Along with the announcement of the new Fire TV Stick 3 and Fire TV Stick Lite, Amazon announced that Fire TV devices will be receiving an all-new interface very soon. The new interface is supposed to arrive first on the new Firesticks later this year and then make it’s way to other Fire TV models. We don’t know which older Fire TV models will receive the new interface, but it seems like it won’t happen until early next year. While the new interface seems to improve several aspects of the Fire TV experience, there is one very important thing that might be getting worse with the new interface, and that’s how many button presses it takes to get to your apps.
With the current Fire TV interface, it generally takes 2 button presses to get to your apps. I say generally because the Fire TV has a Recent row above the Apps row that technically adds an addition button press, but I suspect that the vast majority of people always have the app they want already in the Recent row, so it’s essentially 2 button presses most of the time.
While Amazon has shared a bit of the new Fire TV interface in action, they haven’t shown what it’s like to navigate to your apps, so everything I’m saying about the new interface is a complete guess. In case you’re thinking of reading into these guesses at all, despite my past employment with Amazon, I never saw the new interface because it was handled by a different part of the Fire TV team than I was involved with. I know just as much about the new interface as you and I saw it for the first time with you when it was announced publicly.
It seems as though, like the existing Fire TV interface, the cursor/highlight of the new interface starts on the Home option of the navigation menu. If that’s true, then it seems like it will take 4 button presses to get to your apps on the new interface. Again, I want to stress that there is a lot about this new interface that we don’t know about so there may be quicker ways to access apps that aren’t visible in this screenshot, but I’m not alone in assuming it takes more clicks to get to apps with the new interface.
While it’s not ideal, adding an additional 1 or 2 button presses, depending on whether you count the Recent row or not, isn’t my main concern, even though launching apps is probably the most common thing any of us do with our Fire TVs. What concerns me most is that you have to navigate through the Find, Live, and Library tabs every time you need to get to an app. Assuming those menus on the new interface act the same way as they do on the current interface, which is to reload the majority of the screen when highlighted, getting to your apps could be laggy and choppy on older Fire TV models.
Amazon has also been adding a lot of new navigation menu items recently, like the DVR tab, the Live tab, and the Free tab. While some of those current tabs don’t seem to be dedicated tabs on the new interface, getting to apps may require more button presses if additional tabs are added to the new interface in the future. The current Fire TV interface, like the interface of most competing streaming devices, have you navigate vertically to get to apps, not horizontally as the new Fire TV interface does. That one change may have unforeseen consequences as the interface evolves over time and the devices running the interface get older and slower.
The 4 button presses to get to apps on the new Fire TV interface isn’t much, but it would be the most of any streaming device interface. The new 2020 Chromecast with Google TV, which will likely be the interface of most Android TV devices moving forward, requires 3 button presses to get to apps. The Google TV interface does have an optional apps-only interface that reduces it to 2 button presses by removing the “Top picks” row, but I don’t see that as a fair comparison because that optional mode cripples the device in too many ways, like removing search and access to your library.
The old Android TV interface, which will likely be phased out in the near future, as well as the Apple TV interface are the best in this regard. They place the cursor/highlight on your first app by default, so you’re zero button presses from launching an app. That said, I’m sure Apple is itching to move towards a content-first experience, like Google already has with the new Google TV interface for Android TV, so I’m betting we’ll see something like the interface of the Apple TV’s TV app replace the home screen of the Apple TV soon enough.
Roku requires 1 button press to get to apps, since the cursor/highlight starts in the navigation menu and there is nothing between the menu and the grid of apps. But, once again, I don’t expect this simple interface to last much longer. Roku executives have already said that they see The Roku Channel’s interface as being the future of their devices and that it may one day replace the current home screen altogether.
I’m hoping there is something hidden or some setting somewhere that makes getting to apps on the new Fire TV interface quicker than it seems it’s going to be. Even just a toggle in the settings that moves the app list ahead of the Find, Live, and Library menu items would go a long way to improve this aspect of the new interface. Having to refresh the bulk of the screen multiple times to get to your app icons just seems like a bad idea, but I’ll reserve my final judgment until I get to use it myself. According to Amazon, there is supposed to be a feature of the new interface that lets you “scroll over supported apps to quickly peek at what’s inside,” so that may make up for the extra button presses in other ways. We should know soon enough.