One of the most interesting and useful new features of the redesigned Fire TV interface is something being referred to as App Peeking. It allows you to browse the movies, shows, and channels available within an app right from the Fire TV’s Home screen, without needing to launch the app. As part of my series of deep-dives into the new interface, here is everything you need to know about this new feature and how it works.
When you scroll over one of your top 6 apps in the navigation menu of the new Fire TV interface, the bottom portion of the screen will, when possible, display movies, shows, and channels that are available within the highlighted app. The content is presented in one or more labeled rows that look and act like the various rows on the Fire TV Home screen. This app peek area isn’t actually part of the app’s interface, but rather, it’s just using the Fire TV’s interface to show you content available in the app.
When the app peek rows are being displayed, you can press down to navigate within the peeked content. Just like the rows in the Fire TV Home screen, these rows will scroll horizontally for quite a while to list more content options. Pausing on one of the items will sometimes display a video preview of the content in the upper right, where a screenshot of the content is usually displayed.
Unsurprisingly, this new app peek feature currently works best for Amazon’s own apps, like Prime Video and IMDb TV, because those apps each display 4 different rows of content that can be browsed. That said, it does also work for many non-Amazon apps, such as Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and many more. However, most non-Amazon apps display only 1 row of content and that row is usually labeled “Popular Movies and TV Shows.”
For most apps, it seems like the content listed is being selected by Amazon and not the app itself. However, that’s not always the case. For Netflix, for example, I’ve seen the app peek row labeled as “Now on Netflix” and as “Netflix Recommends.” The latter was definitely selected by Netflix and customized to me, as seen in the above image, since I’ve started watching The Queen’s Gambit and my family has been watching a lot of holiday movies.
For apps that are integrated into the Fire TV’s Live tab and Channel Guide, such as Pluto TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV, the app peek area will also display a row of live channels available in the app. These rows show the progress of what is currently airing and also place the channels that you’ve favorited at the front of the row.
If you are subscribed to a Prime Video Channel and have the channel icon listed as one of your top 6 apps, you’ll see content available from that subscription in the app peek area. Like with Amazon’s own apps, peeked content for Prime Video Channels is also more thorough than with most other apps because it lists 4 different rows to browse.
Only apps that have their content integrated into the Fire TV’s catalog and search feature are able to display content in the app peek area. If an app cannot display its content within the Fir TV interface, such as YouTube, or an app doesn’t have any video content at all, such as a game, the Fire TV will just list a row of other apps that are related to the app that is highlighted. I guess this is better than displaying nothing, but it’s a relatively useless row, especially because the list of apps shown is not aware of what is already installed on the device, so it lists apps you are already using. This list of apps that “Customers Also Downloaded” is also displayed at the bottom of the app peek area of most apps, even when there is content to show.
Amazon does not currently have any developer documentation regarding the app peek feature. I’m hoping that they’ll eventually allow apps to directly control what appears in the app peek area so that non-video apps can also take advantage of the feature. It would be nice if, for example, a game lets you jump directly into a specific game mode from the app peek area, or if a utility app listed shortcuts to common tasks in the app peek area.
The app peek area will occasionally list a row of sponsored apps and games. This is usually what is shown when there is nothing else to display, such as for all sideloaded apps, since Amazon has no way to know what content is available within a sideloaded app or which apps are related to the sideloaded app. So far, I have never seen any sponsored content or banner ads displayed in the app peek area.
My biggest complaint is with what happens when you select a movie or show in the app peek area. In my opinion, it should always take you directly to that content within the app that is highlighted. If what you select is in a “__[App]__ Recommends” row or is a live channel, then it does load the content directly when selected. However, for all other row types, which are far more common, selecting a movie or show within the app peek area takes you to the Fire TV’s detail screen for that piece of content. With some apps, like Tubi in the image above, both behaviors are confusingly mixed together in the listed rows.
Once on the detail screen of the content you selected, you then have to either select the “Watch on ____” button to be taken to the content within the app, or worse, when multiple apps offer the content, you have to select the “More Ways to Watch” button and scroll through the list to find the app whose app peek content you were browsing. The app peek area should realize which app you were currently peeking into and always take you directly to the content within that app, but it doesn’t.
Apart from this one annoyance, the new app peek feature is great and it’s one of Amazon’s most innovative additions in the redesigned Fire TV interface. It makes great use of space on the Fire TV’s Home screen that would otherwise be useless when navigating to and highlighting an app. I really hope Amazon continues to expand on the idea by opening it up more to app developers and I hope apps take the initiative to use the feature for personalized recommendations and highlighting what’s available within their app.