New Fire TV Alexa Voice Remote does not have any hands-free capabilities

The newly announced Fire TV Alexa Voice Remote that is being sold separately and comes included with the new Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube has a lot of impressive tricks up its sleeve, but hands-free capabilities is not one of those tricks. The remote does not have always-listening microphones, like the Fire TV Cube, that can be activated with a wake word. It also cannot relay equipment control commands that are given to an Echo device paired to the Fire TV device.

Like all other Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models before it, the Fire TV Stick 4K can be paired with an Echo device to provide hands-free control. This is why Amazon is offering the new Fire TV Stick 4K bundled with a new Echo Dot for a discounted price of $79.98. Unfortunately, commands spoken to the Echo device will not be sent to the new remote’s IR blaster to control your home theater equipment.

I specifically asked Amazon about this capability and they were clear that the microphone button on the remote had to be used for the remote to control TVs, AV receivers, Soundbars, and cable/satellite boxes. In other words, if you have an Echo paired to a Fire TV 3, Fire TV Stick 2, or Fire TV Stick 4K that is using the new remote and you say “Alexa, turn on the TV” to the Echo, the TV will not turn on. You have to press the microphone button on the remote and say “Turn on the TV” or press the power button on the remote for the TV to turn on.

While hands-free equipment control relayed through an Echo is not supported by the new remote at launch, it could theoretically be added later through software updates. Amazon was very clearly not willing to speculate on this type of capability, so the feature is purely theoretical. Since we’re purely in hypothetical territory anyway, the new remote has a blue LED that, to me, is screaming to be a wake-word indicator light, like you find on Echo devices. Amazon could, again, purely theoretically, add hands-free capabilities to the remote itself, like they added to the Amazon Tap and Fire Tablets after the fact. For now, you’ll have to either buy a Fire TV Cube for hands-free equipment control or just continue to use your poor fingers.

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10 comments
  1. Robert Jackson says:

    My understanding is that this could not control the volume of my receiver or soundbar? I could be wrong but I believe HDMI control can turn a TV off or on but not control the volume of a connected audio component without an IR blaster.

    Also I could ask Alexa via voice now, without the remote, to tune to or open a specific program and she will turn on my TV to complete the request. I believe this might also work with the request “Alexa, go home” which will take me to the Fire TV home screen. So that functionality is already present without the remote, but does not work specifically asking the TV to turn on.

  2. Chris says:

    In reference to the new Fire Stick bundle that comes with an Echo Dot – is there any way to use Alexa voice control on the Echo Dot to tell my Fire Stick to play music (via Prime Music, Spotify, Plex, etc.) through my TV? My TV is hooked-up to my AV receiver. I enjoy having the song/artist/album information displayed on my TV screen as I play music through apps on my current Fire Stick and listen to it through my speakers. Right now since I only have a Fire Stick I have to use the microphone button on my remote to use voice control as I don’t have any Echo devices. I tried using the Android Alexa app to do this, but 1) it still requires a button press and 2) it says that it can’t play it on that device (the Fire Stick). Thanks!

  3. Brantome says:

    Doesn’t CEC provide the ability to turn on connected devices like the current fire sticks do?
    TBH, I’m really not that surprised that you don’t have voice control of the IR function as you couldn’t guarantee the remote would be pointing in the right direction if you weren’t already holding it

  4. Davud says:

    The new remote is a battery powered device which means that it will never be able to acts as a hands free Alexa device or be able to send IR commands when needed from an Ech device. The remote is always in a very low power state to conserve its small battery until a button is pressed, and so has no power to continuously run mics and process them, or connect wirelessly to an Echo device for sending IR codes.

  5. Mr_Missile says:

    This write up is a nothing burger. You make it sound like the new remote has functionality removed from the previous remote. That isn’t true. The remote for the cube was just as limited if not more so. The difference is in the always listening (always using power) microphones in the cube itself. It was a hybrid Echo and FireTV, which is pretty cool to use the voice features to power on or off the TV and request media to be played. The new 4K Fire Stick makes no pretense of that hybrid nature, so to call them out for now having always listening microphones is a bit irresponsible. Frankly, with the number of Alexa-enabled devices around my house (10 Echos, 5 Fire tablets, 8 FireTV – all in various forms/generations), they are always fighting over which one should answer me. I’ve even gone back and removed the hands-free capability from my Tap speakers to keep them from randomly chiming in. In doing so, their battery life went from about 2 days to 10+ days. Sometimes, pressing the microphone button is a positive thing.

    • AFTVnews says:

      You make it seem like this post was written to bash on the new remote. That was not my intention. Several people have asked if the new remote can be triggered through an Echo device, so I wrote this post just to address those questions.

  6. Andy says:

    Do we know yet how the remote will know the difference between you wanting to switch on the sound bar or the TV ? Or will they both come on at the same time ?

    • AFTVnews says:

      Like with the Fire TV Cube, you can set it so both come on together, or only the TV comes on when the “Turn on TV” voice command is given. Neither device will let you turn only the soundbar on or off on the fly. The power button on the remote can only control the TV’s power, as far as I’m aware.

  7. Chris says:

    Haven’t these new remotes with IR blasters (and the new standard remote that shipped with the Cube originally) reverted from using Wifi direct back to their original Bluetooth connections? If that’s the case I’d also assume there is an always on Bluetooth LE connection with the Fire TV (4K stick in this case). If that were so, then I’d also guess it’s possible through software for an Echo device to send a command to the Stick that it could relay to the new remote (basically waking it up to standard BT connection) and have it send and IR blaster signal to your infrared devices. Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t get why it wouldn’t be possible even the remote isn’t always fully on.

    • AFTVnews says:

      What you describe is almost certainly possible, but I imagine that it might cause more confusion for Amazon than it’s worth, since many people won’t realize that they have to remember to place their remote in such a way that it’s left pointing at their devices. That’s probably the main reason the capability you describe is not being implemented.
      If Amazon tells people you can say “Alexa, turn on the TV” to their Echos if they buy the Fire Tv Stick 4K, they will assume it will always work and complain when it doesn’t, even though they don’t fully understand the feature.
      The battery concern people are correctly mentioning, which I admittedly hadn’t considered, is if the remote itself had direct hands-free capabilities through its own microphone. That would surely drain the batteries in no time.

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