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Four years of Fire TV Omni updates are good, and bad, and don’t matter

If you purchase a new Amazon Fire TV Omni today, it’ll receive software security updates through at least 2025. That’s a reason to celebrate. Or lament. Or just not care at all. All three are valid responses to the idea of Amazon’s first self-branded television getting four years of security updates.

And the Omni isn’t special in this fact. Fire TV devices as old as the second-generation Fire TV Stick Basic Edition — released in 2016 — also are guaranteed to get security updates at least that long. Other Amazon devices on that timeline include the Fire TV Stick Lite (2020), Fire TV Stick Gen. 3 (2020), Fire TV Cube Gen. 2 (2019), Fire TV Stick 4K (2018), and the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

But the Omni is different. It’s not a $20 or $30 or $50 dongle. It’s a television, and not as easily replaced.

Why four years of updates are good

When it comes to software updates, more is always better. That’s been a classic complaint in the Android-versus-iPhone debate. The latter typically has been actively supported longer than the former. And Amazon Fire TV is built on Amazon’s own forked (and heavily customized) version of the Android source code.

All things being equal, “at least” four years of software security updates isn’t awful. It’s not great — the latest Pixel phones released by Google, which are running Android 12 out of the box versus Android 10 on which Fire TV OS is based, will receive security updates through at least 2025, and major version updates through at least 2024. But four years is better than less than four years, for sure.

It’s also entirely possible that this is one of those “underpromise, overdeliver” moments in which we’ll see Amazon declare extended support for devices on down the road. That maybe depends a little bit on the direction the hardware takes — hardware always dictates the future of software — as well as Amazon’s big-picture plans for software updates in general.

But the fact is four years of updates is relatively acceptable in the land of electronics in 2021.

Why four years of updates is bad

The flip side of the coin is this: It’s entirely possible — likely, even, if not absolutely expected — that the Amazon Fire TV Omni series is going to last more than four years. Those of us of a certain age grew up in an era in which you didn’t just buy a new TV every few years and kick the old one to the curb. We hung onto those things until they quit working and weren’t able to be repaired.

But 2021 is a different year than 1981. Or even 2001. We just don’t repair things as much as we used to. And the products themselves aren’t as repairable as they used to be.

So it’s fair to ask whether Amazon is planning the obsolescence of what otherwise may be a perfectly functional television come 2026. That’s not to say that when the clock strikes 12:01 on Jan. 1, 2026, the Amazon Fire TV Omni — or any of the other Amazon devices that fall under these guidelines — will quit working. But starting a new year knowing that you’ve got a 65- or 77-inch security hole residing in your living room isn’t the best of feelings.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
If the HDMI port still works, it’s simple to plug in a new stick to breathe new life into your old television. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Why four years of updates don’t matter

Here’s the case for why none of the above really matters. (It’s also an argument for why you shouldn’t buy a TV for its built-in smart operating system, but that’s another topic for another day.) So long as the HDMI port still works on the television, you’re able to upgrade your software experience — both in terms of features and security — for a relatively low price.

You can take a television that has Amazon Fire TV OS as the built-in software and plug in a new Amazon Fire TV Stick in 2025 or 2026, effectively rendering the Omni (or whatever other smart TV you’ve got) into a dumb display. If you do so, you’ll definitely want to unhook the TV itself from your home network, since it’s no longer supported. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with treating a TV the way we used to treat them — as a display, only a display, and nothing but a way to watch shows and movies.

There’s also something extremely Inception-like about plugging another Fire TV device into a Fire TV television and trying not to let your brain implode. Same goes for plugging a Roku player into a Roku TV. It’s fun for about five minutes, and then you’ll start questioning some of your life choices.

But the fact remains that sometimes simpler is better, and a new $50 streaming stick is an easy fix for hardware that may no longer be able to keep up with the latest in software — even if the TV panel itself still works just fine.

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