The Amazon Fire TV Stick works great as a streaming video device thanks to the low price and small form factor, but without the voice search built into the remote the device doesn’t do as much as the larger Amazon Fire TV set-top box. Fire TV Stick owners can use their phone as a Fire TV Stick remote control using the Fire TV App, which includes the missing voice search capabilities left out of the cheaper $39 Fire TV stick.
We’ll show users how to set up the app and use it as a remote control with the voice search feature that doesn’t come with the included Fire TV Stick ($39) remote from Amazon. Alternatively, users could also buy the voice-capable remote for $29.99 extra, but doesn’t make sense when the user can get the free app.
Setting Up the Fire TV App on a Phone
First, go get the Fire TV App for the smart phone. Amazon makes a free remote app for various types of smart phones with links as follows:
We assume that the user already set up their Fire TV Stick and connected it to a local Wi-Fi network. To set up the phone app, the user must connect the phone and the Fire TV Stick to the same Wi-Fi network.
Fire up the app and it will find the Fire TV Stick on the network. Tap the name of the stick to connect the remote and the stick and it displays the Fire TV App remote control screen.
If the remote doesn’t show the stick, check the following:
- Double check that the phone and the stick connect to the same Wi-Fi network
- Restart both the phone and the Fire TV Stick
- Uninstall the app and reinstall it
- As a last resort, reset the Fire TV Stick using the Settings menu on the Fire TV Stick
Searching with Voice Using the Fire TV App
At the top of the screen there’s a mic icon. Tap and hold the icon and drag down without letting go. Speak into the phone’s mic while still holding down the mic icon and say what you want to search for. The app will search for things like actor names, movie or TV show titles and app names.
Once the remote app sends the search to the stick, it will show a list of things found with that search string included. For example, in the video demo above I searched for “Jack Ryan” and it found the various movies based on Tom Clancy’s character. I also searched for “West Wing” and it found the TV series. Then I searched for “Netflix” it showed the app title.
When the screen shows the list of results, tap on one of the items by swiping down till the item’s selected and then tap on the touch part of the app. It selects that item, telling the Fire TV Stick to show that thing.
Controlling the Fire TV Stick with Fire TV App
The app also includes a virtual remote control user-interface. The main part of the screen mimics a touch pad. Swipe left, right, up or down. Doing so behaves like the directional buttons on the physical Fire TV Stick remote.
Tapping on the touch area of the app acts like the center select or enter button on the remote.
Notice at the top and bottom of the screen above, the app shows two sets of buttons. At the top left of the voice search button we see the menu button, which brings up the Fire TV Stick menu. On the other side of the voice search button there’s a keyboard button. The keyboard brings up the phone’s keyboard, letting the user type instead of entering data with the on-screen keyboard and the remote control. This makes entering user names, email address and passwords faster and more efficient.
At the bottom of the screen we get three more buttons. The left-most button is the back button. It goes back to the previous screen on the Fire TV Stick. The Home button takes the user to the Home screen on the Fire TV Stick. The last button slides up to show playback controls. It confused me at first, because it’s not obvious that the user must tap and hold the button and slide up to show the playback buttons.
The three playback controls do what you’d expect. Rewind video, play or pause video and fast forward video. These buttons also control music and slide shows.
Thanks to the Fire TV App, the Fire TV Stick does all that the Amazon Fire TV set-top box does but at less than half the price. The full size box costs $100 while the Fire TV Stick costs only $39. Users can add the physical remote with voice search for only $29, but why would you when the phone app does voice search just as well and adds a keyboard for data entry.