The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a small streaming device manufactured by Amazon that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of your TV. It’s one of my most used devices in the home. It’s one my kids use a lot as well. This device allows you to connect to the internet and stream videos on demand on your tv through apps. Just about any streaming app you can think of can be found in the Amazon App store.
When it comes to streaming content with apps, the Fire TV Stick works kinda like your smartphone. In most smart TVs, it’s often difficult or impossible to sideload other apps, so you are stuck with the apps that come from your smart TVs app store. Not the case with the Fire TV Stick. This device is much more flexible as you can install apps from a wide variety. But I’ll be honest, most people just use the device with its preset settings completely unaware that you can enhance the experience.
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The Best Tips And Tricks For Your Fire TV Stick
With roughly 40 million users of the Fire TV Stick, it’s a very popular device. But what really surprises me is the lack of leveraging features to give you a better viewing experience. Out of the box, the Fire TV Stick is great. No major complaints. But there are a bunch of little tips and tricks you can do that just make it so much better (and safer).
1. Pin Your Most-Used Apps
If you have installed dozens of apps from the Amazon App store, finding the ones you want to use frequently may become difficult. I think it’s a pain to find apps I use in the app section of the interface. You can pin the most frequently used ones to the home screen so they’re easy to find. All you do is take your highlight cursor over the app you want to pin (don’t select it). Hit the Menu button on your remote (three little lines) and select “Pin To Front”.
2. Disable Automatic Audio And Video Playback On Fire TV
The Featured Content page on the Fire TV home screen plays the most recent movies and TV shows from partner apps by default, which can be REALLY annoying. I also notice my Fire TV Stick getting glitchy when they auto-play as well. You can easily disable autoplay for audio and video by just doing a simple adjustment from the Settings menu. Go to your Settings and select Preferences from the options. Scroll until you find “Featured Content” and turn off the Allow Video Autoplay and Allow Audio Autoplay features. You can thank me later.
3. Adjust Fire TV’s Privacy Settings
This is another no-brainer option everyone should do. There are concerns regarding privacy because Fire TV devices must be connected to the internet. The content you watch, the amount of time you spend using the device, your location, your most used apps, and other details can all be tracked when you use a device. If you are uncomfortable with constant tracking, disable the behavior from the Privacy menu.
4. Make Use Of Your Phone’s Virtual Fire TV Remote
You can easily control your Fire TV using the Fire TV remote app on your iPhone or Android phone. There have been times (lots of times) when the Fire TV Stick remote gets lost or it runs out of batteries. That’s when this trick really comes in handy. The app offers the same buttons and functions as the remote.
5. Create Multi-User Profiles
On your Fire TV, you can create separate profiles for you, your spouse, and your kids. With recommendations for movies, TV shows, and pinned apps, users get a personalized Fire TV experience. This is one of my favorite and most underutilized features of the Fire TV Stick. You can create Kids profiles doing this which will give you more control over what your kids are watching.
Another quick tip on profiles. To easily switch in between profiles, press and hold the Home button on the remote and a pop-up will appear prompting you to switch profiles. You can also use this little Home button trick to open other Apps and put your device to sleep.
6. Access Diagnostics Information
This is for advanced users. There is a hidden diagnostics panel on the Amazon Firestick. You are granted access to a ton of information, many of which is essential for advanced settings. Frame rate, CPU load, video codecs, display resolution, memory usage, current internet streaming speed, and other diagnostic data are just a few examples. You’ll want to press and hold Select (Center button) for one second and while still holding it, press the hold the Down direction button for three seconds. Then release both and press the Menu button. From there a pop-up will appear and you’ll want to turn On the Advanced Options and System X-Ray.
7. Restart Your Device Using The Remote
You don’t have to turn off your television if your Fire TV Stick freezes. Using the remote, you can just restart it. It’s really easy to do. Hold down the Select and Play/Pause buttons at the same time for five seconds. Even if the screen is frozen (which doesn’t happen on the later generations as it did on earlier versions), this quick restarting tip will work. As a side note, you can also restart your device from the menu screen or by simply unplugging it as well.
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8. Send Video Footage From Security Camera To The Fire TV
This is a pretty cool trick you can do with your Fire TV Stick: live video feeds from home security cameras can be directly displayed on Amazon Fire TV. You’ll only be able to use this feature with Alexa-enabled devices. If you utilize an IFTTT applet, you can actually have this feature automated.
9. Disable Interest-Based Ads On Your Fire TV Stick
Going to be honest, I wish there was a way to kill advertisements altogether, but I realize corporations have to make money. You may not know that your Fire TV is tracking your behavior for a lot of purposes, and advertising is one of them. However, Amazon does allow you to turn this feature off. Please note that you will still get ads, they just won’t be lasered in on what you were just talking about with your family at the dinner table. Go to Settings, then Preferences, then Privacy Settings, then Advertising ID and turn Interest-based Ads to off. Once enabled, the apps on your device won’t be able to use your advertising ID to build a persona profile to serve you personalized ads.
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There is an argument to be made about the benefits and advantages of using interest-based ads. But I think the Cons far out-weight the Pros. One reason I enabled this is that if they are collecting that data and utilizing it, it’s going to take some amount of memory and bandwidth to transfer that data. That’s more input and output for your device. Without running any formal data test on if disabling this cuts down on bandwidth usage from your Fire TV, my gut tells me it does. The other issue is privacy. Less personal data on our behaviors being sent to the cloud is a positive.
Features Vs Privacy Vs Experience: How Do You Prioritize?
You’ll notice that a handful of these tips are putting data restrictions on what Amazon collects about you. Some would argue that turning these features off will dampen your user experience. It’s the “but we’re collecting data on you to give you a better experience” argument. There’s a little bit of credence to that as well. Amazon continues to develop features that enhance the user experience for its customers. I’m all for that. However, I have found that enabling these tips and tricks hasn’t interfered one bit with how I interact with my Fire TV Stick device. Personally, I think it helps the device run smoother. You don’t have to do all of these, but I highly recommend you adopt at least one. And if you’re serious about your personal data being stored in the cloud, I’d act on all those tips. Quite frankly, you can make your watching experience more enjoyable and safer by utilizing these Fire TV tips and tricks.