Overview of Fire OS 5 software update changes for the Fire TV Stick

The new Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote has arrived with Fire OS 5 pre-installed, giving us our first look at what the new operating system brings to existing Fire TV devices updating from Fire OS 3. While those who ordered the new Stick bundle or new Fire TV 2 get these changes first, an update to Fire OS 5 for existing devices is on the horizon and should arrive soon. Here’s an overview of the changes and new features brought on by software version for the Fire TV Stick.

Alexa Voice Assistant
stick-os5-compare-alexaBy far the biggest feature added by Fire OS 5 is the new Alexa voice assistant which first appeared in the Amazon Echo. With Fire OS 5, you can use either a voice remote or the Fire TV remote app to issue commands and requests to Alexa. You do not need to preface your request with the word “Alexa…” like you do with the Amazon Echo. Just activate the microphone like you do for a voice search and tell Alexa what you want in natural full sentences. You can request many things like music, audiobooks, radio stations, weather, traffic, sports scores, wikipedia articles, general knowledge questions, and much more. You can expand Alexa’s capabilities by enabling “Skills“, which are like apps for Alexa. For a list of things to do with Alexa, see my article or Amazon’s help article.

Support for Bluetooth Headphones, Mice, and Keyboards
stick-os5-compare-bt-devicesFire OS 5 finally brings to the Fire TV Stick a feature that the Fire TV received 7 months ago. That feature is support for additional bluetooth devices other than game controllers. With Fire OS 5, the Fire TV Stick can now be connected to bluetooth headphones for private listening. This allow you to pipe the device’s audio wirelessly through bluetooth headphones to watch and listen to movies and shows without disturbing others around you. You can also now connect to bluetooth mice and keyboards.

Prime Stations
stick-os5-compare-prime-stationsThe Fire TV and Fire TV Stick now have the ability to play Prime Stations. This is technically not a feature brought on by Fire OS 5, since Amazon has actually remotely enabled it on the previous software version as well, it is a new feature added since the last software update, so I figured I’d include it in this overview. Prime Stations are like radio stations that you can customise to your taste. You can select a station by choosing a genre, theme, or artist and the Fire TV will play music related to your selection. You can vote songs being played up or down on the Fire TV. The songs that are played on each station will be tailored to the voting choices you make. This ability to tailor a station by voting is what differentiates it from Prime Playlists, which will always play the same music.

Support for New Wi-Fi Based Game Controller and Remote
stick-os5-compare-wifi-controllerFire OS 5 adds support for the new 2nd-gen Fire TV Game Controller and new voice remote that ships with the 2nd-gen Fire TV and Fire TV Stick voice bundle. With Fire OS 5, the Fire TV Stick now supports every remote and controller Amazon has ever created, regardless of it being 1st-gen or 2nd-gen, or if it’s bluetooth or WiFi based.

Voice Interface Update
stick-os5-compare-voice-interfaceFire OS 5 has changed the voice interface displayed when using voice search or the new Alexa assitant. Functionally, voice search works the same, but now it displays results using the entire screen interface, as opposed to a small portion in the upper center as it did before.

New Text Search Interface
stick-os5-compare-text-searchSearching via the on-screen keyboard has been revampled slightly. You now have a three row keyboard instead of the old single row line of letters to select from.

Full Screen Text
stick-os5-compare-textFire OS 5 has greatly improved the display of large bodies of text onthe Fire TV. If you open one of the legal or help documents within the settings area, you’ll find that the pop-up text now takes up the entire screen instead of just a small box in the center as it did in Fire OS 3. Strangely, there are still certain documents that still use the old small box format.

New Metric or Imperial Unit Setting
stick-os5-compare-metricIn the settings under the System panel you’ll find a new option in Fire OS 5 that lets you switch between Imperial units (fahrenheit, miles, etc..) and Metric units (celsius, meters, etc..). This new setting is used by Alexa to reply to requests/questions in the units that you prefer. You can also set this setting using the Alexa app or Alexa web interface

New Japanese Language Option
stick-os5-compare-japaneseNow that the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick have recently become available in Japan, Fire OS 5 has added the option for a Japanese lanugage setting.

