Amazon’s Fire TV is starting to feel a bit less like an Amazon device that first and foremost streams Amazon content: With a software update that started to go out to existing Fire TV boxes and Fire TV Sticks Tuesday, Amazon is expanding universal search to a bunch of new apps.
The company also partnered with Netflix and HBO to bring content recommendations from their apps directly to the Fire TV home screen. Finally, Amazon is adding new voice control features to the device.
The Fire TV’s universal voice search now surfaces content from Netflix, Vevo, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime and other apps. Altogether, Fire TV will query 75 apps, provided that consumers actually have those apps installed on their devices.
Amazon touts this as “the broadest cross-provider search of any streaming media player,” which says more about the difficulty of getting universal search right than anything else. Roku announced earlier this summer that it was offering universal search across more than 50 channels, and Apple TV is offering universal search across 35 apps.
It’s worth noting that this still leaves a lot of apps that aren’t searchable on each of these devices. Roku alone carries more than 3000 channels on its devices. Fire TV currently carries more than 4000 channels, apps and games, according to Amazon.
Fire TV owners are now also able to control video playback with voice commands, and can for example ask the device to “rewind 60 seconds,” “fast forward 2 minutes” or play the next episode in a series. That’s very similar to the way voice commands work on the Apple TV, where consumers have been able to do such tasks with the power of their voice ever since Apple introduced the latest Apple TV a year ago.
Amazon’s partnership with Netflix and HBO also isn’t unique; Google’s Android TV platform has been allowing app developers to surface their own content on the Android TV start page for some time. However, it’s still a notable improvement for Fire TV. At launch, Amazon had reserved some of the device’s best features for its own Prime Video service, which in turn made it harder for other services to get noticed and used.