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New Fire TV experience, AirPlay 2 hits more devices this week

Starting this week, Amazon will be rolling out its new Fire TV interface to more media streaming devices and smart TVs. Initially, Amazon launched the new experience on the third-generation Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite, but it’s now rolling out to the Fire TV Stick (second-gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube (first and second generations), Fire TV (third-gen, pendant design), and multiple Fire TVs. The only Fire TV device that has yet to get the update is the 2017 Element 65-inch 4K UHD.

Simultaneously, Amazon has updated two Fire TV Edition models with Apple AirPlay 2 and Apple HomeKit technologies: The Toshiba 4K UHD Smart Fire TV with Dolby Vision (2020 model) and the Insignia 4K UHD Smart Fire TV (2020 model).

Curious to see what the new Fire TV experience looks like and how the new features work? Here’s a look at what you can expect.

A new home screen

Amazon Fire TV New 2020 experience home screen

The Fire TV home screen is the first thing you see when you turn on your device, so making the most of this real estate is key to getting a good experience. Previously, it was a bit of a quirky screen to navigate. The main menu options appeared at the very top of the page, but a massive preview and promotions area sat immediately below, forcing users to skip past the big promo space to get to their content at the bottom of the screen.

The new experience brings a much-needed cleanup to the presentation, with all menu options now appearing below the promo area. They’re accompanied by quick-launch icons for your favorite streaming apps, which you can change at any time. Curiously, Amazon has decided to kill off its previous main navigation menu options like Your Videos, Movies, TV Shows, and Apps, which have been replaced with Library, Home, Find and Live. The Settings option lives on, but it’s now represented by a small gear icon at the far right side of the new menu.

Amazon hasn’t said much about which shows and movies will be listed in the space below the new menu, but presumably, it’s a curated collection of titles pulled from the services you’re subscribed to (and that are compatible with the Fire TV curation process).

Find more, faster

Amazon Fire TV New 2020 experience find screen

Selecting Find from the main menu switches the display to the new Find screen. Amazon says it’s designed to make it easy to search and browse by popular categories like movies, TV shows, free ad-supported content, and sports. You can also filter by categories such as genre (e.g., comedy, action). You can also ask Alexa to take you directly to the Find screen by saying, “Alexa, go to Find.”

Personalized profiles

Amazon Fire TV New 2020 experience profiles screen

Amazon introduced profiles to its Amazon Prime Video service earlier in 2020, and if you’ve ever fired up the Prime Video app on an Apple TV or Roku, you will likely have been asked to pick your profile before entering the main app home screen. That same idea is now available for the entire Fire TV experience. You can create up to six different profiles, and you have the option of designating any or all of them as kids profiles. Doing so will restrict the content for that profile to Amazon Kids offerings.

Your chosen profile is reflected in the main menu bar at the far left, and clicking on it lets you quickly switch or edit profiles. Profiles help to personalize the Fire TV interface with recommendations, viewing history, watchlists, and preferred settings that are all profile-specific.

Alexa, it’s me

Speaking of profiles, if you opt in, you can set up an Alexa Voice Profile. This lets Alexa recognize your voice, so when you say, “Alexa, switch to my profile,” your Fire TV instantly swaps views, no more button presses are needed.

Alexa also gets a few more fun and convenient functions like navigation. “Alexa, go to Live TV,” or “Alexa, go to News” are both quick ways to get the content you want. There’s also a new Alexa Explore option accessible from the main menu, which lets you access info that’s powered by Alexa, like weather forecasts, stocks, news headlines, and more. It’s also the place where you can view and access your smart home devices.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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