All posts by AFTVnews

Amazon Alexa can now set repeat reminders

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You have been able to set repeat alarms with Alexa from the beginning, but now you can finally set a repeat reminder. To do so, just say something like “Alexa, remind me to [task] on every Monday at 7 a.m.” The advantage of a reminder versus an Alarm is that reminders speak out the task you set and don’t need to be turned off when they sound. Alexa will just play a tone a few times, speak out the task, and then go silent on its own. So if there’s something you need to be reminded of on a regular basis, but it’s not so important to merit a full alarm, repeat reminders are the new way to go. Big thanks to @Erinescence for the heads up.

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Amazon original series ‘Jean-Claude Van Johnson’ premiers on Prime Video

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Amazon’s original series Jean-Claude Van Johnson debuts its first season today for Prime members. The show stars Jean-Claude Van Damme in his first TV role. The martial arts movie icon plays a character not much unlike himself, a global martial arts and film sensation, but the character is also the most dangerous undercover private contractor in the world. Half satire and half spy-action, the series is receiving a generally positive response with a 4.3 out of 5-star rating on Amazon and an 8.2 out of 10 rating on IMDB.

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Google says they are in ‘productive discussions’ with Amazon to keep YouTube on the Fire TV

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Things are looking good for YouTube to remain accessible on Fire TV devices next year. Google has told The Verge, and multiple other news outlets, that they are in “productive discussions with Amazon to reach an agreement for the benefit of our mutual customers.”

Google began displaying a message on the Fire TV YouTube app, which is just a browser view of YouTube’s website that is made by Amazon. The message informed users that YouTube would no longer be accessible on Fire TVs, Fire TV Sticks, and Fire TV Edition televisions after January 1st, 2018.

Yesterday, Amazon began listing the Google Chromecast once again on their website. Its absence was among the reasons Google had for blocking YouTube access on the Fire TV. It seems now that Amazon’s reinstatement of Google’s streaming device is part of ongoing negotiations.

This is great news for Fire TV owners and is great for consumers in general. Having these two companies be at odds end can only lead to more walls being put up between their content and products. Since both make great hardware and offer great services, it’s best for everyone that they reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

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Exclusive: Amazon is working on 2nd Gen Fire TV Edition televisions

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Amazon is currently working on the next generation of televisions running their Fire TV operating system. The first Fire TV Edition televisions, made by Element and Westinghouse, were announced nearly a year ago at CES 2017 and began shipping to customers around the middle of this year. With CES 2018 just around the corner, it looks like we might see a new set of TVs running Amazon’s Fire OS.

In the code of the latest Fire TV software update, I found a large list of Amazon’s numerous device codenames. The three existing Fire TV’s, Bueller, Sloane, and Needle, were listed, as well as the two existing Fire TV Sticks, Montoya and Tank. Also among the list was Margo, the existing Fire TV Edition television, and Stark, the yet to be released new Fire TV with far-field Alexa capabilities. Out of all the Fire TV, Fire tablet, and Echo device codenames listed, Keira was the only one I didn’t recognize.

Looking around further I found a portion of the code that combined the various device codenames together under conveniently labeled groups. Listed right under Margo, the first generation Fire TV edition television, is Keira in its own “AmazonStandaloneFireTelevisionsGen2” group.

That’s very compelling evidence that software for a new round of Fire TV Edition televisions is currently being worked on by Amazon. With CES 2018 only a few weeks away, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new TVs are announced at the show, just like the first ones were.

I wasn’t able to find any more information about the new TVs or what kind of specs to expect. With Amazon Video becoming the first service to stream HDR10+ content this week, I hope and expect at least one of the new TVs to be capable of playing HDR video.

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AirTV announces network OTA tuner with Sling TV compatibility and Fire TV app

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AirTV has just released their AirTV network OTA tuner box and accompanying Fire TV app that I wrote about yesterday. The tuner connects to an HD antenna and your network to stream free OTA to all of your devices. You can watch the channels through their new Fire TV app or, if you are a Sling TV subscriber, through the Sling TV app alongside your paid content.

