Fire TV users could soon have similar functionality to Google’s Chromecast dongle with a new feature called Amazon Fling.
Fling aims to turn existing iOS and Android apps into remote controls for Amazon’s streaming stick and set-top box. As long as the Fire TV is on the same Wi-Fi network as the phone or tablet, users can press the Fling button in any supported app to view its audio and video content on the big screen.
Much like the Cast functionality in Chromecast, Fling doesn’t simply mirror the smaller screen’s display. Instead, it points the Fire TV to a web address for streaming music and video, and sends playback instructions from the app’s on-screen buttons. This helps conserve battery life while freeing up the phone or tablet for other tasks. In fact, Fling is so similar to Chromecast that Amazon is providing directions on how to turn Cast-enabled apps into a Fling-enabled ones.
Even without Fling, Fire TV users can already cast videos from Netflix and YouTube. But this uses a standard called DIAL that has not been widely supported by other apps. Fling is Amazon’s attempt to take matters into its own hands, with its own developer toolkit.
So far, however, app support for Fling is limited. Amazon points to a couple examples, one of which is a karaoke app, while the other is an app for personalized Internet radio. By comparison, Google has hundreds of Cast-ready apps that work with both Chromecast and Android TV devices, including such heavyweights as HBO Go, WatchESPN, Comedy Central, and PBS.
Why this matters: Even if you prefer to use a proper remote control, casting comes in handy when you’re on the couch with a phone or tablet in your hands. At $39, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is only $4 pricier than Chromecast, but it has a full remote and TV interface. It could be the clear winner among low-cost TV dongles with enough developer support.