The Fire TV has just received arguably its largest update since its release nearly one year ago. This update, version 126.96.36.199_user_515020820, includes numerous features that have long been requested by users. Amazon has shown, with this update, that they’ve been listening to Fire TV owners and really taking into consideration your suggestions. Here is the massive overview of all the new features and changes included in the latest Fire TV software update.
USB Storage Support
The Fire TV now supports USB storage. Amazon says this feature is for expanding the Fire TV’s internal storage so that you can install more apps and games than the 8GB onboard storage allows. They say it is not meant to be used for media, but apps like Kodi and VLC are able to access attached USB drives and play content directly from the drive. Amazon says attached drives must be formatted with FAT32 (which limits file sizes to under 4GB). This can be an issue if you want to store and view video files larger than 4GB on the USB drive. USB drives must be flash based, meaning spinning external hard drives will not work. They recommend USB 3.0 drives and support a maximum of 128GB drives. The USB drive specs are not set in stone as several people have reported successfully using drives that do not fall into Amazon’s specifications. I’ll be investigating this further in the near future and posting exactly which drives do and don’t work with the Fire TV.
Once a drive is inserted into the Fire TV’s rear USB port, you are given the option to format the Drive if it is not formatted with FAT32. Once the drive is setup, you can then move apps from internal storage to the attached USB drive. Both official and sideloaded apps, including Kodi, can be moved to the external drive. Look for several posts from me in the future exploring how to fully utilize this new feature.
New USB Storage Options Menu
There is a new “USB Storage” options menu under the “System” area of the Fire TV’s settings. In this menu is a “Storage Status” display, which shows how much external space is available on an attached USB drive. From this menu, you can also eject the USB drive. Removing the drive without first ejecting it results in an error/warning message prompting you to first eject the drive before removing it. Lastly, this menu has a “Manage Installed Applications” option which loads the standard app list but pre-filtered to only show apps stored on the external drive.
Bluetooth Headphone, Keyboard, and Mice Support
The Fire TV now has support for additional Bluetooth devices other than remote controls and game controllers. The “Controllers” settings menu has been renamed to “Controllers and Bluetooth Devices” and now has a third option for “Other Bluetooth Devices.” Opening the new menu reveals the option to “Add Bluetooth remotes, headphones, keyboards, and mice.” This new feature is only available on the Fire TV and is not available on the Fire TV Stick.
A new shortcut menu has been added which displays the current time and three buttons. Selecting the first button immediately puts the Fire TV to sleep. The second button enables mirroring, exactly the same way the mirroring option in the settings menu does. The last button opens up the Fire TV settings menu. To open this new shortcuts menu, you simply press and hold the remote control’s home button for a few seconds. You can access the shortcut menu this way from anywhere on the Fire TV, even while inside an app.
Concealed PIN Entry Interface
There is a new interface for entering your parental control PIN without revealing it to someone viewing the screen. The PIN is now entered using the directional button corresponding with the values displayed on the screen, instead of navigating an on-screen keyboard. You have the option to let the digits you select be visible on-screen so that you can be sure you’re pressing the correct buttons.
Captive Portal Wi-Fi Connections
The Fire TV is now capable of connecting to Wi-Fi connections, which require you to login or agree to terms before connecting. These types of connections are called captive portals and are most commonly found in hotels and school campuses. Previous to this update, the Fire TV was unable to connect to these types of Wi-Fi hotspots due to its lack of a web browser. Now, the Fire TV will pop-up a small web browser when a captive portal is detected. Within the browser you are able to press the remote’s menu button to bring up a cursor to navigate the web page with.
Prime Music Playlist Browsing
The music section of the Fire TV now allows you to browse through various categories of Prime Music playlists. Before this update, you had to manually add Prime Music playlists to your library using a computer in order for the playlist to show up on the Fire TV. Now there are several curated lists of playlists for you to instantly play without the need of a computer. The available categories include: Recommended For You, Popular, Moods & Activities, Genres, and New. Prime Music gives Amazon Prime members access to over 1 million songs for free.
Prime Music Playlist Search
The Fire TV’s search will now return results that match Prime Music playlists. Before this update, the only music results that appeared when searching were tracks you purchased or uploaded yourself.
Improved 3rd Party Buttons
The Fire TV now does a better job of discovering and displaying 3rd party options for watching content. If a movie or TV show is available from a source other than Amazon, like Hulu or Showtime, the content’s detail page now displays that option upfront instead of burying it in the “More Ways to Watch” button. This change is going to go largely unnoticed, but Amazon should be commended for improving the user experience instead of defaulting to the option that makes them the most money. Bravo Amazon.
Windows 8.1 Miracast Display Mirroring
Miracast display mirroring is a feature added to the Fire TV in a previous update that allows capable devices to use the Fire TV as a second display. This update has apparently fixed the issues that prevented Windows 8.1 computers from mirroring their display to the Fire TV. I do not have a Miracast Windows 8.1 computer, so I am unable to confirm that it is indeed working. I am basing this change on this comment from AFTVnews reader McChen.
If someone else can also confirm this in the comments below, I would be very grateful.
Skippable Welcome Video
The welcome video that plays after you complete the Fire TV’s initial setup can now be fast forwarded. This is a very welcome addition for those of us that often factory reset our devices and have had to sit through the welcome video numerous times.
ADB connections over USB
The “Developer options” menu has a new option to turn on “USB debugging.” With this option turned on, you can now connect your Fire TV to a computer with an A-to-A USB cable and initiate an ADB connection. This will allow you to sideload apps and transfer files to the Fire TV over the USB cable. Previous to this update, you only had the option to connect to the Fire TV over Wi-Fi. Connections over USB tend to be faster and more stable than over Wi-Fi. While this feature is enabled, the Fire TV is unable to use external devices like USB drives and USB keyboards.
New “Österreich” (Austria) Language Option
The Fire TV now has the option to select Österreich (Austrian) language. This coincides with the recent announcement that Fire TV devices will now be available in Austria.
There is now a new menu option which allows you to restart the Fire TV without disconnecting the power cable. The option can be found in Settings under the System panel. For those not aware, you have always been able to trigger a restart by holding down the remotes SELECT and PLAY buttons simultaneously for several seconds. This can be done from anywhere; even within an app.
Wakes Up on Home Screen
If you force your Fire TV to sleep, it now wakes up on the home screen, where as before it would wake up on the settings menu.
This update is jam packed with changes. If I missed anything, please be sure to mention it in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list!