A new software update for all Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition television models is starting to roll out to devices. The update carries version number 18.104.22.168 (587444320) and once again unifies all devices in the Fire TV line back onto the same software. The update adds several new features with the most notable one being the option to finally be able to speak into the voice remote’s microphone for text input within apps, instead of using the onscreen keyboard. Other additions include a new screen magnifier, support for Amazon’s upcoming live Thursday Night Football NFL games, and more.
As is the norm with all of Amazon’s Fire TV software updates, this new update is rolling out slowly in stages so most customers likely haven’t received the update yet. Amazon has not listed the update on their official Fire TV Software Updates page yet, but that’s not unusual since Amazon tends to only update that page after the majority of devices have received the update. However, Amazon has already updated their Source Code Notice page with the new software version and has listed the update for all hardware versions, new and old.
The most exciting new feature, which is one that customers have been requesting ever since the first Fire TV debuted in 2014, is the ability to use the microphone on the Voice Remote to input text whenever the system onscreen keyboard appears. The new option works seamlessly across the entire device, including within 3rd-party apps. You just press the microphone button on the voice remote when you see the onscreen keyboard, say words or phrases, and a second later the text field is filled. For those of you with the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick’s non-voice remote, this also works with the Fire TV Remote app.
The only place this doesn’t work, which is to be expected, is within apps that choose to use their own custom keyboard, instead of the default system keyboard. For apps like YouTube and Netflix, which have custom keyboards, you’ll have to continue using the Fire TV’s universal search feature if you want to search for their content using your voice. For other apps that aren’t included in the Fire TV’s universal search and also use a custom keyboard, like MrMC and Kodi, you’re just going to have to continue using their onscreen keyboards.
This new update also adds a new screen magnifier feature to help Fire TV users who have difficulty seeing the smaller text and elements in the device’s interface. With the screen magnifier enabled, users can zoom in and out at will while using the Fire TV. The zoomed window automatically follows the onscreen cursor, but you can also manually pan the window if necessary. The screen magnifier can be enabled from the Accessibility menu in the Fire TV’s settings area, or by holding the BACK and FAST FORWARD buttons on the Fire TV remote.
Amazon purchased the rights for all NFL Thursday Night Football games this year so this update also adds support for watching those games live through any Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, or Fire TV Edition device. This update is required to watch those games and the first game is on September 28th, so you can expect all devices to receive the update by then.
Once your device receives the update, just search for “Thursday Night Football” and a result for the 2017 season will appear with a listing of all upcoming games. The date and start time for each game are listed and you can add any of the games to your watchlist. It also looks like Amazon will provide highlight clips in this new interface once the games have concluded. The games will only be available to Prime members.
A small change that this update also makes is the repositioning of the banner ad in the Fire TV interface. Instead of having the banner at the top, it now appears lower on the screen, below the first two rows of content. On the home screen, this means it is below your list of recent content (not present in the above image) and your list of apps. On some interface screens, like the list of app categories, the banner is now removed altogether. Obviously, I wish the banner ad was not in the interface at all, but the new placement is an improvement because it means you’ll no longer accidentally overshoot the main menu at the top of the screen and end up selecting the banner when you quickly scroll up a screen.
The “What’s New” screen for this update says that “during setup, you can now bulk select and download from a curated set of 24 apps” but it seems like this feature is not yet available. I tried performing a factory reset and did not see any such option during setup. I even tried using an Amazon account that has never registered a Fire TV device, thinking that might trigger the bulk app installation option, but it did not. It’s possible the software knows the difference between a device that is being setup for the first time and one that was being setup due to a factory reset, which would explain why I couldn’t trigger the supposed new feature.