listening feature. For some reason, early previews and reviews of the Roku update reported that the new Roku 3 was faster than the old one.  The Roku wiki page says it uses the same processor as its predecessor.  There are already reports of sporadic reboots (Hulu, Vevo) since the update. At the same time, Amazon refreshed their streamers.  This FREE update was software only and included all models.  Some of the improvements…

  • USB storage (FTV only): expand storage for downloaded apps and games
  • Captive Portal Support: enables connections to Wi-Fi that requires web authentication—this includes Wi-Fi at most major hotels, as well as some universities.
  • X-Ray: identify actors and songs in the current scene, explore actor bios, and more.
  • Private listening (FTV only): support for wireless Bluetooth headphones.
  • Browse and search Prime Playlists: Prime members can now take advantage of Prime Music playlists directly from Amazon Fire TV—there are hundreds of expertly curated Prime Playlists to choose from based on your mood, activity, 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 can’t see your device PIN as you enter it on-screen to confirm a purchase.
  • New shortcuts: Quickly put your Amazon Fire TV to sleep or enable display mirroring by pressing and holding the Home button on your remote.

BTW, the Fire Stick has always supported voice search with the Fire TV remote and this remote is available as a $29.99 replacement/upgrade on Amazon.com. After one year, the Fire TV has 1,463 apps (including 717 games) and not one single crash (in my home, anyway).

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