The Amazon Fire TV Stick has just received its first major update since its launch last year. This update prepares the Fire TV Stick for its international debut and adds several new features. The new update carries version number 188.8.131.52_user_110035420 and is slowly making its way out to all devices. Here is a complete overview of everything that has changed with the Fire TV Stick’s latest software update.
A new shortcut menu has been added which displays the current time and three buttons. Selecting the first button immediately puts the Fire TV Stick to sleep. The second button enables mirroring, exactly the same way the mirroring option in the settings menu does. The last button opens up the Fire TV Sticks settings menu. To open this new shortcuts menu, you simply press and hold the remote control’s home button for a few seconds. You can access the shortcut menu this way from anywhere on the Fire TV Stick, even while inside an app.
Concealed PIN Entry Interface
There is a new interface for entering your parental control PIN without revealing it to someone viewing the screen. The PIN is now entered using the directional button corresponding with the values displayed on the screen, instead of navigating an on-screen keyboard. You have the option to let the digits you select be visible on-screen so that you can be sure you’re pressing the correct buttons.
Captive Portal Wi-Fi Connections
The Fire TV Stick is now capable of connecting to Wi-Fi connections which require you to login or agree to terms before connecting. These types of connections are called captive portals and are most commonly found in hotels and school campuses. Previous to this update, the Fire TV Stick was unable to connect to these types of Wi-Fi hotspots due to its lack of a web browser. Now, the Fire TV Stick will pop-up a small web browser when a captive portal is detected. Within the browser you are able to press the remote’s menu button to bring up a cursor to navigate the web page with. Captive portal support was announced as “coming soon” when the Fire TV Stick was first introduced back in October of last year. Having this capability now makes the Fire TV Stick an even better travel companion.
Prime Music Playlist Browsing
The music section of the Fire TV Stick now allows you to browse through various categories of Prime Music playlists. Before this update, you had to manually add Prime Music playlists to your library using a computer in order for the playlist to show up on the Fire TV Stick. Now there are several curated lists of playlists for you to instantly play without the need of a computer. The available categories include: Recommended For You, Popular, Moods & Activities, Genres, and New. Prime Music gives Amazon Prime members access to over 1 million songs for free.
Prime Music Playlist Search
The Fire TV Stick’s search will now return results that match Prime Music playlists. Before this update, the only music results that appeared when searching were tracks you purchased or uploaded yourself.
Improved 3rd Party Buttons
The Fire TV Stick now does a better job of discovering and displaying 3rd party options for watching content. If a movie or TV show is available form a source other than Amazon, like Hulu or Showtime, the content’s detail page now displays that option upfront instead of burying it in the “More Ways to Watch” button. This change is going to go largely unnoticed, but Amazon should be commended for improving the user experience instead of defaulting to the option that makes them the most money. Bravo Amazon.
Windows 8.1 Miracast Display Mirroring
Miracast display mirroring is a feature added to the Fire TV Stick in a previous update that allows capable devices to use the Fire TV Stick as a second display. This update has apparently fixed the issues that prevented Windows 8.1 computers from mirroring their display to the Fire TV Stick. I do not have a Miracast Windows 8.1 computer, so I am unable to confirm that it is indeed working. I am basing this change on this comment from AFTVnews reader McChen.
If someone else can also confirm this in the comments below, I would be very grateful.
Skippable Welcome Video
The welcome video that plays after you complete the Fire TV Stick’s initial setup can now be fast forwarded. This is a very welcome addition for those of us that often factory reset our devices and have had to sit through the welcome video numerous times.
Separate Storage Menu
There is now a separate “Storage” area in the “About” panel of the settings menu which displays the Fire TV Stick’s internal storage usage along with a bar visually representing the amount of used space. The device’s storage capacity is still also displayed in the main About area. This new menu is carried over from the Fire TV’s update which uses this menu to display the new external storage information. External storage is not supported on the Fire TV Stick.
The Fire TV Stick now has a language option similar to the Fire TV. This is a result of the Fire TV Stick’s recent international release.
There is now a new menu option which allows you to restart the Fire TV Stick without disconnecting the power cable. The option can be found in Settings under the System panel. For those not aware, you have always been able to trigger a restart by holding down the remotes SELECT and PLAY buttons simultaneously for several seconds. This can be done from anywhere; even within an app.
Wakes Up on Home Screen
If you force your Fire TV Stick to sleep, it now wakes up on the home screen, where as before it would wake up on the settings menu.
This update is jam packed with changes. If I missed anything, please be sure to mention it in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list! I hope to have a Fire TV update overview up some time tomorrow.