Amazon Fire TV Update Unleashes Web Remote Magic

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If you have ever tried to “type” anything (such as logins and streaming passwords) using your Amazon Fire TV remote – you know how cumbersome it can be. Amazon’s latest software update aims to help with that.

A new feature allows users to control their Fire TV devices through any web browser, bypassing the need for the physical Amazon Fire TV Remote – or the Amazon Fire TV Remote smartphone app.

Or at least – that’s the goal.

However, while this update (first reported by AFTV News) promises convenience, it also brings to light several limitations and security concerns that merit a closer examination.

Fire TV sticks 2023

Amazon’s Fire TV devices are a popular choice among UK consumers for streaming media, offering access to a wide range of content and services.

With most of the major UK streaming apps available for the Fire TV, and a friendly interface, it’s an improved replacement to the often slow-and-limited “Smart TV” interfaces. (The Fire TV’s main competition at this point are the Roku streaming devices – see my reviews here).

Along with the Fire TV Cube, there are now five Amazon Fire TV devices being officially sold in the UK: The Amazon Fire TV 4K Max (2nd Gen), the Amazon Fire TV 4K Stick (2nd Gen), the Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen), The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite (Full HD), and the Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen,) which is a pricier product that combines the Fire TV with an Echo device (see my review of it here).

The New Virtual Fire TV Keyboard

The new web-based virtual remote/keyboard is designed to offer a simpler and faster alternative for tasks such as typing passwords or navigating the Fire TV interface.

Yes, we all know that bit, when every streaming service (and other apps) asks you to type in a username and password, or when you just want to type-in a web address or a search term – and you have to start fumbling with the buttons on your remote, trying to “type” with the on-screen keyboard.

Fire TV Stick 4K 2nd Gen remote

One of the answers to this was the Fire TV’s Remote app, which lets you control the Firestick from within the app – as well as use a keyboard on your phone, which then syncs with the Fire TV.

But – for those who do not wish to install the app (or if a guest is trying to type something, for example) – there’s now a new option, that came with the latest software update: a web-based virtual remote.

When the on-screen keyboard is activated on the Fire TV, a QR code appears, which users can then scan with their smartphone to access a virtual remote on their smartphone’s web browser.

Amazon Fire TV Virtual Keyboard

At first glance, the browser-based remote and keyboard seem to address the somewhat cumbersome nature of the Fire TV mobile app, especially for quick typing tasks.

The virtual remote is accessible from any device with a web browser, including smartphones, laptops, and desktop computers – though you do need to be able to scan the QR code and go to that specific web address.

Amazon Fire TV Browser remote

This feature is particularly useful for assisting others with their Fire TV devices remotely, as the unique URL generated by the QR code can be bookmarked for future use.

However, the functionality of the virtual remote is limited. It lacks navigation buttons such as Back, Home, and Menu, and on the Fire TV’s browser, the virtual remote’s buttons can’t be used to move the on-screen cursor directly. 

Limited App Compatibility

Another critical aspect of this update is its limited compatibility with Fire TV apps.

Fire TV Apps on TV
Fire TV Apps

The virtual keyboard and remote work well with the Fire TV’s web browser and a few specific applications, such as AFTV News’ popular Downloader app.

However, the web-based remote doesn’t work with many other apps – and it doesn’t even integrate with the Fire TV’s built-in search function.

The problem seems to be that most apps (including streaming apps like Netflix, ITVX and others) tend to use their own custom keyboards – and the new virtual remote/keyboard only works with the Fire TV’s default keyboard.

This inconsistency reveals a fragmented experience – so, unfortunately, it’s pretty limited at the moment – but hopefully, that will change in the future.

The new web-based keyboard also raises security and privacy issues, as, according to AFTV News, there is currently no way to revoke access once a QR code has been scanned.

This oversight could potentially allow unwanted individuals to retain control over a Fire TV device, with no clear solution to disable their access.

If you want to try this new virtual keyboard – it should already be available on your Fire TV device, for compatible apps.

However, since it comes with the latest software update – you might have to go to your device’s settings, and manually install the latest update.

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