The year is almost over so, just like last year, I looked back to see which Fire TV models were the most popular throughout 2021 among the now 36 million people that have used my Downloader app. Has any Fire TV model dethroned the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick from its place in the top spot last year? Have Fire TV boxes and Cubes gained any traction against Firesticks in popularity? Are people now willing to pay the small premium for the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick to get TV controls on their remote or are is the cheaper Fire TV Stick Lite still more popular? Have 4K devices become more popular than 1080p devices? Read on for answers to all of these questions and more.
This data is compiled from Fire TV devices using my Downloader app. Since my app tends to be used more by people initially setting up a new device, these stats a biased towards newly sold devices as opposed to all devices out in the wild. That said, given that 36 million people have used the app in total, with 6 million new people in 2021 alone, this gives a good estimate of general Fire TV model popularity.
Above is the popularity of each Fire TV model, excluding Fire TV Smart TVs, as a percentage of all Fire TV models. The thicker lines are a 2-week running average of the thinner daily values to help smooth out the large spikes caused by major sales, like Prime Day in June and Black Friday in November. The year started off where last year ended with the 2016 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick (red) dominating in popularity, the 2018 Fire TV Stick 4K (green) sitting comfortably in 2nd place and the two new 2020 Fire TV Sticks gaining traction. Thanks to the boost of Prime Day sales in late June, the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick was finally dethroned and the Fire TV Stick 4K took the crown as the most popular Fire TV model, where it remains today.
Looking at just the popularity of Fire TV Sticks, you can see the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick (red) had an unexpected surge in February, most likely due to retailers having some final clearance sales on the older model, but it was downhill in popularity from there. People upgrading on Prime Day was certainly a devastating blow to the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick, but the release of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (pink) was the nail in the coffin. The 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick really started to tumble once the Fire TV Stick 4K Max was released as there is almost a direct correlation between the two models. The 2014 1st-gen Fire TV Stick (blue) is still hanging in there with a respectable 2% of all Fire TV models at the bottom of the pack of Fire TV Sticks.
The popularity of the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick (purple) versus the Fire TV Stick Lite (yellow) is especially interesting because the two models are identical except for the included remote. Paying $10 more for the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick to gain TV power and volume controls wasn’t worth it for most people as the Fire TV Stick Lite took an early lead and held it for most of the year. Even when the price difference between the two was only $5 during Prime Day in June, more people chose the cheaper device, giving the Fire TV Stick Lite its biggest lead in popularity. It wasn’t until the Black Friday sale in November that the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick finally gained popularity. That’s because Amazon dropped the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick to a new all-time low of $19.99 but kept the Fire TV Stick Lite at the previous low of $17.99. With a price difference of only $2, that was finally worth it for most people to choose the model with the better remote, allowing the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick to overtake the Fire TV Stick Lite in popularity.
I’ve spent all this time talking about the various Fire TV Stick models because they still absolutely dominate in popularity compared to the older 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV boxes, 3rd-gen Fire TV Pendant, and both Fire TV Cubes. Fire TV Sticks, of any type, made up about 93% of all Fire TV devices at the start of the year and that commanding lead in popularity only grew in 2021 up to over 95%, thanks to the release of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Even though the 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube was available for a new all-time low price of $74.99 this year, a deal that is still available today, it wasn’t enough to even make a blip in the popularity of the Stick form factor.
Zooming into the bottom 2% of all Fire TV models we see all non-stick form factors. The 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube, being the most powerful Fire TV ever made and the only one in this group that is still being sold, dominates the bunch. It, alone, is almost as popular as all of the other non-stick models combined, but that still only accounts for 2% of all Fire TV models. To put that further into perspective, the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick from 2014 is still more popular than any Fire TV box, Fire TV pendant, or Fire TV Cube. This is why the last 3 new Fire TV models have all been sticks. That’s not to say we’ll never see a new Fire TV box or Fire TV Cube again, but it’s not a priority for a reason, and that reason is that most people greatly prefer the sticks.
With the Fire TV Stick 4K being the most popular Fire TV model and the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max quickly gaining in popularity, 2021 had to be the year that 4K devices finally surpassed 1080p devices in popularity, right? Not even close. 1080p Fire TV models still make up nearly two-thirds of Fire TV devices. The popularity gap between the two resolutions did shrink by about 10% this year, so things are definitely moving in the right direction, but the cheaper 1080p Fire TV Sticks are still much more popular than all 4K Fire TV models combined.
The story is very different for Fire TVs capable of High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. With Amazon adding support for HDR10 in even the least expensive Fire TV Stick Lite last year, the entire line of Fire TV models currently for sale now support HDR. That pushed HDR-capable Fire TVs to become more popular than SDR Fire TVs last year, and that trend has skyrocketed this year to where 72% of Fire TVs can play HDR content. Now, given that a large portion of those are 1080p devices, the majority are probably still connected to SDR TVs, but the potential is there for more people to experience HDR content before they experience 4K content.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the popularity of Fire OS versions among Fire TV models. With the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick still leading the pack at the start of the year, Amazon’s older Fire OS 5 was still the dominant operating system. Prime Day sales of the Fire OS 6 Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire OS 7 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick Lite, and 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube helped shrink the lead of Fire OS 5. It wasn’t until Black Friday sales in November that all three operating system versions converged to each be equal in popularity, only for the sale of the newer models, like the Fire TV Stick 4K Max running Fire OS 7, to push Fire OS 7 into the lead for the first time, with Fire OS 6 in a comfortable second place. While Fire OS 7 does currently lead in popularity, the big takeaway, for me, is that the older operating systems are still very dominant, so I don’t expect support for them to change at all in the year ahead. I don’t see Amazon or 3rd-party apps/services walking away from a quarter of their potential customers just because the device’s operating system is a little old.