Amazon

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Can You Control a Fire TV with an iPhone? Yes. Just in time for Christmas Amazon finally released its long promised IOS controller app on the Apple App Store. The app fills a gaping hole in the compatibility of the device with millions of IOS device owners.

What does the App do?

The Fire TV IOS remote App lets users control the device with IOS devices.
The Fire TV IOS remote App lets users control the device with IOS devices.


Like the Roku and Apple TV remotes for IOS as well as Android the Fire TV remote app allows users to navigate through the Fire TV interface as well as add a keyboard for searching inside of apps.

Add Voice Search To Fire TV Stick

Did you get a Fire TV Stick in your stocking? You might have noticed that this controller is more basic than the one demonstrated with the Fire TV box especially its lack of voice search. The controller app eliminates that problem giving users full reign to search for video and app content via voice. The list of apps that return selections on the voice search is rather limited but this is the case with any iteration of Amazon’s search feature.

What Do I need to add the App
In order to download the app users must have IOS 7 or higher on their devices.

With the addition of the IOS app Amazon has made good on most every promise it made concerning the Fire TV at launch but still excludes Netflix from the voice search results, an issue it has claimed it will correct. But Overall December has been a busy month for Amazon with the Addition of HBO-Go, major sales on its products as well as the current offering of $220.00 worth of apps for free. The company is courting the living room aggressively.

Amazon Fire TV users have a chance to add Plex and AirPlay for Fire TV Free. Plex for the Fire TV usually $4.99 and the Mirroring 360 – AirPlay Receiver usually $6.99 are both free for a limited time. Anybody who loves streaming should jump on the opportunity to purchase these apps and here is why.

The two apps will give Fire TV users access to so much great content that is not available otherwise.

Plex

Finding something to watch on FIre TV is a much more visually stimulating experience.
With Plex users can add on-demand network TV content for free and catch up on their favorites plus much more.

If you are not familiar with Plex for Fire TV, it is a multifaceted media interface that lets users add tons of content channels to the Fire TV as well as access any digital content they own through a slick Netflix like interface. There is more to the process but you can read about it in this story on Plex here.

Mirroring 360 AirPlay Receiver
This add IOS full mirroring to the Fire TV. What does that mean? It means that what ever you can view on your IOS device can be seen on the TV screen. Now what it does not do is launch AirPlay features associated with IOS apps. The difference between AirPlay and mirroring is that when you engage a device

Amazon Fire TV  Stick users can mirror content from the last 2 generations of Fire Tablets
Amazon Fire TV users can use Mirroring 360 to share their IOS device display with their Fire TV.

with AirPlay you can close the app and use the device for other things. With mirroring your TV will only show what you are watching on the screen.

But with this feature you can browse websites, watch internet based video, watch IOS video and audio apps on screen, even listen to audio books through the Kindle App for IOS. This is a supercharged addition to the Fire TV and I highly recommend adding it even if you do not currently own an IOS device, just in case you add one later.

Where can I get the free apps?
All of the apps in Amazon’s free promotion are available here
Selections include games and even utility apps. Not all apps on the list are intended for use on Fire TV and will only be compatible with the Tablets, so sorry to all of you who want to add the calculator app to the TV. You will have to wait on that 🙂

Games and Movies will be at the forefront

Amazon is giving away a number of Free Amazon apps, paid apps for free starting on Christmas Day. The giveaway includes titles from Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds, Sega of America Half Brick studios and others.  On Monday Amazon started also offering reduced in-game purchases for a number of titles that require cash for added options like weapons upgrades etc. There are also deals on streaming purchases. The company is selling holiday based titles for 50% off. Shorts like how the Grinch stole Christmas and full motion pictures like The Polar Express. This is all obviously a major push for their devices.

Amazon has been the most aggressive company by far this holiday season with aggressive advertising during football games in print and on the Internet. We think it’s no coincidence that the company added HBO Go a week ago because it put more focus on Amazon while people were out shopping for new streaming products.

