Beginner's Guide to Amazon Fire Stick

The Amazon Fire Stick is like a mini set-top box. It plugs directly into a socket on the back of your TV, so it takes up no space and it doesn’t require trailing cables. For everything you need to know about the gadget (and how to set up Fire Stick) before committing to buying one, read this beginner’s guide.

What is an Amazon Fire Stick?

The Amazon Fire Stick is a TV decoder. TV signals travel in a digital format and so can easily be encoded both to block unauthorized access and to speed up transmissions through compression. Anyone who has cable or satellite TV is familiar with the set-top box. The Amazon Fire TV system started out as a box but then Amazon worked out how to reduce the hardware of the streaming device down to just a small device that looks a bit like a thumb drive. This format has been widely used before to provide mobile internet for laptop computers some software and IT security systems also use dongles, so the gadget’s shape and appearance is not new.

Your home or car stereo system probably has a socket for a USB stick. The Amazon Fire TV Stick is the same thing, but for TVs. Rather than storing files, this device is a little computer that interprets encoded digital TV signals so that they can become TV shows on the screen.

Amazon Firestick or Amazon Fire Stick?

The Amazon Firestick has many names. It is officially called the Amazon Fire TV Stick. It is a miniaturized advancement on the original Amazon Fire TV box. No one else makes a Fire TV dongle, so many people drop the Amazon and just call it the Fire TV stick or sometimes it is written as Fire-TV stick. Well, there isn’t a stick version of any other Amazon Fire product, so it is just as easy to drop the “TV” and so it is also known as the Fire Stick. Over time, writers have tended to remove the space and just call it Firestick. So, Firestick, Fire Stick, Fire TV Stick, Fire-TV Stick, Amazon Firestick, and Amazon Fire Stick are all the same thing. They are all ways to describe the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Why Fire? Fire OS is an operating system that Amazon created for its mobile devices, such as the Amazon Kindle e-book reader, the Amazon Fire tablet and the now-defunct Amazon Fire Phone. Fire OS is a proprietary adaptation of the Android operating system, which was created by Google. There are many Android TV boxes on the market. These are set-top boxes that use Android for an operating system. As Fire OS is a version of Android and the Firestick is a TV decoder, it could be said that the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a type of Android TV box.

Beginner’s guide to streaming devices

TV set-top boxes have evolved over the years. They were first used by cable TV companies as part of an encryption system that prevented people from just plugging the cable for the service into the TV and getting entertainment without paying for it.

Another use for a set-top box is as a base-station for a remote control device. The set-top box interprets the commands that come in from the remote control and implements them on the TV.

How does Amazon Fire Stick work?

Once the internet started to be popular, entertainment distributors realized that this medium could carry digitized TV signals, making everyone’s telephone service into pre-laid cable TV wires. However, these services still needed a set-top box to convert the signals from the internet connection into the input format that TVs understand. This is how IPTV boxes came about. This includes Apple TV boxes and Android boxes. The Amazon Fire TV box became part of this trend and it eventually got boiled down into a dongle.

Newer versions of the Amazon Fire TV Stick have the voice-controlled Alex integrated into them and that removes the need to use a remote control unit.

Chromecast is an alternative method to get input from online streaming services, such as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, or live TV from station websites onto your TV screen.

Does Fire Stick have a guide?

There are a few different versions of the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Amazon does produce an official Amazon Fire TV Stick User Guide for each. Here is a list of links to the help guides for each type of Fire Stick. These links each lead to a PDF file.

Where do I buy an Amazon Fire Stick?

Amazon has a world-leading product sales platform, so that is the obvious first port of call when looking for a new Amazon Fire TV Stick. Unsurprisingly, these streaming devices are among Amazon’s best sellers in the United States and around the world. Check out the big discount deals that the site offers. Before you Buy Now with 1-click, shop around because Amazon also distributes its devices through all of the consumer electronics retailers both online and real-world. Check out Best Buy, Target, and Staples in the USA and Canada and Currys, Argos, and Tesco in the UK.

Added to that, it is also possible to buy secondhand Amazon Fire TV devices in places such as eBay.

How to set up the Amazon Fire Stick

To master your Amazon Fire Stick, you first need to get it working. Here is a step-by-step guide to an Amazon Fire Stick setup.

Step One

Plug the power cable into the Amazon Fire Stick. The slot for this cable is on the side of the Fire Stick. Stick the small socket of the power cable into it. You have two options for where to get a power source. The other end of the power cord is a full-size USB connector. If your TV has a USB socket, you can plug it into that or you can plug it into the power plug that comes with the Amazon Fire Stick and plug that into an electric socket near the TV. Amazon recommends that you use the power socket rather than a USB port on the TV.

Step Two

Stick the plug the protrudes from one end of the Amazon Fire Stick into an HDMI port on the back or the side of your TV. This is how to connect Amazon Fire Stick to TV sets – there is no other way. Some people struggle to find the right socket. However, don’t give up because there is no other way to connect your Fire TV Stick to your TV. An HDMI port looks like a USB socket, but the top corners are slanted off.

Step Three

Put two AAA batteries into the Amazon Fire TV Stick’s remote control unit. Both the unit and the batteries are in the box with the Amazon Fire Stick. The back of the control unit slides up to reveal the battery box.

Step Four

Make sure your TV is plugged in. Turn it on. Use the remote control of your TV to get to the Source options. Select the HDMI port that you plugged the Amazon Fire Stick into. If you chose the right one, the logo for the Fire TV Stick will appear on the screen.

Step Five

Wait for the Amazon Fire TV Stick to boot up. You will be prompted to pair your remote control unit with the Amazon Fire Stick. The TV will show a message that the Fire Stick is searching for a nearby remote. Press the Home button on the remote. This has an icon of a little house on it. The TV display will change back to the Fire Stick logo once pairing has completed successfully.

