How App Peeking on the redesigned Fire TV interface makes getting to content easier

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.

8 comments
  1. oasis_001 says:

    This could be the best new feature of the re-designed UI, but only if it allowed you access to your CONTINUE WATCHING row of any supported app. I get that Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu and others want you in their own app and mindlessly browsing forever, but if this allowed you to quickly see your CONTINUE WATCHING row of any non-integrated Fire TV content and get it playing quickly that would be a consumer friendly feature.

    • I agree, but streaming services, especially the largest ones, have notoriously been hesitant to integrate into the streaming device’s interface. We’ll have to see how this app peek feature is treated.

      • oasis_001 says:

        I would assume that is why Amazon is introducing this feature. As most major services push for standalone apps only the Prime Video Channel subscription integration is getting slimmer. (HBO Max as the most recent.) If we at least have this app peek feature it creates a more integrated browsing experience to get to what we want to WATCH NEXT more quickly. I still don’t understand the desire to lock me into endless scrolling in one particular app (i.e. Netflix). For me, it creates the opposite behavior. I can go weeks without opening the Netflix app just not to be assaulted with the barrage of endless content choices. I find I use the Netflix app more often by seeing something in the NETFLIX RECOMMENDS row that is part of the Fire TV UI. It would be even better if it were the NETFLIX CONTINUE WATCHING row! Of course another great consumer friendly UI idea could get scuttled quickly if all the major streamers decide to not integrate with it.

  2. Juan C Figueroa says:

    Will this be available for the Firestick 2d Generation?

  3. Louis says:

    This is great but I’ve been enjoying this functionality on my Sony Android tv for a few years now – without the annoyance (although the final behavior seems dependent on the destination app). And you can easily search across all services with voice command.

  4. RG Geiger says:

    Thank you for thoroughly trouble shooting this exciting new feature of the new ui. Unfortunately as you suggest the full usability of this feature is currently unavailable. The future is never having to click on a app icon to open a service you pay for to start a show your currently watching. It’s working on the Google tv in the watchlist and continue watching row. Fire TV needs a similar feature. It’s unclear if Netflix is pushing back on google because of this trend. Amazon needs to insure this feature and push back for the consumer.

    • oasis_001 says:

      I thought I read last week that Netflix has pulled support for being integrated in the WATCHLIST of Google TV. I want to get excited about the app peek feature coming with the new Fire TV UI, but if Netflix is backing away from Google TV integration I can’t see them embracing it with Fire TV UI. It is ashamed, because I think it is a feature that would encourage me to use Netflix more often and would even promote the discovery of new content on their service more often.

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