Amazon is bringing a hefty update to its Fire TV and Fire TV Stick media streamers, including a way to watch video on hotel Wi-Fi networks.
The update is rolling out over the next several weeks to the $99 Fire TV and $39 Fire TV Stick. Here’s a rundown of the new features:
- Web-based Wi-Fi authentication: This should help with hotel Wi-Fi networks that make you sign in through a browser portal (assuming the network is fast enough for streaming video). No other major media streamers offer this capability right now.
- USB storage for Fire TV: The Fire TV only has 8 GB of advertised storage, roughly 5 GB of which is available for apps and games. If you need more, the update will let you store apps and games on an external USB drive.
- Private listening over Bluetooth: While Roku’s remote control has a built-in headphone jack for private listening, Amazon’s streamers are getting the next-best thing with Bluetooth headphone support.
- Prime Music browsing: If you wanted to listen to Prime Music through the Fire TV before, you had to use another device to add playlists, and they didn’t always sync up right away. The update will let users browse and search Prime Music playlists directly from the television.
- Hidden PIN entry: The software will no longer show each number as you enter a PIN, making it a little harder for kids to crack the code and go on a shopping spree.
- Sleep and mirroring shortcuts: Long-pressing the Home button provides new shortcuts for sleep and screen mirroring, so you don’t have to dig through the settings menu.
Alongside the new software, Amazon says it’s expanding Fire TV Stick sales to the United Kingdom and Germany on April 15, with pre-orders starting today.
Why this matters: It’s currently a tough call between Fire TV and Roku for streaming Amazon Prime videos to your television. While we’d still like to see Amazon refine its TV interface in way that cuts down on redundancy, and Roku still wins on overall app selection, little features like these can make a difference—especially if you’re planning to take your streaming stick on the road.