The AirTV itself is a simple device that has actually been in development since at least 2016. It seems like its release was put on the back-burner in favor of AirTV’s set-top player, which was released about a year ago.

You connect an HD antenna to the AirTV and connect it to your home network, either via WiFi or ethernet, and tuck it away wherever you can get the best antenna signal. The one device will provide access to your local broadcast stations to all of the devices you own.

You can use the standalone AirTV app to view the OTA channels on Amazon Fire TV devices, Fire Tablets, Android TV devices, Apple TVs, Rokus, and both Android or iOS mobile devices. For all devices except Apple TV and Roku, you can also view the OTA channels directly in the Sling TV app.

Both Sling TV and AirTV are both subsidiaries of Dish Network, which is why this new device works with Sling’s TV subscription service. Sling offers local channels as part of some of their plans in certain areas. If you are not in one of those markets or don’t want to pay for the more expensive plan just to get local channels, the new AirTV box is designed to provide free access to those local channels.

AirTV does not appear to have any kind of DVR or time-shifting capabilities at this time. That makes the similar, but more expensive, Tablo TV a more capable device. Like the Tablo TV, the AirTV has dual tuners and a USB port. That means it could theoretically be updated in the future to support external hard drives for recording and allow you to watch and record at the same time, however, there is no indication that those features are in the works.

The AirTV network tuner is available to order now for $119.99 directly from the company. Buying the device entitles you to a $25 credit that can be used towards a Sling TV subscription.

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Amazon to once again sell the Google Chromecast and Apple TV

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Amazon has re-listed the Google Chromecast and the Apple TV, as first spotted by CNET. This is significant since Amazon removed both devices from their website two years ago after being unhappy with the state of Amazon Video on both platforms. This should relieve tension between Amazon, Google, and Apple, which may be the first step to avoiding the upcoming ban of YouTube on the Fire TV by Google.

The return of the Apple TV to Amazon is no surprise and was almost expected. That’s because Apple CEO Tim Cook announced earlier this year that an Amazon Video app would soon be released on the Apple TV. With the new app’s arrival last week, it seemed like Amazon and Apple had come to an agreement so there shouldn’t be a reason to keep the Apple TV off of Amazon.

What is very surprising is the arrival of the Chromecast on Amazon. With Google’s recent decision to ban access to YouTube on the Fire TV on January 1st, it seemed like disagreements between the two companies were at an all-time high. There’s no way to know at this point if Amazon’s relisting of the Chromecast is part of a larger agreement the two companies have made, or if it’s Amazon making the decision on their own. Regardless of the circumstances, this is good news for consumers. If these companies play nice, it keeps them from putting up walls that block intercommunication of devices and media access.

Newly listed on Amazon are:

While the devices are not yet available to order, Amazon has confirmed that they soon will be once supply is available.

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The Spot Outlet Cover Plate is the cleanest way to mount an Echo Dot to your wall

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Apart from cutting a hole in your wall, the new Spot USB Outlet Cover Plate is the cleanest way to mount an Amazon Echo Dot to your wall. This is the latest mount from Dot Genie, whose mounts have previously involved attaching the Echo Dot to its power adapter. This new mount replaces your power outlet’s cover plate with one that has a cradle for the Echo Dot molded into the side of the plate. The reason it’s such a clean setup is that it relies on a USB outlet for power, so it eliminates the large power adapter altogether. The USB power outlet is not included, so you’ll need to have or install your own for this holder to work. Dot Genie recommends this $12 USB outlet by Top-Greener, but most USB outlets capable of 2 Amps of power should work, since they all generally place the USB ports in the same place. The Spot USB Outlet Cover Plate is currently available for $7.99 in white or black and it comes with the small right-angle USB cable.

