With the release of a new Fire TV remote last week, Amazon is now offering a “2020 Release” Fire TV Stick and a “2021 Release” Fire TV Stick. With both versions currently priced the same, an uninformed buyer would likely think the “2021 release” is obviously superior because newer is always better, right? The “2021 release” even says “3rd Gen” in the title, while the “2020 release” does not, and the “2020 release” has a banner at the top enticing customers to check out the “newer version of this product,” so there couldn’t possibly be a reason to buy the old version, right? Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case and it’s leading to confusion among shoppers who think the “2021 release” is an all-new Firestick when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are all the differences and similarities between the 2020 Fire TV Stick and the 2021 Fire TV Stick, and why you might be better off buying the older version.
The 2020 and 2021 Fire TV Sticks are Identical
First and foremost the Fire TV Sticks included in both the 2020 release and the 2021 release are identical in every way. Both listings include the exact same 3rd-generation Fire TV Stick that was first announced and released in September 2020. The hardware and software of the HDMI stick that plugs into your TV in both of these bundles is identical. The only difference is the remote that comes included with each one. There are distinct differences between the Fire TV Stick Lite, the Fire TV Stick, and the Fire TV Stick 4K, but the two 2020 and 2021 bundles we’re discussing in this article are both for the current latest Fire TV Stick model.
It’s All About the Remote
When deciding between buying the 2020 release Fire TV Stick or the 2021 release Fire TV Stick, you’re only deciding between which remote you want. Unlike with the Firesticks themselves, there are clear differences between the two remotes, but there are really only 2 differences that matter and those differences are pretty minor.
First Difference: Channel Guide Button
The first difference between the two remotes is the inclusion of a Channel Guide button on the remote that comes with the 2021 release Fire TV Stick. This is the button that has a TV icon on it that is to the right of the volume buttons. Pressing this button opens the Fire TV’s built-in program guide which lists live channels from select streaming services in a traditional grid format that can be scrolled up and down to see what is currently streaming on each channel. This feature is available on all Fire TV models and can be accessed by saying “Open Guide” into any remote’s microphone or by selecting the “Guide” icon in the “Live” tab.
The Fire TV’s Channel Guide is a handy feature that aggregates live content from numerous streaming services onto a single customizable screen. The full list of services compatible with the channel guide can be found here, but they include paid services, like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Philo, as well as free services, like Pluto TV, Tubi, and IMDb TV. Remember, the 20201 release Fire TV Stick doesn’t grant you access to this feature, since it’s available on all Fire TV models including the 2020 release Fire TV Stick. The 2021 release Fire TV Stick just makes it a little easier to get to by including a dedicated button to it on the remote.
Second Difference: App Buttons
The second difference between the two remotes, which is most obvious, is the inclusion of 4 app buttons at the bottom. Pressing any of these buttons will immediately launch the associated app, regardless of what the Fire TV Stick is doing at the time. Some people hate these buttons and some people love them. The most common complaint against them is that they are essentially permanent advertisements that can mistakenly get pressed which takes you away from what you meant to do.
The apps that these buttons open differ from region to region. Amazon does not provide a way to customize which app each button launches or to disable the buttons. That said, there is a way to customize some of these buttons in order for them to launch the app of your choice, but that method has not been confirmed to work on this new remote yet because the remote has not yet been released.
That’s pretty much it. Even though Amazon seems to deliberately be pushing people towards the 2021 release Fire TV Stick over the 2020 release Fire TV Stick, the difference comes down to just a few extra buttons on the remote, since the HDMI sticks themselves are identical. If you have no intention of using those extra buttons, or worse, think you’ll be pressing them accidentally, you may be better off buying the older release. Amazon is likely pushing people towards the newer release because it’s generally believed that streaming device manufacturers are paid by streaming services to include app buttons, which would make the new version more profitable for Amazon. It’s probably safe to say that the 2020 release Fire TV Stick is no longer being manufactured and it will no longer be available once the current supply runs out, so, if you prefer the older remote, get the 2020 release Fire TV Stick while you still can.