New Location Setting
stick-os5-compare-locationThere is a new setting for your location in the system panel of the settings are of Fire OS 5. This setting accepts a zip code to be used as the location when asking Alexa for the weather and other location based requests. This setting can also be set from within the Alexa app or Alexa web interface. The Fire TV only allows you to set a zip code, but the app lets you enter an exact street address for more precise location usage.

Updated Help Videos and Documents
stick-os5-compare-helpIf anything about Fire OS 5 confuses you, you’ll be happy to know the help videos and documents have been updated to reflect the changes brought on by Fire OS 5. Remember, you can also request someone from Amazon to call you and walk you through anything about the Fire TV by simply requesting a call from within the Fire TV’s help section.

Wi-Fi-Protected Setup Support
stick-os5-compare-wps-routerFire OS 5 adds support for Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) routers and connections. These routers offer an alternative to manually entering your network’s password. Fire OS 5 supports both the WPS PIN method or push button method.

  1. Vulcan195 says:

    No revelation regarding vanilla Dolby Digital support for increased comparability with legacy systems?

  2. Ulises Rodriguez says:

    Thanks Elias for your Excellent and Detailed Review of FireOS-5 software update for the Amazon FireTV Sticks!

    However as the FireTV Stick has a very limited hardware, I wonder how stable or fast works the FireOS-5 on this hardware that is actually slower than the hardware of the FireTV1 and FireTV2?

    • Bob B. says:

      That’s exactly what I want to know. Does it drag the already slow performance of the Stick down? Does it resolve the stability issues? I have two Fire TV Sticks and both get bogged down after a day or two of use and the only way to fix it a reboot.

      I’m hoping the update will at least make it more stable even if the interface speed doesn’t improve.

  3. Curt says:

    They are not anywhere saying whether OS 5 brings 4k to gen1 firesticks. Will firestick have 4k at all.

    • Bob B. says:

      4k will not come to first gen Fire TV or Fire TV sticks. This is a hardware thing not a software thing so it’s just not possible.

      • xnamkcor says:

        Is the VRAM/framebuffer too small? HDMI 1.x can do 4k at 24 FPS. Framerate might be bad, but unless the device lacks a large enough framebuffer or VRAM, it’s not a “hardware” issue.

        • Phil M says:

          Considering VC4 cannot do anything higher than 1080 does in fact make it a hardware issue.

          • xnamkcor says:

            Is it that it actually cannot do it, or that 4K is so new and so hard(too much power needed) that the spec sheet just claims “1080p” is the highest it can do?

            After a cursory search, the “VC4” is a “multimedia” chip. Seems to imply it hands video(as in video files and streams) encoding/decoding. A hardware codec as it were. This has little to do with the ability of the GPU to output at a certain resolution. Especially since the codec would only deal with streamed video, not rendering games or GUI elements.


            Further research seems to indicate it has 32M of RAM available on chip and “180M pixels per second”.

            According to http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum/showthread.php?t=57081 the required fill rate for “640×480 24-bit at 60 frames per second is 73,728,000(73.728M). HDMI 1.3 is only capable of 24 or 30 FPS at 4k anyway, so we can bring the number down to half. 1920*1080=2073600. 2073600*24=49766400.

            I’m probably doing the math wrong, but is seems like the VC4 isn’t even capable of 1080p 24-bit at 24 FPS.

            It’s looking unlikely it could go to 4k without some colorspace tricks. I wonder if the chip is encoding the frames with the decoder to save RAM?

  4. Ujn Hunter says:

    Are you sure about that “New Text Search Interface”? I’ve ALWAYS had the “3 Row” text input that you are stating as “New”. Always… as in since the very first Fire TV Stick shipped out when it was $19.xx preview price.

  5. Brian says:

    I seem to remember reading that with OS5, apps coded for Android TV could be loaded directly. If that is correct, I would love to see some tested.

  6. Flo says:

    Does Miracast with a Windows Notebook work?

  7. ben says:

    when is alexa coming to fire tv first gen, amazon said it would be coming

  8. The Truth says:

    Maybe they should actually let us have a background for once.

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