How to mirror your Windows phone with Fire TV Stick

Many Windows phone users were jealous of their Android and iPhone counterparts for having numerous low-cost options to mirror their screen to their TV. Previously, the only option for Windows phone user was to purchase a Miracast dongle which isn’t a great option and can be hit or miss. Well Fire TV Stick just released an update which will allow you to mirror your Windows phone to your TV! All you need to do is set up your Fire TV Stick to mirror mode by pressing the home key on your remote. Next, go to your Windows phone settings and select ‘Project My Screen’. Below it, you should be able to see the name of your Fire TV Stick. Select it and you will be able to mirror your Windows phone.

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Compare Fire TV Stick with Chromecast

chromecast-backdrop-chrome-os-android-ios-appWith the Fire TV Stick, Amazon went head on against Google’s successful Chroemcast. It took a whole year for Amazon to launch the Fire TV Stick. Amazon already had the Amazon Fire TV but the price point and the lack of mobility did not attract the casual TV viewer as $99 was steep for your average consumer. Chromecast pretty much did everyone people expected it to do such as streaming from apps such as Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and screen mirroring. However, there was one thing Chromecast could not do which was stream Amazon Prime videos directly. Amazon wanted to keep Prime videos to themselves and their devices. That didn’t stop people with Chromecast to find their own methods to cast and stream Amazon Prime to their TV’s.

 Chromecast Advantages:

Screen mirroring to all Android devices.
Much more support with apps particularly on Android Play store.
Functions with Google Drive
Additional features such as Guest mode and Google Cast Audio.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Advantages:

Includes remote control.
Support for Amazon Prime.
Custom GUI and app store. Some may feel this is a disadvantage.
Fire TV App which will give you voice search
More memory and storage
Faster processor
More games
Stream pictures and videos from Amazon Cloud Drive. UNLIMITED photo storage and 5GB for other files.

Amazon Prime Netflix releases for Feb. 2015

CNN released a list of new releases scheduled for Feb. 2015 on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Amongst the list? House of Cards Season 3!

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Netflix Feb releases:

“Bleach the Movie: Hell Verse” (2010)
“The Brothers Bloom” (2008)
“Dark Ride” (2006)
“Departures” Seasons 1 and 2 Gimme Shelter (2013)
“Gucci: The Director”
“Hot Pursuit”
“Houseboat”
“Into the Blue 2: The Reef”
“Joe”
“King Arthur”
“Magic City” Seasons 1 and 2
“M*A*S*H” Seasons 1 through 5
“Naruto Shippuden: The Movie”
“Now: In the Wings on a World Stage”
“Proof”
“Spartacus: Complete Series”
“We Could Be King”
“We’re No Angels”
“Zapped”
“The Little Rascals Save the Day” (2014)
“Ever After High: Spring Unsprung”
“Danger 5”
“Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead”
“Elsa & Fred”
“Blood Ties”
“Catch Hell”
“Dwight Howard: In the Moment”
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman”
“Young Ones”
“The Two Faces of January”
“Scary Movie 5”
“Mako Mermaids” Season 2
“Save the Date”
“The Overnighters”
“Earth to Echo”
“In Secret”
“The Fluffy Movie”
“White Bird in a Blizzard”
“Richie Rich” Season 1 (2015 Netflix original)
“RoboCop” (2014)
“Hawaii Five-0” Seasons 1 to 4
“1,000 Times Good Night”
“Open Windows”
“Russell Brand: Messiah Complex”
“Ralphie May: Unruly”
“House of Cards” Season 3

Amazon Prime Feb releases:

“Batman” (1989)
“Batman Returns”
“Into the Blue 2: The Reef”
“Airplane II: The Sequel”
“Hitch”
“Lars and the Real Girl”
“Joe”
“Gimme Shelter”
“Ulee’s Gold”
“Love Story”
“Music From Another Room”
“The Brothers Bloom”
“The Object of Beauty”
“The Other End of the Line”
“The Way We Were”
“Mulberry Street”
“Air Force One”
“Tootsie”
“Steel Magnolias”
“Mood Indigo”
“Sense & Sensibility”
“Soul of a Banquet”
“20,000 Days on Earth”
“Robocop” (2014)
“Finding Neverland”
“Orphan Black” Season 2
“Alpha & Omega”
“Believe Me (Prime Member Exclusive)
“Clerks II”
“Jamie Marks is Dead”
“Hannibal” Season 2

Monthly Costs for Fire TV and TV Stick

There seems to be confusion with how much the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick cost and the recurring monthly costs. The actual cost for these two devices are $99 and $39 respectively. You will find varying degree of discounts like right now where you can purchase the Amazon Fire TV for $89.99 (Dec, 2016).

