Amazon Fire TV devices have gained a new feature called the Alexa Shortcut Panel. When you tap the microphone / Alexa button on your remote, the shortcut panel appears in the bottom third of the screen with buttons that provide access to the Smart Home Dashboard, which was recently revamped, the Weather, your video Library, and to News, which launches the Fire TV News app.
Much like the quick access shortcut screen, which is launched by holding the Home button, the Alexa Shortcut Panel can be brought up no matter what you are doing on your Fire TV. Whether you are in an app, browsing the Fire TV interface, or in the Fire TV’s settings, quickly tapping and releasing the microphone button will cause the panel to appear on top of whatever screen you are viewing at the time.
As mentioned, selecting the Smart Home shortcut will immediately load up the Smart Home Dashboard, which gives you access and control of your smart lights, plugs, and security cameras. The Weather shortcut will bring up Alexa’s standard forecast card for whatever location you’ve configured in your Fire TV options under Settings > Preferences > Location. Weather is the only shortcut that does not take you away from whatever Fire TV screen or app you are viewing at the time.
Selecting the Library shortcut will load the Library section of your Fire TV, which you normally access from the Find tab on the Fire TV’s main navigation menu. This is where you’ll see your Watchlist, Purchases, Rentals, and DVR content if you own a Fire TV Recast. Lastly, the News shortcut will simply load Amazon’s own News app that comes pre-installed on all Fre TV devices.
While it’s great to see additional functionality like this added to the Fire TV and the microphone button, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed in the lack of any kind of customization options. The four shortcuts and their functions are fixed and cannot be modified. Maybe having an array of various shortcuts to choose from is expecting too much, but, at the very least, it would have been nice to choose which app the News shortcut opens. As it is now, the News shortcut just seems like yet another way of advertising Amazon’s own services.
The Alexa Shortcut Panel is currently starting to roll out to Fire TV devices, so there is a good chance it is not yet available on your own device. Amazon says it will be available “broadly on Fire TV devices in the United States” so it seems like most Fire TV models will receive the new feature. It is expected to be rolled out more widely by the end of the month.