Several video streaming platforms have their advocates, with Roku and Apple TV hardware, along with Google’s Chromecast, often getting the nod from viewers. But Amazon’s Fire TV continues (and cube and TV) are also big players in the streaming landscape and have the distinct advantage of integration with the ever-popular Amazon Alexa for everything from voice search to smart home automation.
took down the Fire TV platform in previous reviews for having a somewhat cluttered and ad-filled interface. Another Fire TV complaint: its search feature displayed unrelated content and also aggressively directed viewers to purchase options on Amazon Prime Video. Amazon must be paying attention, because it has just released a series of enhancements that aim to streamline the appearance of the Fire TV interface by improving its search function.
“Recent updates bring Search and My Stuff to the top of our homepage so customers can quickly find content and access their watchlists, rentals and purchases,” said Joshua Danovitz, director of Fire TV Experience.
What does this mean for viewers who rely on a Fire TV Stick, Cube or TV for their video streaming experience? There are several specific changes to note:
- An icon-based navigation bar replaced the text-based navigation bar previously used by the Fire TV. Not only does this look better, but it also simplifies access to key features like Home, Find, and Live. The refreshed bar also provides easy access to a user’s favorite apps and personal profile, and shows recently released and regularly used apps.
- Search and localization capabilities have been combined into a unified content discovery destination. After clicking the Find magnifying glass icon, viewers will be taken to a page where they can search for movies and TV shows, as well as browse recommended and trending content categories.
- The library’s heavy fate has been replaced by the casual My Stuff. This is where viewers can access your watchlists and rented and purchased content.
I reached out to an Amazon spokesperson to see if the Fire TV update addressed our concerns about ad clutter. Here is the response I received:
“Advertising on Fire TV serves two purposes. The first is content discovery – helping customers find new content they might not have seen otherwise. The second is ad-supported content, which allows customers to enjoy a wider variety of free content.”
Review: Is the Amazon Fire TV set for success?
Comparing the screenshot of the new Fire TV interface at the top of this post to the image of the previous version further down the page, it’s clear that Amazon has made some well-considered tweaks. The new UI is clean, streamlined and engaging. It also doesn’t seem confused by the company’s own content, ad-supported or not, and makes room for offerings from streaming services other than Amazon Prime Video.
Does the updated search function live up to the hype? This is something we hope to check out in our next encounter with a Fire TV streamer, whether it’s stick, cube, or flat-screen TV.
For now, let’s say the Fire TV has a lot of competition on the streaming platform front. The Roku and Apple TV hardware offerings, in particular, provide a clean, highly user-friendly screen interface for selecting apps and browsing content. Both also have voice search options that provide consistently good results. I’m not sure why anyone would necessarily select Fire TV on these platforms unless they were in the Amazon universe – something the company strongly encourages through its Amazon Prime subscription, which offers free and fast shipping on products purchased from the company. website and then offers free streaming of Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Music.
The main thing Amazon’s streaming sticks have going for them is value: at just under $50, the flagship Fire TV Stick 4K Max is competitively priced with Roku’s Streaming Stick 4K, and it’s a relative theft compared to Apple’s expensive Apple TV 4K streaming box. And the Fire TV Stick 4K Max hardly skimps on premium features, offering Dolby Vision and HDR10+ compatibility, plus a fast processor and Wi-Fi 6 antenna.
Alexa’s integration into Amazon’s hardware also gives it a built-in advantage over the Roku for those who want to engage in automated activities like lighting, temperature and controlling security cameras through the Fire TV’s Smart Home Dashboard. When you add it all up, the Fire TV hardware is offering a lot at a low price, and the company’s efforts to make the UI and search more neutral and coherent could go a long way toward making it more of a star player.