As for recurring costs, out of the box, there will be no costs. However, you will be extremely limited to the content that will be available to you.

Once you receive your Fire TV and Fire TV stick and sign into your Amazon account, you can use the device to stream services right away. If you do not have one, you will be redirected to a registration page to sign up. An Amazon account is free. There is no way around this. You can watch videos immediately using apps through the Amazon app store such as Youtube, Vimeo.

At this point, you still have not spent any more than what you paid for the device. By default, the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick has some pre-installed apps which will allow you to search and stream content such as movies, tv shows, and music. You can go on the Amazon App Store to find apps to get more content.

To get the best bang for the buck, there are paid services which require monthly costs which you can subscribe to access thousands of movies, tv shows, clips, and music.

Below is a list of my recommendations.

Amazon Prime ($99/year):
When Amazon Prime was first introduced people responded with criticism as no one understood why anyone would want to prepay shipping costs. Furthermore, it was very confusing as no one knew how much shipping they were paying for the year to justify enrolling in Amazon Prime. For my family, who were heavy Amazon user and fans, it was a no brainer. We recently had a child so we were buying things on Amazon.com even though it may have been cheaper at a brick and mortar store. Keep note this is before free 2-day shipping!

Since then, Amazon Prime has extended its membership services to free streaming of quality collection of films, movies, TV shows. This has further expanded to Amazon Music which is like a free online jukebox of a sort.

Recently, Amazon also launched Amazon Cloud which gives you UNLIMITED photo storage and 5 GB for movies and all other files.

Amazon Prime membership is $99/year which breaks down to $8.25 which is a great deal especially if you purchase frequently from Amazon and use it’s services.

Free Movie and TV Show Apps for Fire TV:

Viewster – a wide range of TV series, movies, and news clips. One good thing about Viewster is that it hosts a lot of independent films as well as International ones. Not a lot of the latest content. You will get ads at certain points of the movie.

Crackle – decent selection of not the newest well known movies. You may be surprised to find some movies that are available all for free with HD.

YouTube – You may be surprised to hear that Youtube actually has several full length movies in HD quality as well as Vevo which gives you access to some of the hottest new music videos.

Streamdor – Their app page boasts of having over 20,000 films available.

The CW on Fire TV – Catch TV shows like Arrow and other shows you find on the CW network.

NBC AppBe careful. The app is free to download but requires a cable or satellite login in order to watch. Boo.

Monthly subscription services for Fire TV:

In regards to services that require monthly fees, there are a few notable ones. This list grows by the month as Amazon works with different services in the form of an app supported by Fire TV.

Netflix ($7.99/month+)

One of the best streaming service is Netflix which is $7.99/month and also have a wide range of movies and tv shows. Netflix also has original series such as House of Cards which has won numerous awards. With Netflix at $7.99/month, this is the basic account where you are restricted to just SD and limited to one screen per instance. This means you cannot use the account on multiple screens simultaneously. They also have the Standard plan at $9.99 where it includes HD and 2 simultaneous screen then $11.99 where you get Ultra HD and up to 4 watchers simultaneously. Note, this is subscription fee to Netflix. Once you subscribe to Netflix, you can watch Netflix on other devices such as your phone, PC, or other smart TV.

Sling TV (varies)

Another new app and streaming service which will be a market changer is Sling TV streaming service. Sling is a streaming service which provides unlimited streaming to some of the most premiere tv channels which traditionally is only available to cable or satellite subscription such as ESPN, TNT, TBS, Food network, HGTV, travel channel, CNN, abc family and more for $20/month. At this price point, it is more than the likes of Netflix and Amazon prime but much cheaper than a full subscription to cable and satellite TV. Had I known this service was going to be available, I would not have subscribed to AT&T U-verse recently after I cut my Charter cable service. After my one year contract to AT&T is up, I will look to hop over to Sling TV. Sling TV is available via invitation and you can sign up on the waiting list as http://www.sling.com/ .

