Our televisions and television remote controls are no longer simply for watching your favorite programs: with the release of internet-based systems like Roku, Netflix and more, this common piece of equipment has become a source of everything from movies to music, all on demand. Now, companies like Google and Amazon are introducing streaming media dongles, called Chromecast and Fire TV Stick respectively, that allow you take your favorite channels with you wherever you go. Unfortunately, if you live on a college campus or frequently stay in hotels, this internet-based system might mean endless struggles with local hotspots. However, Amazon recently unveiled a number of improvements, including support for web-based authentication and new features for its Bluetooth TV remote controls.
According to Amazon, its Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are the first streaming media devices to support “captive portals”, meaning that they should be able to connect to wireless networks at most major hotels and some universities. It isn’t currently clear which mechanism will be used to facilitate this development, but some have speculated that it will use a built-in web browser.
Additionally, Amazon says its Bluetooth TV remote controls will feature an audio pairing, which will allow users to listen to media on their headphones instead of their TV speakers. This feature is offered on the Roku 3 as well, and if it is as convenient as it sounds, it wouldn’t be surprising if all remotes for streaming systems added them in the future. However, critics have pointed out that Bluetooth often has an inherent delay, which could cause some lip sync issues.
Other updates include USB mass storage for apps and games, a redesigned PIN entry screen for more secure purchase confirmations, searchable Prime Music Playlists and new shortcuts for sleep mode and display mirroring. Unfortunately, these features are only accessible through Amazon’s new Bluetooth TV remote controls, meaning that most users are going to need to obtain replacement remote controls in addition to the devices they already own. Hopefully, the new features will be worth the change.