The Fire TV line of streaming devices turned eight years old this year. While the platform has improved quite a bit since the first model launched in 2014, Amazon did manage to fit in more new features this year. Here is my list of the best new Fire TV features added in 2022, plus several honorable mentions. While none of these are particularly grand or revolutionary features, they are still certainly nice to have.
Quicker App Access
A big feature of the current iteration of the Fire TV interface is the ability to display, in the lower half of the screen, additional rows of apps and/or content related to whatever is highlighted in the navigation bar. Highlighting an app that supports the feature will display content recommendations from that app. Other apps will display a row of suggested related apps to try, and highlighting the Settings icon shows the rest of the settings menu. For a long time, highlighting the Apps icon just displayed nothing but a message to select the icon to see the rest of your apps. This year, Amazon changed it so that two buttons were displayed instead, one for your apps and one for the Amazon Appstore. This was a move in the right direction to better utilize the otherwise dead space, but things really got better when Amazon added a row showing the rest of your apps. This makes it now possible to get to all of your apps without needing to open your grid of all apps.
App Management Improvements
If you’re a Fire TV power user, which you probably are if you’re reading this list, you likely spend more time in the Fire TV app management screen than most users. Amazon made several improvements to this screen this year, found under Settings > Application > Manage Installed Applications. For starters, the ability to sort your list of installed apps by the app size was added, making it much easier to see which apps are using the most of your limited internal storage. Also added this year were remote shortcuts for two of the most common management tasks. To uninstall an app or clear an app’s cache, you no longer need to select the app and navigate through the app options. Instead, you can now just highlight an app and press Play or Rewind on the remote to uninstall the app or clear the app’s cache, respectively.
Navigation Icons and “My Stuff” tab
Ever since the current Fire TV interface launched two years ago, Amazon has been tweaking and improving the navigation menu. We’re now on the fourth version of the menu and the biggest change came this year when Amazon switched from text labels to icons. While that, on its own, was a minor change, it allowed Amazon to fit in the new My Stuff tab, which lists your Watchlist, Purchases, and DVR Recordings, which were all buried in several layers of submenus before the change.
Quicker Website Access
Amazon made a couple of Fire TV improvements this year that made it quicker and easier to load websites through the device’s built-in Silk Browser. First, Amazon added popular websites to the Fire TV’s search results, like Instagram, Google, and Reddit. This makes it possible to go from a voice search to a website loading in just a single click from the home screen, assuming the website you want to load is among the ones added by Amazon. For more obscure websites, Amazon added a second feature that lets you opt-in to having your Silk bookmarks appear on the Fire TV home screen, making them just a click away as well.
Hearing Aid support and Bluetooth Volume Control
This year, the Fire TV Cube became the first streaming device to officially support audio streaming for hearing aids. As a slight precursor to this feature, Amazon expanded the list of Fire TV models that can control Bluetooth volume using the Fire TV remote to now include older models. Add to that the new Bluetooth quick-connect menu opened by the Fire TV Pro Remote and it has been a very good year for those who like using the private listening capabilities of their Fire TV.
Sideload Icon Fix
While this is closer to a bug fix than a new feature, I’m adding it to the list because Amazon certainly didn’t owe anyone this improvement to sideloaded apps, given how the use of them is outside of Amazon’s responsibility. Amazon finally made it so the icon of certain sideload apps appeared correctly on the Fire TV home screen and app list. This issue has plagued Fire TV models running Fire OS 7 ever since the OS debuted in 2019 on the 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube. Sideloaded app icons that were once blank on Fire OS 7, because of how the apps chose to store their icons, are now correctly displayed.
External Storage and Sleep Improvements
These next few features are currently unique to the 3rd-gen Fire TV Cube but they’re great additions that will hopefully make their way to other models at some point. The new Fire TV Cube is the first Fire TV to support NTFS-formatted external USB storage drives. Among other things, this allows the device to access files larger than 4GB, which is a limitation of the FAT32 format that all other Fire TVs only support. To make external file access even easier, the new Cube is also the first stand-alone Fire TV to come with a built-in media player app, which was formerly only included on Fire TV Smart TVs. Lastly, the latest Cube improved Fire TV’s sleep behavior by providing an option to output no video at all while asleep, as opposed to outputting a blank back screen, like all other Fire TV models. This change allows many TVs to automatically power off when the Fire TV goes to sleep.
- Support for DTS, DTS-HD, and Dolby True HD audio passthrough
- Ambient Mode on the new Omni QLED Fire TV Smart TV
- Automatic App Downloads
- Improved Network Test
- Linking Fire TV Profiles to App-specific profiles
- Live TV Management Improvments
- Games Hub
- Adding free Sports News, Movie Trailers, and Cooking Videos as well as Music Videos, Entertainment/Gaming News, and Viral Videos
Did I miss anything that should have been included? Let everyone know in the comments below.