Five months after Amazon first introduced its $39 Amazon Fire TV Stick in the U.S., the Internet giant is launching its HDMI streaming dongle in Austria, Germany, and the U.K.
Costing €39 and £35, roughly the equivalent of $42 and $52 USD at today’s conversion rates, the Amazon Fire TV Stick enters what is already a fairly crowded market, populated by the likes of Google’s Chromecast and Apple TV. However, in a direct acknowledgement of the competition and the struggle for mindshare it could face, Amazon is quick to point out that its Fire TV Stick has “2x the memory of Chromecast.” The device is available for preorder starting today in Germany and the U.K. and will start shipping on April 15.
Amazon also announced a free over-the-air (OTA) update for the Fire TV Stick, set to arrive in the “coming weeks.” New features being added are as follows:
- Expandable USB storage on Amazon Fire TV — You can now use a connected USB mass storage device to expand your Fire TV storage for downloaded apps and games — this enables you to have more games downloaded for easy access.
- Connect to your hotel or dorm room Wi-Fi with captive portal support out of the box — Take your favorite movies, TV shows, games, and more with you away from home — Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are the first streaming media devices to enable you to connect to Wi-Fi that requires web authentication — this includes Wi-Fi at most major hotels, as well as some universities.
- Private listening on Fire TV — Enjoy favorite movies and TV shows after the kids go to sleep, without worrying about waking them up. Support for wireless Bluetooth headphones to Fire TV lets you listen to your movie, TV show, or music without bothering others in your household.
- Browse and search Prime Playlists — Prime members can now take advantage of hand-crafted Prime Music playlists directly from Fire TV and Fire TV Stick — there are hundreds of expertly curated
- Prime Playlists to choose from based on your mood, activity or even artist or decade of choice.
- Hidden PIN entry — With the new PIN entry screen that hides the numbers selected, you can now make sure your kids (or freeloading friends) can’t see your device PIN as you enter it on-screen to confirm a purchase on Fire TV or Fire TV Stick.
- New shortcuts — Quickly put your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick to sleep or enable display mirroring by pressing and holding the Home button on your remote.
It’s worth noting that the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a full-fledged media device in its own right, with its own navigable interface covering apps such as its own Prime Instant Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and YouTube. Replete with a remote control, the Amazon Fire Stick is actually more like a stripped down version of the Amazon Fire TV set-top box (STB) or Apple TV than it is Chromecast, that latter of which is solely controlled by your phone/tablet to “cast” content to your big screen.
Though the Fire TV Stick enters the market at a price point comparable to Chromecast, it is markedly cheaper than the £60 ($90) Apple TV to which it perhaps is more akin. However, Amazon is offering its device to Prime members on pre-order for £19 ($28) through Amazon.co.uk. A £25 ($37) upgrade to a voice-controlled remote is available too.
Though the device does indeed come with its own remote, you can also download dedicated Fire TV apps for iOS and Android that let you use your smartphone as the controller, and these apps include voice search too.
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