Why the Games? It’s all about the controller
There was a great deal of buzz when Amazon Launched the Fire TV it lunch with a number of video game titles available. The hope behind putting games on a streaming device is that people will begin to think of something like the Amazon Fire TV or the Nexus player as an inexpensive family game option. No streaming box can compete with the types of games one would find on a PlayStation 3 and 4 or Xbox or even a Nintendo Wii-U. But the graphics and performance from these games is equal to older generation consoles (Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis) and offers inexpensive options for people just looking to have a good time without making a major investment. There is also the retro appeal for those who grew up playing with Nintendo and the Sega Genesis. Amazon must be hoping that by putting so many game titles out there especially higher-end games that people will choose to download the games and then buy the Amazon controller which did not ship with the product. If it gives away 50 games but millions of people buy a $40 controller that is going to be a major windfall for Amazon after the Christmas. And there are not many retailers that break the bank after Christmas.

When does the game sale start?
Amazon will be in selling the game bundles on December 24 through December 26.

Plex is becoming more and more popular as a tool for streaming community created channels as well as organizing ones’ own media. With Plex you can convert physical media in to digital media and access it all through Plex. It can almost eliminate the need for DVD and Blue Ray players. As Plex builds partnerships with more vendors the grey and yellow logo is becoming as easy to spot as Pandora or YouTube. While not at Netflix level yet the company is certainly rising as more and more people

Fire TV offers users a quad core streaming experience. How long will Roku writ before it pushes back?
Fire TV offers users a quad core streaming experience. How long will Roku writ before it pushes back?

begin to think of media consumption as an on demand and app driven commodity.

In the set top streaming world there are numerous ways to access Plex. Android boxes have wonderful Plex apps based on the tablet apps, there is a Plex port for XBMC called PleXBMC and there are dedicated Plex apps for the Roku line of products and the Amazon Fire TV and the Google Nexus player. In today’s feature we will be comparing Plex for the Amazon Fire TV and Roku, in our case a Roku 3.

Graphically
Fire TV: Plex on the Fire TV looks great. The menus are very colorful giving the app a distinctive Black and gold Plex feel while integrating a very friendly and inviting look. Slick

Plex on the Fire TV has more shinny things to enjoy. (Click for larger image)
Plex on the Fire TV has more shinny things to enjoy. (Click for larger image)

and modern, it is very visually appealing. Exploring various network channels presents large poster sized images of TV shows. The same applies to individual episodes of a give series.

Roku: Plex for Roku began as a private channel and has grown to be one of its most popular by far. But it is not because of its looks. The Plex Channel itself has a very basic look dominated by black and yellow with carousel styled channel selection. The networks and individual apps are given

Plex for Roku has pre refreshed Roku feel,
Plex for Roku has pre refreshed Roku feel,

their own branding but once inside a selection the pictures and art are small and a bit blurry.

Channels
Both apps appear to offer the same channel add-ons. But the edge sits with Roku in this category. The Fire TV does not offer a way to add new channels from Plex’s lineup of user created channels. The Roku channel does. Simply navigating to a conspicuous yellow plus sign allows the user to enter a channel store interface where new channels can be added based on type, newest, recently updated and more. Fire TV users will have to access Plex’s channels via a computer to from either the Plex website or apps like the Plex Home Theater.

It is simple to find Roku's search feature but it is less inclusive.
It is simple to find Roku’s search feature but it is less inclusive.

Search
Both Apps let users search the server but the Fire TV does it better. While the Roku app provides a simple basic Roku rectangle styled grid search. The Fire TV on the other hand a search for a given term even if it is not found will return results based on Movies, Videos, Seasons, Photos etc. If you have a vast amount of media organized with Plex it will be easy to find it with the great cross section search.

Navigation
Fire TV:
The Fire TV interface makes navigating a little complicated. Do you want to see channels click left select online and press OK. Did you add a new channel with a computer slick left select options and refresh. There are multiple steps and screens needed for what amounts to basic functions.

