Now that we know a new Fire TV model with an Android 7 based operating system is being worked on by Amazon, the question many Fire TV and Fire TV Stick owners have is will their device receive the updated operating system? Obviously, there’s no way to know for sure at this point, and I don’t expect Amazon to announce anything regarding the topic anytime soon. So, let’s take a look at what Amazon has done historically with the Fire TV specifically, and also their other Android-based devices, to try to predict the future.
The Amazon Fire TV line of devices is relatively young at just under 3 years old, so we don’t have too many past major updates to go off of. When the Fire TV launched in April 2014, it ran Fire OS 3, which was based on Android 4.2.2. When the Fire TV 2 launched in October 2015, it was the first device to run Fire OS 5, which is based on Android 5.1 and is the latest operating system. Those are the only two major Fire TV software versions that have existed.
In June 2015, Amazon announced Fire OS 5 along with a developer preview that allowed anyone to voluntarily install a pre-release version of the new operating system. The developer preview included the 1st-gen Fire TV and 1st-gen Fire TV Stick as compatible devices. At the time, we did not know the 2nd-gen Fire TV was being worked on and set to launch 4 months later.
I expect Amazon will release a similar developer preview of their Android 7 based operating system, which will probably be called Fire OS 7 in the coming months. There’s a very good chance Amazon will include at least some of the existing Fire TV models in the developer preview. If they didn’t, it would mean the upcoming “AFTN” Fire TV model would launch with no way for Fire TV app developers to test their apps on the new operating system ahead of time, which would be a disaster.
To avoid launching a new device that was incompatible with apps on its first day, it’s pretty certain some existing Fire TV models will be updated to the Android 7 based operating system, so apps are compatible when the new Fire TV model launches. At the very least, it’s probably safe to assume both the 2nd-gen Fire TV and 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick will receive a software update for the new Android 7 based operating system. Those are the two newest devices, so they should have no problem running the new operating system, and they’re different enough to where developers need to be able to test apps on both variants.
The main unknown in my mind is if the 1st-gen Fire TV and 1st-gen Fire TV will also be updated to the Android 7 based operating system. In my opinion, there’s a very good chance both will receive the new operating system. That’s because it’s in Amazon’s best interesting to keep updating those devices for as long as their hardware is physically capable of running the new operating system well. The only reason I see not to updated the 1st-gen devices is if their hardware, mainly their 1st-gen Fire TV Stick, is too dated to run the new operating system, which hopefully won’t be the case.
Amazon is not in the market to make most of their profit from selling hardware, like say, a company like Apple does. Amazon aggressively prices their hardware, at nearly the amount it costs them to make it, with the intention to make most of their profit on content sales through that hardware. The longer a device stays in use, the greater the potential for Amazon to profit from the sale of the device. As long as 1st-gen Fire TV models can smoothly run the new operating system, without negatively impacting the user experience, Amazon will want to keep that massive pool of customers on the latest operating system, because that translates into the most potential for profit.
Amazon’s Fire tablet line is older than the Fire TV line. Looking at Fire tablet update history, it appears the oldest Fire tablets to receive Fire OS 5 were released in 2012. That means they were over 3 years old by the time they received Fire OS 5. The oldest Fire TV model will likely be around that age when the new operating system is expected, so it’s hopeful that all Fire TV models will eventually be updated to the new Android 7 based operating system.