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Logitech K400 Keyboard w/ Touchpad on sale for $16.97 — New Lowest Price Ever

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The Logitech K400 Keyboard w/ Touchpad is $16.97 at Walmart. That is the lowest price that I’ve ever seen for this keyboard. This is the older version of the K400, which has since been replaced by the newer K400 Plus. However, I personally prefer this older version due to it having full-sized arrow buttons. All versions of Logitech’s K400 line of keyboards are great for use with Fire TV devices since they are compact enough to fit nicely on your lap but not so small that you can’t touch type. This is not a Bluetooth keyboard and instead uses a wireless USB dongle to connect. That means it will work with the Fire TV 1 and 2 out of the box but needs an OTG cable to work with the Fire TV 3 and Fire TV Stick 2.

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AirTV to release a new network OTA tuner that streams local channels to a stand-alone app or the Sling TV app

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AirTV, like its sister company Sling TV, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dish Network. A few weeks shy of one year ago, at CES 2017, they revealed the AirTV Player which is a set-top box running Android TV. Combined with an optional AirTV Adapter, which is a USB over-the-air tuner that plugs into the back of the AirTV Player, the two devices promised to merge free local OTA channels with the Sling TV subscription service and 3rd-party streaming apps, like Netflix, into a single product. The devices received lackluster reviews, so now it looks like AirTV will be reverting back to what it seemed like they originally planned to release prior to the set-top box. AirTV looks to be ready to release a new network tuner box that will stream OTA channels to a stand-alone AirTV app, as well as to the Sling TV app so that customers can have local broadcast channels mixed in with subscription channels.

A new app, named “AirTV: Watch Local TV Anywhere,” briefly appeared in the Amazon Appstore, for Fire TV devices and Fire tablets, earlier this week before it was promptly removed. The same app appeared briefly in the Apple App Store, for the Apple TV and iOS devices, and is currently still listed in the Google Play Store as an unreleased app.

Image source: Amazon Appstore

The app description explains that “AirTV connects an OTA antenna with your WiFi network,” just like a Tablo TV, and allows you to watch local OTA channels on “every internet-connected TV and device in and outside your home.” Unlike a Tablo TV, however, there is no mention of any kind of DVR capability, so it doesn’t seem like it can time-shift a live broadcast.

Image source: Amazon Appstore

When first seeing this new AirTV app appear, I thought that AirTV was simply releasing an app that allowed owners of the existing AirTV Player to view its OTA content on other devices, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The app description mentions that “you’ll need a mobile device (phone or tablet) for setup,” which implies that it’s a new device that does not connect directly to a television.

Image source: Google Play Store

Additionally, help instructions in the AirTV app for Android devices instructs users to “Please perform a hard reset (hold the reset button on the back of your AirTV until the network LED on the front panel blinks once and then blinks twice quickly) before you can configure your AirTV box again.” The existing AirTV Player has no such reset button, so it definitely seems like a new AirTV branded network tuner will soon be announced. Likely at CES next month.

By itself, the new AirTV box seems to allow customers to watch local OTA content on any of their mobile devices and set-top boxes using the unreleased dedicated AirTV app. Where things get really interesting is the promise of AirTV being “Sling TV integrated” which will “seamlessly integrate local channels with Sling TV.”

It sounds like the new AirTV box will fulfill what the existing AirTV Player originally promised, which was mixing local channels alongside subscription channels in the Sling TV app. If that is the case, Sling TV might offer a new less expensive plan for AirTV owners that removes streamed local channels and replaces them with their free OTA equivalents.

CES 2018 kicks off on January 7th, which is when I’d expect the new AirTV hardware to be unveiled. I’ll be there to cover it, so stay tuned.

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TP-Link Alexa Compatible Smart Plug is on sale for $19.99 — No hub required

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The TP-Link Smart Plug has just gone on sale for $19.99 on Amazon. Apart from a brief Alexa-exclusive deal over a year ago, this is the lowest price that this plug has ever been. This is the same plug that Amazon was bundling for $5 when you buy any Echo device, so if you purchased an Echo device recently with this plug and wanted more of them, here’s your chance to get them at a great price. This switch can be directly controlled by Alexa without needing any hubs or other equipment. Just plug it in, set it up in the app, and you’ll be able to control it by saying “Alexa, turn on/off the [selected name]..”

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