Fire TV is now available on the Echo Show 15. In September, Amazon announced that it would soon bring its Fire TV experience to its larger 15.6-inch wall-mounted Echo, giving consumers a way to access a combination of smart speakers and smart home hub. and a TV-like device at a relatively affordable price — it’s currently selling for $185, down from the list price of $250. With the free update rolling out today, Echo Show 15 customers will be able to stream Fire TV content, which means Prime Video along with other popular services, like Disney+, Netflix, YouTube TV, HBO Max, Hulu , Parmount+, Peacock, NBC Sports and others. YouTube and YouTube Kids are also available, as Amazon and Google resolved their differences in 2019.
While streaming functionality may now become the main selling point of this device, the Echo Show 15 also offers other standard Echo Show features, like the ability to manage smart home devices, create to-do lists, listen to podcasts and talk to Alexa, among other things.
Additionally, the Show’s larger screen can be customized with a variety of widgets, allowing the device to become a sort of family center with items such as sticky notes, shopping lists, shortcuts to smart home favorites, reminders, shared and individual calendars, links to recently launched apps and more. To meet the needs of those mounting the device in the kitchen, the Echo Show 15 also features recipe suggestions from Epicurious, Tasty, and Allrecipes.
Privacy-conscious customers should be warned that there are more invasive features included in this version of Echo, including a Voice ID feature that allows Alexa to call you by name and customizes responses based on your who is asking. It also includes a Visual ID facial recognition system which is used to provide additional personalization. (Amazon says visual ID and facial images are stored on your Echo Show device, and both systems are optional.)
After the update that brings support for Fire TV, users will be guided through a setup process that includes selecting apps and pairing their Alexa (3rd Gen) voice remote. The remote only works in the Fire TV experience. This is useful, as some apps (like Netflix) will warn that they offer “limited touch functionality”. In these cases, the device will display a virtual on-screen remote that you can tap to navigate the service if you don’t have the Alexa remote or don’t have it handy. It’s an odd workaround for the lack of touch controls – a feature that’s somewhat expected when a device is otherwise touch-enabled. But it works in a pinch.
A problem that can arise with the remote control is not with the functionality itself, but rather with the way the device is supposed to be used in real life.
If the Echo Show 15 is mounted in the kitchen, where is the remote supposed to go – on the kitchen counter? In a junk drawer where it’s out of the way? Next to your blender? It’s strange. In the living room, it’s fine to leave a remote on an entertainment console or coffee table, but most people wouldn’t want a remote lying around their kitchen. A simple addition like a remote control holder on the outer frame of the device could have gone a long way in making the Echo Show 15 more friendly for real-world use. (Some of the third-party accessory makers — like those that offer mounts to consumers who don’t want to wall-mount their device — haven’t considered this need either.)
Meanwhile, while the remote can be used in Fire TV, it cannot be used to navigate the Echo Show 15’s widgets or other skills and services. This appears to be an error on Amazon’s part. An elegant experience would have allowed a customer to navigate to a Notes or Lists widget with the Fire TV experience minimized and/or paused in picture-in-picture (PiP) mode, then allow it to update his shopping list in a quick voice command before returning their program to full screen.
The device supports PiP for watching a live camera feed – like the nursery camera or doorbell – while watching a show or recipe video, which is handy. You can also activate it by voice, first asking Alexa to stream a TV show, then saying something like “Alexa, show me…”, followed by the name of the camera feed you want to see. . This PiP stream can also be moved around the screen.
The home button on the remote will launch the Fire TV experience at any time, and the Live TV and quick access provider buttons (e.g. for Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Prime Video) will take you directly to those services. Still, the lack of continuity between touch navigation and remote-based navigation could be difficult for the less technically savvy, like older people who still struggle to use their iPhones, for example.
Once you’ve set up and used Fire TV, a widget will be added to your home screen – if you don’t already have your screen full of widgets. (Fire TV is added only if nine or fewer widgets are installed.) Alternatively, you can click the widget’s + symbol in the widget gallery to add it.
When not in use, the Echo Show can display a slideshow of photos, like a digital picture frame would, or can display artwork or other stock images, like nature photography, if you prefer.
Although not widely released, the Echo Show 15 will work with Amazon’s Echo Buds for a private listening mode with noise cancellation. (Unfortunately, it couldn’t identify a set of AirPods.) You can, however, stream from your mobile to the Echo Show 15 or from the device to a Bluetooth speaker, if it doesn’t require a PIN. (Specifically, it supports A2DP and AVRCP, the latter for voice control of connected mobile devices, but not Mac OS X devices.)
Overall, the Fire TV 15 might be fine for someone who wants a wall-mounted device or something to replace a smaller, older screen TV for their kitchen (um, large kitchen with lots of wall space, that is!). It could also work in another room in the house, like a garage workshop, craft room, guest room, or any other extra space where you don’t want to invest in a full TV like you would a living room, den or game room. .
But it might be difficult for the device to find a large audience, as it attempts to carve out a niche somewhere between the use case of touchscreen media devices like Apple’s iPad and more affordable televisions and smaller ones under $100. Its lack of an included stand may also put off some consumers who don’t think the few hundred dollars (more or less, depending on sales) is worth it when the smaller, non-mountable Echo Show devices are much more affordable. Additionally, Google is teasing its upcoming Pixel tablet which will offer a charging speaker dock, which is a clever combination of a kitchen display screen and a tablet for your portability needs. Amazon, of course, is banking on consumers paying for Alexa functionality and smart home controls, which may appeal to some – if you have a place for such an oversized device in the first place.
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