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Amazon Fire TV: Everything You Need To Know

Amazon’s Fire TV platform has sort of quietly become one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world. It’s currently number two behind only Roku, which has a similar strategy of selling its hardware as cheaply as possible.

But the real question is, what is Fire TV? Is it better than Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, and the other platforms out there? How can I get it on my TV? We’re going to answer that and a whole lot more in this edition of “Everything You Need To Know!”

What is Fire TV?

Amazon’s Fire TV is a platform for streaming set-top boxes. It is based on Android and runs on the same software as Amazon’s Fire tablets. Fire TV has most of the popular apps, but some Google apps are missing. Surprisingly, YouTube and YouTube TV are available, but Google TV and Google Play Movies & TV are not.

Fire TV is a simple and user-friendly platform, and it receives frequent updates. Amazon offers Fire TV devices at very affordable prices, and sometimes even for free, which is why it has become the second most popular streaming platform, just behind Roku.

What is Fire OS?

As mentioned, Fire OS is the software that Amazon develops for Fire TV and its Fire Tablets. It’s loosely based on Android, though an ancient version of Android.

  • Fire OS 8: Based on Android 10 and Android 11
  • Fire OS 7: Based on Android 9
  • Fire OS 6: Based on Android 7.1
  • Fire OS 5: Based on Android 5.1

As you can see, the latest version of Fire OS is actually using a version of Android that is about 4 years old at this point, and Amazon doesn’t always use each version of Android. It skipped Android 6.0 Marshmallow and Android 8 Oreo. But that’s fine, because it is just using the backbone of Android, and none of Google’s services – YouTube and YouTube TV are through a carriage agreement with Google, so it’s a bit different.

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When you turn on your Fire TV, you won’t really realize that this is running Android. While it does have a similar look and feel to other TV operating systems, it is still very different.

What does the interface look like?

On Fire OS 7, the interface has a pretty significant facelift, which makes it a lot easier to navigate. You’ll start off on the “Home” tab, which will show you different titles that you can watch. Then you can navigate over to Find for searching, and Live for live TV listings.

However, in Fire OS 8, these did change a little bit. Amazon now uses icons for the first few options, for Home, Live, and Saved titles that you can jump to easily. There is also a search icon as well as a list of titles you’ve previously watched. That will be very helpful for those with kids that want to watch the same thing every day.

After those three tabs, you have your apps. Amazon only keeps six apps here, so you’ll want to keep your most used apps there, as it is easier to get to than navigating over to the all apps icon on the far right. Fortunately, these are customizable, so you can change them out whenever you want. I usually keep YouTube TV, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, MAX, and Peacock in that row.

All the way to the right is the Settings icon, where you’ll find all of the settings of course. At the very top, you’ll see banners for different movies and TV shows you can watch on different apps. Some of these are ads, while others are just titles that are available to you from apps you’ve installed.

It’s a very simple interface actually, and that’s what matters for Fire TV. As it wants to appeal to everyone, and the Android TV interface is a bit busy. Making it tougher for your parents or even grandparents to use. Fire TV is attempting to copy Roku here, and keeping it super simple.

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What apps are available?

It’s a fair question to ask since there are always carriage disputes with different platforms. However, Amazon has played nice with everyone and has most of the popular apps available on its platform. These include:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Peacock
  • PlutoTV
  • Tubi
  • Paramount+
  • YouTube
  • YouTube TV
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • ESPN
  • TikTok
  • Discovery+
  • Plex
  • Spotify
  • NBA on Fire TV
  • Facebook
  • and many more

Amazon also has quite a few games on Fire TV, including its own game streaming service Luna. Don’t expect anything crazy here in terms of games on Fire TV, these are mostly easy to play games like Crossy Road and Hill Climb Racing. Nothing really crazy like League of Legends: Wild Rift. Amazon does sell a game controller for Fire TV, but you can also pair your own Bluetooth controller with your Fire TV.

Is there any free content on Fire TV?

While Amazon does not have its own free channel like Roku, there are plenty of apps that offer up free content and are available on Fire TV. Those include Crackle, Pluto TV, and Tubi. Of course, YouTube is also available, and since you’re probably an Amazon Prime subscriber, Prime Video has loads of content to watch too.

What Fire TV devices are available?

Currently, Amazon has two different types of streaming devices for Fire TV. There are four different HDMI sticks and then a set-top box. Fire TV also comes in many different TVs from Toshiba and Insignia, and now Amazon makes its own TVs, too.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick comes in four flavors:

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

They are essentially the same, except for the fact that the two 4K models are, well, 4K capable. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max also more RAM, as well as offering faster WiFi support. These range in price from $30 to $60, so they are still fairly inexpensive.

Comparing all Fire TV Devices

Amazon Fire TV Cube

The Amazon Fire TV Cube has actually been around for a few years now, and the main thing that it offers is more storage and always-listening Alexa. The Fire TV Sticks do not offer Alexa always-listening. Which some people like, since you have to press the microphone button to actually talk to Alexa.

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Amazon Fire TV 4 Series

Amazon also has two lines of its own TVs that have Fire TV built-in. The 4 series is the cheaper line, consisting of 43-, 50-, and 55-inch models. These start at under $300. So they are fantastic to put into a secondary or guest bedroom since they don’t need to be huge.

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Amazon Fire TV Omni Series

Then there is the Omni series. This is the more premium line of Amazon’s own TV sets, offered in 43-, 50-, 55-, 65- and 75-inch models. These start at just over $400. However they are on sale quite often. The Omni series offers up Dolby Vision but only on the 65- and 75-inch models. It does have a better panel than the 4 series, so you’ll get a better looking picture, regardless.

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Can I get Fire TV built into my TV?

Yes, you sure can. As we highlighted above, Amazon actually makes its own TVs with Fire TV built-in now. But they weren’t the first to do it. There are a number of other manufacturers that also have Fire TV built-in, including Toshiba, Insignia, and Pioneer.

There aren’t as many options as you have with Roku being built-in, but it is possible here, which is really lovely to see.

Should I use Fire TV?

The first thing to do is look at the apps and features you use. If all of the apps that you use are available on Fire TV, and you don’t use Google Assistant (or are okay with using Amazon Alexa), then sure, Fire TV is a great alternative. If you do switch, I’d recommend the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. It’s more expensive, but with the extra horsepower and RAM inside, you will thank me later.

Fire TV is quickly becoming one of the most popular streaming TV platforms in the world, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it take over Roku very soon.

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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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