Amazon have just announced that the Amazon Fire TV Cube will ship in to US customers from the 21st of June this year and while it solves one huge problem with voice enabled TV control, it still has one crucial feature missing.
The problem that the Amazon Fire TV Cube solves is the ability to turn your TV on. Up until now there have been multiple devices such as smart plugs which could turn power to your TV on and off but that just puts a TV into standby mode. None of the voice assistants (barring using IFTTT with an infrared blaster) could take the TV out of standby mode and fully switch it on. The Amazon Fire TV Cube will be able to do this for you.
Combined with Alexa the Amazon Fire TV Cube lets you control your compatible TV, sound bar, A/V receiver, and cable or satellite box. You can power your TV on and off, change the volume, switch to different inputs, and change the cable channel, all with just your voice.
“We believe voice makes it easier for customers to control their entertainment systems and watch the TV and movies they care about. And, it’s just the beginning. Amazon Fire TV Cube will only get better over time with the Alexa service always getting smarter.”
– Marc Whitten, Vice President, Fire TV
What does the Amazon Fire TV Cube do?
Fire TV Cube lets you control your live TV hands-free whether it’s through your cable or satellite boxes; streaming apps like Hulu and PlayStation Vue; or HBO, SHOWTIME, and STARZ through Amazon Channels. Just say, “Alexa, switch to channel 31”; “Alexa, watch ESPN”; or “Alexa, tune to NBC.” Amazon Fire TV Cube is compatible with set-top boxes from providers such as Comcast, DISH, and DIRECTV, covering more than 90% of US households with a cable or satellite subscription but it’ll be Infrared blasters or an extension cable to connect everything up.
On top of the TV control services, the Amazon Fire TV Cube has Echo like features so you’ll get to control your smart home devices and be able to interrogate Alexa just as you could the Echo. The main difference is that in an Alexa Show type manner, the Amazon Fire TV Cube can display content on your TV screen such as weather forecasts or, with smart cameras, other rooms in your house (but not YouTube as Amazon and Google aren’t playing nice together at the moment – you’ll have to open up a browser and navigate to YouTube if you want Google content on your TV).
Amazon Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order starting today for $119.99 and ships with an IR extender cable and Ethernet adapter beginning on June 21. As an introductory offer, Prime members can pre-order Fire TV Cube on the 7th and 8th of June for a special price of $89.99, saving $30.
What doesn’t the Amazon Fire TV Cube do?
There are two crucial things that Amazon Fire TV Cube can’t do and could make it a doorstep instead of the best TV device on the market. Amazon Fire TV Cube cannot change broadcast channels that are picked up via an antenna that is connected to your TV with Alexa. (You can ask Alexa to switch to an antenna input but what’s the point if you can’t change channel?).
The alternative feature that could have been included, trumping the ability (or lack of) to change antenna channels, would be the ability to live stream TV content over the Internet. By this I don’t mean the limited number of channels on catch up (which in the UK would be BBC iPlayer, ITV, 4OD, Demand 5 and UKTV Play), but the ability to live stream every channel that’s available on Freeview. TVPlayer have offered this service for years so it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of set top box designers to stream every channel available through an antenna but even Freeview Play set top boxes still require an antenna.
This is the killer function that would convince millions to replace their antenna with an Amazon Fire TV Cube, but currently it’s just a way to control a few devices in a very neat and user friendly manner. In reality with it’s cables and IR blasters the Amazon Fire TV Cube is little more than a universal remote control, admittedly a very clever one that voice controlled but it’s not the universal solution to streamline your entire TV requirements.
Would I buy the Amazon Fire TV Cube?
Come on Amazon, before you release the Amazon Fire TV Cube in the UK, give us a Cube which can replace our Antenna and give us the entire range Freeview TV stations streamed over the web with Alexa voice control. That really would be a product worth having.
Would I buy an Amazon Fire TV Cube? Well I can’t as it’s not shipping in the UK yet but if I could I’m not sure I would. I already have a Fire TV Stick which can be paired with my Amazon Echo. If I still need to pick up my TV remote to change channels via an antenna, what would I be getting with the Amazon Fire TV Cube that the Fire TV Stick and Echo don’t already do? The one redeeming feature that might convince me to buy is the price – $119.99, about £90.00 in British money. It’s cheap enough that I could probably justify getting one for the bedroom.