Amazon Prime introduces Ad-Free Radio Stations

This couldn’t come at a better time. I was listening to Pandora when I was starting to get annoyed at the ads that have noticeably increased recently. Not only this, they can also stop the music and have you interact with ads in order to continue. I don’t listen to Pandora enough to justify the subscription fee and their selection is subpar compared with other options. Google Play has also offered free 3 months of trial on their music service but again, it will eventually require payment. Today, I received an email from Amazon regarding its new Ad-free prime stations. I have used Prime services for some time now and this is great news particularly if you want to use stream songs over your Fire TV and fire TV Stick. Navigation is simple. Through a PC browser, you can watch the song, title, and progress through the song. You also have the option to add it to your Prime music playlist to listen or buy later. You can also use a thumb up / thumb down for Amazon to learn your taste. You also have the option to share what you are listening to your Facebook wall.

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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!

Return the Fire TV to factory settings

Fire TV is great but there may be a time when you want to go back to factory settings. The general consensus is that the Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick is a winner especially for those with Amazon Prime account. The device is extremely smooth and the ability to access hundreds of apps for entertainment is a tremendous value at $39. However, some of you may be dissatisfied and want to return it to Amazon or give the Fire TV away.

There are some things you need to consider before returning the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick or giving it to another party. As of any device which has personal and private information, you want to delete all details before it lands in any hands.

The best and easiest way to remove all personal info, is to restore the Fire TV / Stick to factory default. You can accomplish this by the following sequence:

Go to Menu -> Settings -> System -> Reset to Factory Defaults

Click factory reset fire tv factory reset fire tv 2‘Reset’ when dialogue pops up to confirm.

You can also perform a factory reset by pressing on the Right and Back buttons together on your Fire TV remove for 10 seconds to reset to factory default.

How to uninstall, clear data and cache on Fire TV

Amazon apps on Fire TV are like any apps where it may have issues where or you want to uninstall apps you no longer want. Clearing data will remove any information you have stored on the app which may require you to re-enter your info and lose game data. Clearing cache will cause the loss of non-essential temporary data. First bet is to try to clear the cache first and see if it resolves your issue. If you are still encountering issues including streaming or connectivity to just one app, clear the data. Last resort, you may uninstall and reinstall the app. If you no longer have the need for the app and want it removed, you can uninstall as well.

Here are instructions on how to clear data, clear cache, and uninstall apps.

Clear Cache: Go to Menu -> Settings -> Manage All Installed Applications
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Select the App you are concerned with.

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You will be able to see the following options.

Clear Cache – to delete temporary files associated with the app.

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You will received a confirmation message when clearing data.

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And lastly, to uninstall. You can also force stop an app here as well.

 

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How to mirror your phone or tablet screen to Fire TV

One neat feature for the Fire TV is the ability to mirror your phone or tablet screen to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. This will allow you to stream content from your phone or apps which is not available through Amazon appstore. You can enable display mirroring by doing the following steps. Note, this will only work for Android based devices running over OS 4.2.2 and above.

First, go to Settings -> Display & Sounds -> Enable Display Mirroring

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Next, go to your Android phone settings -> Display & lights

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Next, click on Cast Screen.

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Turn on the toggle on the Cast screen setting and you should see the name of your Fire TV. Click your Fire TV and you should be mirroring your screen.

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The screen shots are from the OnePlus One phone. I also tested this on a Samsung Galaxy S4 and my Nexus 7 tab and it all worked. Give it a try!

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.

 

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).