The past decade saw the rise and fall of many streaming services, each one attempting to overthrow the titan that is Netflix. From clunky user interfaces to limited catalogues, it’s no surprise these services failed.
However, one streaming service survived—a streaming service you don’t hear about as much as Hulu and Netflix: Amazon Video.
Amazon Video started as a way for people to rent or buy movies and TV shows in an instant. As it evolved, however, it became another benefit to Prime members, where they could watch TV shows and movies for free.
This was just the prelude to Amazon owning their section of the streaming market. Now, Amazon owns Amazon Video, Firestick, and Fire TV, each one of these with its benefits and functions.
For the longest time, I got confused just looking at Amazon’s selections for streaming. What differed the Firestick from Fire TV? How does Amazon Video connect to these peripherals?
I’m sure some of you are just as confused as I was, which is why I want to help clear up any confusion centring around the products. And after we do, I want to talk about how you can improve the experience on Amazon streaming.
Distinguishing Amazon Streaming Tools
Let’s start with talking about all aspects of Amazon’s streaming services, peripherals, services, and all other aspects of Amazon’s streaming empire.
Amazon Instant Video
Amazon Instant Video works similarly to iTunes Store and Google Play, where—while having a catalogue filled with tens of thousands of movies—you have to pay to watch these shows and movies.
In a way, you can kind of compare Amazon Instant Video to Blockbuster, except digital. And on the plus side, you can buy shows and movies to keep forever, but the service is meant more for renting movies and shows.
These prices are kind of expensive, and you’re better off using iTunes or Google Play. Plus, the UI isn’t the greatest.
One of the major reasons why Amazon rose to dominance in the past decade is because of Amazon Prime, the selling point of the website. With it, users can save hundreds of dollars a year.
Amazon Prime allows you to skip out on paying for shipping—instead, receiving free two-day shipping—take advantage of certain Prime-exclusive (such as saving 10% on video game pre-orders), free access to Kindle Books, and having free access to Amazon Prime Video.
Prime Video is why I brought up Amazon Prime in the first place. Having Prime gives you access to Prime Video, which is different from Amazon Instant Video.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is similar to Amazon Instant Video, except instead of having to pay to view every show and movie in Amazon’s catalogue, you get access to certain shows and movies for free.
Prime Video is bundled with Amazon Prime, the service that gives you a bunch of other benefits makes it a good deal, but keep in mind that you’ll still need to pay to watch many of the movies or shows in the catalogue.
Amazon has gotten better with this and has expanded the “free” catalogue through the years, but the majority of content is still locked behind a paywall.
In the latter half of the 2010s, when streaming was cemented as the best way to experience shows and movies, Amazon created the Amazon Fire product line, products designed to make viewing streamable content on your TV as easy and painless as possible.
These Fire products turn your TV into a “smart” TV allowing you to select through apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and—of course—Amazon Prime Video.
The Firestick is the most popular choice due to its low price. With the Firestick, you’re able to view any streamable content at a max of 1080p resolution, and admittedly dated resolution. However, its value can’t be beaten.
It should be noted that Amazon does manufacture a Fire Stick 4K, which allows you to stream 4K content.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
The Fire TV Cube, on the other hand, works similarly to the Firestick we just talked about but has a couple of other functionalities built into it.
For one, Fire TV Cube comes with 4K and HDR support right out of the box. But that’s not the main selling point, at least not anymore with the 4K Firestick. Instead, you’d buy the Fire TV Cube for Alexa support.
Don’t get it confused, the Firestick product family has Alexa support, but the support it does have is not as in-depth as the Cube family. This is because the Cube is designed to be an Alexa speaker.
To sum it all up, you’d buy the TV Cube for Alexa support. Otherwise, you can just buy the Firestick.
Tips for Amazon Streaming Services
Now that we’ve summed up the Amazon product family and the difference between its two services, we can now talk about how you can get the most out of Amazon streaming.
This section will primarily focus on the streaming services themselves, though I will give out a couple of tips for the peripherals as well.
- Take Advantage of Parental Controls
- Customize Your Subtitles
- Watch Out for Amazon Prime Deals
- Use a USB to Increase Storage on the Fire TV Cube
- Download the TV App for Fire Stick
- Improve Your Security
Take Advantage of Parental Controls
If you’re a parent, the last thing you want is your kid to happen upon a TV show or movie that contains violence, cussing, or anything explicit. It’s expected we keep our kids from experiencing these things at a young age, and having access to streaming services can make this a bit difficult.
To keep this from happening, take advantage of the parental controls included in Amazon’s Fire family and streaming services. With these parental controls, you’re able to control what your kids watch and how long they can watch the content before being locked out.
These are a selling point of Amazon’s products, and I’ve yet to find a service that does parental controls better, which is saying something.
Customize Your Subtitles
Moving away from the topic of kids, let’s talk about subtitles. I don’t know about you, but I grew up with subtitles on for all my movies and TV shows. This could be just because of my hearing issues, but having subtitles just felt right.
However, many streaming services make the subtitles too big, too small, or too out of the way. Amazon Video, however, gives you complete control over your subtitles, allowing you to choose how big they are if they have a solid background behind them, and where they show up.
I advise you to take advantage of this feature. It opens up so many possibilities when viewing content.
Watch Out for Amazon Prime Deals
Not everyone wants to pay to watch shows and movies—a completely understandable viewpoint. If you’re someone with that line of thinking but use Amazon often enough to benefit from a Prime subscription, I recommend you look out for any Prime deals.
Amazon runs Prime deals fairly often, either cheapening the cost of a Prime subscription or giving Prime members themselves certain deals and/or access to streaming services.
Again, I only recommend this if you’re someone who would benefit from Prime membership. If you wouldn’t, there’s no need to pay $100 a year for the service.
Use a USB to Increase Storage on the Fire TV Cube
Storage can be quite a problem when it comes to the Fire TV product line. After all, downloading content is a big selling point for the products, yet their admittedly limited storage space makes this more of a headache than a selling point.
If you find yourself in the same situation, know that you can use a USB stick to store movies and shows. The Fire TV Cube comes with USB drive support, meaning downloading content to a USB stick is as easy as a few settings in the menu.
Know that you can do this with the Firestick product family, but they do not come with native USB support. Well, not until the 2nd version of the Firestick family. If you have a 1st generation Firestick, do so at your own risk.
Download the TV App for Fire Stick
Perhaps one of the more obvious tips on this list, you should download the TV app for your Firestick or Fire TV Cube as soon as possible. The app gives you a bit more control over the settings of your Fire product, allows you to manage things without having to get up and press buttons on the Fire product, and keeps you from having to reach for the remote.
Admittedly, it’s not the greatest app, but it’s a must-have for the Fire TV product line. There’s no reason to go without it.
Improve Your Security
One thing many people don’t think about when using a Firestick or Fire TV Cube is their security. If you’ve taken necessary precautions to protect your home network from hackers or cybercriminals, you may think there’s nothing to worry about. But you need to ensure your security on every product you own, including a streaming device.
Fortunately, the versatility of Amazon’s Fire line allows you to download security software onto your Fire products. For example, you can connect your Fire TV or Fire Stick to a VPN to help your security.
In a world where Netflix and Hulu rule the streaming world, Amazon’s managed to carve out their niche. This niche won’t fit everyone, of course, but their services and Fire TV products do have their selling point.