Amazon FireTV: 10 things you need to know

Amazon revealed its new streaming device, the FireTV. / Credit: BusinessWire
Amazon revealed its new streaming device, the FireTV. / Credit: BusinessWire

Amazon announced this morning that they’ll be releasing a new set top streaming device to compete with the Roku and Apple TV. The name? Amazon FireTV. It’s reportedly about the size of a CD case. So what does this mean for you, the user? Well, we’ll tell you.

1. How do I tell it what to do?
After some talk about improving search speeds from the laborious search and peck of old (“old” being however long we’ve had Rokus), Amazon revealed you will now speak directly into your TV remote to tell it what you want to watch. Don’t know how to spell the title of a program? Doesn’t matter. The device will find it for you. Downside: everyone will hear you shouting “Hart of Dixie” at your TV remote. You can even ask for genres, should you need to scroll through the Jason Statham oeuvre. Plus, it comes with Bluetooth, so you can talk to your tv remote anywhere in the room and the device will pick it up.

2. My old device is slow. This will be faster, right?
According to Amazon, they’ve found ways to improve on the speed of the current devices. Their content will start streaming immediately, provided you have a decent wi-fi connection (but isn’t that half the battle?).

3. I hate finding new things to watch. Will Amazon find them for me?
The FireTV comes with a program called ASAP, which will start streaming content it predicts you’ll like the minute you finish watching something. It will also learn your tastes over time. Not so different from Netflix’s “maybe you’ll like this” efforts, but with autoplay? Sounds potentially hazardous to your ability to leave the couch.

4. But what about all my other accounts?
Not to worry, all the usual suspects will be available on there. Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, etc, and if you’re a Hulu Plus subscriber, those titles will show up for free through the TV watching app.

5. I like to look at photos from my phone on my TV. Can I do that?
Amazon assumes this is a thing we want to do, so yes, it’s available. You can even set up a screensaver of photos from albums, if you want to find a way to subtly get people to look at your vacation photos.

6. Can I karaoke my music?
Apparently so. With the X-Ray functionality, the device will play lyrics on the screen while songs play. About 10,000 songs are available currently.

7. But what about my kids?
They can have their own profiles on there, and you can even set up timing rules based on how long they’re allowed to watch, all through a program called Freetime. There’s a paid subscription version called Freetime Unlimited that provides access to lots of content from Nickelodeon and PBSKids and others, as well. Kids can’t exit out of Freetime once you set it up for them, and you can add content you think they should watch. Make your kids sit through the terrible special effects of the movies of your youth!

8. Can I play games on it?
Of course! Lots of games available on there, and for $39.99, you can buy a special FireTV game controller that comes with Amazon coins you can redeem for games. You still have to pay for the games, but the average price is $1.85, so you won’t be spending much more than you do on apps. They’re also working on an app so you can use your phone or tablet as the controller, which should be available next month. And Amazon is developing their own games for it as well, because why not.

9. All right, you’ve got me interested. How much does it cost?
A cool $99, which is the same as an AppleTV, and it’s shipping today if you want it now.

10. Let’s get technical. What’s going on inside?
A quad-core processor with dedicated GPU to free up space, 2 GB of RAM, and dual-band, dual-antenna MiMo wifi, which helps speed up your wifi service.


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