HBO ($14.99/month)

If you are hooked to the likes of game of Thrones, True Blood, insecure, and other HBO exclusive TV shows, then you can subscribe to HBO. It is more on the pricey side but it is something to consider if you cancel your cable or satellite service.

You can see my full review on other subscriptions here:

Amazon Introduces add on service and subscriptions

 

Fire TV Subtitles when watching Youtube and Prime

If you are like me, sometimes you want to use closed captioning to watch tv shows or movies to ensure you catch everything that is being said and not miss a thing. I also like to turn on the subtitles when the kids are asleep and you don’t want to wake them up. Fire TV and Fire TV Stick has subtitle capabilities but it depends on the app and the content you are watching.

Subtitles on Amazon Prime or videos

To turn on subtitles on Amazon Prime or videos on Amazon, you simple press the icon with the 3 horizontal lines on your Fire TV remote.

This is the menu button. Once you click this button, you will see an option to enable Closed Captioning or simply ‘cc’ which is the same as subtitles. From here, you are given more options to select font size, color of the text and background of the text block.

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Subtitles on other apps

Most apps utilize the menu button similar to Amazon videos to enable subtitles or closed captioning. However, some apps such as Youtube has the cc icon beside their on screen navigation menu. Closed captioning options also vary depending on the app. Some apps have lots of options for text size, actual font, and colors.

Here is an example subtitle and closed captioning from the ESPN app:

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Here is an example for the Bloomberg app for closed captioning and subtitle:

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Enable subtitle / closed captioning on the Fire TV for Crackle app:

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Here is the closed captioning setting for Youtube on Fire TV:

The feature is enabled through the navigation menu and not through the menu button on your remote.

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What do you do if you enable closed captioning and subtitles but still do not see it? It is likely due to the content you are watching didn’t come with it. Even when I was working on the above snapshots and enabled closed captioning, nothing came out for ESPN or the Avengers video on Youtube. Some videos simply do not have the subtitles so don’t panic. No content provider will gaurantee all of their videos include subtitles although Amazon has done a great job in updating their video libraries to have them.

If there is an app you want us to test out, let us know!

Unlocked Amazon Fire Phone for $189 Only! (expired)

amazon fire phoneThis deal has since expired.

For a limited time, Amazon is releasing the unlocked Amazon Fire Phone for only $189. This is a great deal considering it comes with Amazon Prime which is valued at $99. If you do the math, the phone comes out to just $90 for an Unlocked quad-core Android phone with 32GB. This is a contract free Amazon Fire phone and you can use this on any network that uses a sim card. You may also take this overseas. You cannot get this deal anywhere else. I’m thinking about jumping on this deal. I recently renewed my Amazon Prime membership. If you buy this phone, an additional year of Amazon Prime will be added to your subscription.

How to turn off ‘Collect App Usage Data’

By default, Amazon has enabled the Fire TV to allow their Appstore to collect info on how often and how long you use their downloaded apps. If you feel extra generous about opening up your privacy, feel free to leave this as it is. However, if you are like me where you want to limit what information companies have access to and want to retain your privacy, turn it off using the below instructions.

Menu -> Settings -> Applications -> Collect App Usage Data

You can see here highlighted below that by default, this is set to ‘ON’. Click it and turn it off.

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You will receive confirmation as above. This is how you can turn off Amazon app store from collecting your app usage data.

 

Difference between Fire TV and Fire TV Stick

What is the difference between the amazon fire TV and fire TV stick aside from the obvious, the price. Amazon has a good side by side comparison of the device if you click on a link on the fire TV stick product page.

See which Fire TV is right for you
Compare Fire TV Stick and Amazon Fire TV (available now)

Price and Size
Let’s get the two obvious differences out of the way, the price and the size. Full retail price of the fire TV stick is $60 cheaper but we have seen Amazon offer discounts to both devices respectively. The fire TV is larger in size and heavier in weight but it’s not big enough to matter to move people unless you live in a RV. Most people won’t be carrying the fire TV around. However, the fire TV stick may come very useful to road warriors who travel a lot. Amazon created the setup portal on the fire TV stick to allow you to sign into your any WiFi connection through the setup screen. This should allow you to sign on to your hotel’s WiFi connection with its network and password.

