Last week, a new Amazon Fire TV Remote passed through FCC approval. Due to its identical profile to the existing Fire TV Voice Remote, I speculated that it could be a replacement for the existing remote, which has been having availability issues for some time. Trusted sources familiar with the matter have confirmed to me that the new Fire TV remote will indeed be packaged with the existing 2nd-generation Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
The new Fire TV Remote is being released to address production constraints caused by the existing remote that are preventing Amazon from producing enough remotes to meet demand. The new remote will alleviate these issues and remove a bottleneck that has contributed to limited Fire TV and Fire TV Stick supply earlier this year. Once the current supply of the existing remote runs out, the new remote will be produced in its place.
From the outside, the new remote looks exactly like the existing remote, and functions exactly the same way as well. This was done deliberately so the new remote could replace the existing remote in the current generation Fire TV and Fire TV Stick packaging. Consumers are not intended to be aware that the remote has changed.
From the inside, however, the new Fire TV remote is notably different from the existing remote. The most important change is that the new remote uses Bluetooth to connect to Fire TV devices, instead of WiFi-direct like the existing remote uses. Amazon’s 1st-generation Fire TV remotes also used Bluetooth, but they switched to using WiFi-direct with the release of the 2nd-generation Fire TV in 2015.
WiFi-direct connectivity generally has the advantage of longer range and lower power consumption, for improved battery life, over Bluetooth. However, that comes at the cost of complexity, due to the need of a proprietary communication protocol, which is likely the reason for the numerous connection issues that early adopters of the 2nd-generation Fire TV suffered with the existing WiFi-direct remote. It wasn’t until after several software updates that Amazon was able to stabilize the existing remote’s connectivity. The 1st-generation Fire TV remote, which used Bluetooth, had no such issues.
Another advantage of WiFi-direct, over Bluetooth, is lower data latency, which is crucial for a device like the Fire TV Game Controller, since it has a built-in headphone jack for private listening. Bluetooth headphones often result in a noticeable and distracting delay between the audio being heard and the video being watched. It is assumed that the need for reduced audio latency is why Amazon switched from using Bluetooth in their first game controller, which didn’t have a headphone jack, to using WiFi-direct in their current game controller. Improved battery life is also especially beneficial with a game controller, since it’s often used continuously for multiple hours at a time.
There isn’t a clear advantage to using one connection method over the other. Both Bluetooth and WiFi-direct have their own advantages and disadvantages. Most consumers will likely never notice a difference between the new and existing Fire TV remote. It’s probably the switch back to using Bluetooth was made to ensure compatibility with the new Fire TV Edition televisions, which also use Bluetooth for their remotes, and do not currently support the WiFi-direct remote and game controller.
As for next-generation Fire TV hardware, we know Amazon is working on at least one new model. It’s expected that this new Fire TV will be released later this year, just before the holidays, but it is unknown if the new device will use the new Fire TV Remote that just passed through FCC approval, or if it will have its own new remote. I expect the new hardware will use the same new remote that will soon be shipping with the existing Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. Regardless, since I don’t expect the current Fire TV Stick to be updated/replaced this year, because it is the newest model in the Fire TV lineup and was recently released overseas, the new remote will at least be shipping with that device for the foreseeable future.