Roku: Plex on Roku is very basic so navigation is simple. The Roku app presents a separate

Finding something to watch on FIre TV is a much more visually stimulating experience.
Finding something to watch on FIre TV is a much more visually stimulating experience.

carousel for each thing on your Plex agenda. Qued media, Plex Channels, Your Media etc. Reaching the vast majority of the options can be done from the home page. Here we have to again give the edge to Roku.

Speed
This is where processors matter. The Roku 3 is the most powerful Roku on the market but the Fire TV is simply a more powerful device and it shows in how quickly apps and media load on the device. The Fire TV is a snappier and prettier display over all. Once you find what you are looking for you should enjoy it very much.

 

The percentages for streaming device sales has changed dramatically in one year. Roku ‘s sales figures dropped by 20% and the Google Chromecast has knocked Apple TV of the second place perch that it had occupied with little to no innovation over the past 3 years. The hard numbers according to a recent study by Parks and Associates indicate that Roku accounted for 29% of sales in the streaming market which is enough to claim a majority over the other three major competitors, Google’s Chromecast, Apple TV and the Amazon Fire TV. But the control has dipped significantly from 2013 when Roku accounted for 49% of the streaming device

The Streaming Stick is one of many well known Roku models.
The Streaming Stick is one of many well known Roku models.

market. Regardless of the results of a survey of 10,000 people what is the best streaming device for you? Are you an Amazon Prime member, does everyone in your home live in the Apple Universe, do you hate wires? How you answer those sorts of questions can make a big difference in which streaming device would work best for you or the family.

All Vs Nothing
With 20 percent of the market now, the Google Chromecast is a solid No 2. Even as some studies have shown use of the device in decline it’s bargain price has driven many consumers to at least give it a look. Google’s streaming stick though is a stark contrast to Roku. Roku has native app while Chromecast depends completely on a

This has been a good year for the Chromecast.
This has been a good year for the Chromecast.

source device like a phone table or computer, The Roku has a standard on screen interface and Controller while the Chromecast uses media devices to launch and fling media. It’s as though there are two completely different audiences.

Amazon making quick impact
While it is only fourth with 10% of the market it is fair to point out that the Fire TV box debuted in April. This means that the report which reflected the market in the third quarter of 2014 only had a few months to measure the device by and certainly did not include the new Fire TV Stick. It should come as no surprise that the Fire TV has gotten off to a fast start. The Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are helped by the overall popularity of the Amazon ecosystem as well as its placement on the company’s website. The Fire TV burst on to the scene with

Amazon's Fire TV cut in to Apple and Roku's sales this year.
Amazon’s Fire TV cut in to Apple and Roku’s sales this year.

innovations that included the first voice responsive search in a set top box and a quad core processor and large game selection that wowed many in the media. Though limited in its app selection the box and now stick offer enough content to merit a look and make a great companion to anyone who already pays for Amazon Prime. It is also growing in popularity with people who like the Media Center Program XBMC. Its interactivity with the Kindle Fire HDX and beyond is a lot of fun and includes second screen and mirroring functionality

Apple TV
The Apple TV which is in its third generation still pulled in 17 percent of the market. And despite its age relative to the other devices on the market it still packs a punch. The device offers each of the most popular streaming services that its competitors do as well as access to the iTunes store for the latest movies and television shows. The

Apple TV has become overlooked in the what's new culture of the tech media.
Apple TV has become overlooked in the what’s new culture of the tech media.

Apple TV is also the only major streaming device that offers FXX. Most importantly the box offers those who have Apple products the most seamless mirroring in the industry as well as the often imitated but never duplicated AirPlay. The only thing it doesn’t have going for it is the media buzz that comes with a new product launch. In fact Apple TV is hardly mentioned when a new product debuts. If Apple where to launch a quad core device at CES the whole game could change. Throw in games and a controller and app store and say exclusive access to CBS All Access and a controller app for their phones and tablets and Apple will be in the game again. The company though seems to have lost site of the living room just at the time that it is becoming the focus.