Step Six

Wait for the display on the TV to settle down. It is not unusual for the software to go through an update procedure after pairing with the remote. You can’t speed that up; just let it complete. The display will tell you to press the play button on the remote. Do that.

Step Seven

Select your preferred language from the presented options. Use the top and bottom edges of the navigation dial at the top of the remote to move between options. Press the center of the circle when you arrive at the right language option.

Step Eight

If you chose to plug the power cord into the TV, you will probably get a warning message that the power source is no good. If this worries you, switch to the electric socket option instead. However, many people have no problems when using the TV USB port as a power source. Dismiss the message by clicking on the big round select button on the remote if you are happy to continue as is.

Step Nine

Connect the Fire Stick to your home wifi network. The system will detect your wifi box and display it as an option on the TV screen. Press the select button on the remote and enter the wifi password into the screen. Navigate to the Connect button on the screen and press the select button on the remote.

Step Ten

The Amazon Fire Stick will register your home network to your Amazon Fire account. The account should be generated automatically and associated with the Fire Stick before it is shipped. If you bought the Fire Stick secondhand, you should opt to create Amazon account for Fire Stick through the Change Account button in this screen.

Once these steps have been completed, the Amazon Fire Stick will check your connection speed and then show you a cartoon on how to use the system.

Step Eleven

Choose whether to enable parental controls. The Amazon Fire Stick will then explain to you about Alexa if it is part of the Fire Stick version that you chose. Dismiss this screen to get to the home screen of the Fire Stick.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to work a Fire Stick

You need to have the Amazon Fire Stick remote control unit turned on an with live batteries in order to access the content on an Amazon Fire TV Stick.

How to connect Fire Stick to TV

See Step Two of the How to Set Up the Amazon Fire Stick section, above.

What channels do you get with Fire Stick?

The Amazon Fire TV Stick uses apps to locate TV channels. It will only show channels that are streamed over the internet. Most terrestrial TV channels show live TV on their websites and this content can be pulled through the Amazon Fire Stick onto your TV. Many apps are already loaded onto the Amazon Fire Stick. These include apps for Netflix, HBO, and Spotify. Amazon Prime has its own menu option.

Is there a monthly fee for Fire Stick?

Amazon Fire Stick is a media player. It has a purchase price and then there is no monthly fee to pay. However, it does not gain you free access to entertainment that normally requires a subscription. For example, there is a Netflix app pre-loaded on the Amazon Fire Stick, but you have to subscribe to Netflix and enter your Netflix credentials into the app in order to watch anything through it. In that case, you will be paying a monthly fee to Netflix, not to Amazon.

Do you need internet for Fire Stick?

The main purpose of the Amazon Fire TV stick is to stream video off the internet onto your TV. So, if you don’t have an internet connection, you can still watch stored videos through the Plex app, which is pre-installed on the app.

Why does my Fire Stick keep restarting?

When a Fire Stick keeps rebooting it probably doesn’t have enough power or the HDMI connector is loose or faulty. If you used a USB port on the TV as a power source switch to using the electric wall socket. Push the Fire Stick into the HDMI socket to make sure it is fully inserted.

Why is my Fire Stick so slow?

You might get a slow response out of your Fire Stick if your internet connection is slow. Another reason could be that the device is clogged up with temporary files and rogue processes. Unplug the Fire Stick from the power supply for one minute then plug it in again. This should reset the memory and get it working properly. 

What is a jailbroken Fire Stick?

Jailbreaking refers to installing apps on an Apple device that don’t come from the Apple Apps Store. On Android and Android-like devices, such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the practice of installing APKs from a source other than the Fire Stick App Store is called “sideloading.”

Can I use my Amazon Fire Stick at a friend’s house?

Yes. You just have to connect to the wifi system in your friend’s house. The Amazon Fire Stick stores your account details so it will work anywhere.

Can I take my Amazon Fire Stick to another house?

Yes. If you move, you just take your Amazon Fire Stick with you along with your TV. If you move to another country, the Amazon Firestick will still work, but you will probably need to get a different AC adapter to plug it into the power supply.

How to install apps on Fire Stick

Here’s how to download apps on Fire Stick:

  1. Go to the home screen of your Fire TV.
  2. Navigate to the Apps section.
  3. Press the down button on your remote control to get out of the menu and into the apps list
  4. Explore available apps by moving through the list with the directional buttons on your remote control
  5. When an app you want is highlighted, press the OK button on your remote control
  6. In the apps description screen, highlight the Get option and press OK.

Can I get Plex on the Amazon Fire Stick?

Yes. In fact, the Plex app is already loaded on the Amazon Fire Stick out of the box.

Can I add Kodi to Fire Stick?

Kodi is not available at the Amazon App Store so there is no official APK for Kodi. However, it can be sideloaded onto the Amazon Fire Stick.

Are there free apps for Fire Stick?

Yes. You can find apps for Fire Stick in the Amazon store. The only way to get new channels, such as those for movies on Firestick is to add new apps.

How to watch new movies on Fire Stick

The best apps for new movies are HBO, Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

How to watch free movies on Fire Stick

Be very careful about channels that promise you all of the latest movies for free. They are probably illegal and could get you into trouble. However, you can watch the main terrestrial channels through your Amazon Fire TV stick and those video streaming services regularly include movies in the schedule.

Best free movie apps for Fire Stick

In the USA, check out Tubi TV -- this is not available in Europe. Another good option for free movies is Vudu but not all content on that app is free. 

Best TV app for Fire Stick

Check out the TV Player App. USTVNow, UKTV, and LiveNetTV. All of these can be accessed through the app screen of your Fire Stick menu. 

Alex Grant
 

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