Processor
What exactly is a processor and what does it do? Simply put, the processor is the CPU which is essentially the brain of your device. Dual core means the device has two separate CPU and quad core means the device has four separate CPUs at it’s disposal. The two processors are not the same. Fire TV’s processor is a Qualcomm Krait 300, quad-core to 1.7 Ghz each CPU. The fire TV Stick processor is a Broadcom Capri 28155, dual-core 2xARM A9 up to 1 Ghz. It isn’t so easy to compare the two processors as they are different. Each core’s utilization also depends on how the apps are programmed. Unlike PC’s, you have no control over how the device or apps use the CPU. One thing for sure is that the Fire TV will perform computations faster than the Fire TV stick. You will likely see very minimal difference when watching videos or music except for load time but you will experience difference when playing games.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
Amazone Fire TV uses a Qualcomm Adreno 320 chip as it’s GPU and the Fire TV stick uses a VideoCore4. Neither supports over 60hz of refresh rate but both support 720p and 1080p hdtv. So if you have that 240hz refresh rate TV, it won’t come to full use with either device.

Storage and Memory:
Both devices have 8 GB of internal memory used for storage. I haven’t come to a conclusion HOW the devices use this but I presume it is used for preloading content to avoid buffering delays during streaming. You cannot watch any content when wifi is off so those on a boat without wifi is out of luck. Fire TV uses 2 GB LPDDR2 @ 533 mhz external memory while the Fire TV Stick has 1 GB of build in memory. I haven’t seen any reports of anyone trying to upgrade the fire TV memory but I don’t see why anyone would want to do that.

Remote:
The Fire TV has a built in mic which allows you to perform voice search for content. The Fire TV stick remote does not have voice search but you may purchase the Fire TV remote or simply download the Fire TV app for voice search which I have video demo here.

Ethernet:
The Fire TV has an Ethernet port which can provide a much more reliable and ensure fast connection between the router to your device. However, your TV and Fire TV will need to be at a location that is relatively near your router unless you want a long Ethernet cable threading through your house. Both support WiFi which works for most people unless you have poor wireless connectivity where your device is located. In that case, you can purchase a repeater available at (where else?) Amazon!

Optical Audio Output:Optical outputs are a must for audio junkies to connect to your home receiver for surround sound, sound bar, and sub-woofers for that low base. The Fire TV will allow you to directly connect to your receiver but the fire TV stick will be limited in this aspect. However, not all is lost. If you want improved audio from your fire TV stick, you may connect your home theater system to the audio output of your TV and it will be almost equivalent. My TV has an optical out which I have connected to a Vizio sound bar and it works well.

Apps Availability:
As we stand today when this post was written, there are 898 apps available on the Amazon App store for Fire TV and 706 apps available for the Fire TV stick. I expect this number to change. You can click Amazon Appstore to see if they have the app that you want. You can filter the apps at the right menu by selecting the device you want to limit. The same apps will be available to you when you navigate the Amazon appstore on your Fire TV or Fire TV sticl.

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Fire TV Require Subscription like Netflix?

There seems to be some confusion as to what Fire TV and Fire TV Stick offers in terms of content such as Netflix and other subscription based streaming services. First of all, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick is a streaming device produced by Amazon. The device enables your TV to stream thousands of TV episodes, movies, video clips, and music. It also enables you to play games by installing apps and using your remote.

Technically, you do not need any subscription to any service to enjoy the product by itself. All you need is an Amazon account to sign in. If you do not have one, you will need to create one. Through Amazon’s appstore, you will be able to install apps which have free content and services. However, without any subscription, you will be limited to services such as Youtube, certain Watch ESPN clips and games, Pandora, and apps such as Twitch.

In order to get the most out of your Fire TV / Stick, you should have at the minimal Amazon Prime. With Amazon Prime, you get hundreds of TV episodes and movies for free. They also recently launched Amazon Prime Music where you can add songs or playlists and simply play. Alternatively, you can use Amazon Cloud and add pictures and stream them to your TV as a large digital photo frame during a party.

For paid services such as Netflix, Hulu plus, HBO Go, and others, you will need a paid subscription in order to enjoy those content. If you are not sure if the app you need is there, check out this link from Amazon and search it.

Opening the battery cover for Fire TV Stick Remote

One of the complaints I have heard is how hard it is to open the battery cover on the Fire TV Stick Remote. I did a video on how it can be opened. Please note that I have already opened it during my unboxing video so it is a bit conditioned. I did have trouble when I first opened it but as you can see now, I can open it with one hand (thumb).