Earlier this week, Amazon went where no other streaming device or smart TV maker has gone before.
Like AFTVNews before reported, the company now guarantees at least four years of security updates for its Fire TV devices, starting with the latest sale date available on the Amazon website. That means at least eight total years of upgrades for the second generation Fire TV Stick, seven total years of upgrades for the Fire TV Stick 4K, and five years for the current Fire TV Stick, launched in 2020. The warranty also extends to Fire TV TVs. Edition of third party brands such as Insignia and Toshiba.
This is a welcome dose of transparency for an industry that otherwise avoids writing support commitments and got me thinking about how long other streaming devices last in comparison. Instead of other device manufacturers’ warranties, the best we can do is dig into their respective track records.
If you value longevity in your streaming player or smart TV, here’s my best attempt to rank them based on past behavior:
# 1: Roku
As of this writing, all Roku players from 2013 onwards and smart TVs from 2014 onwards can run the company’s latest Roku OS software. Even the first of these devices continue to receive new features and have no notable gaps in app support (recent threats to remove YouTube from the platform despite). This effectively adds up to at least eight years of support from each device’s original launch date.
Roku did discontinued support for pre-2013 streaming players a couple of years ago, and those devices can no longer run some popular apps, like Netflix, Disney +, and HBO Max. However, no other company can boast of having Roku’s software support record, especially on the smart TV side, where long-term updates are notoriously scarce.
# 2: Fire TV
Amazon’s four-year commitment applies only to security updates, not new features or bug fixes. However, there is evidence that these updates are all somehow intertwined.
Consider, for example, the major update of the Fire TV interface which Amazon rolled out to existing devices earlier this year. Like AFTV news notesAmazon’s first-generation Fire TV box and 2014 Fire TV Stick are ineligible and neither receives additional security updates. The 2015 second generation Fire TV box will also not receive the new interface and is guaranteed to receive security updates only by the end of this year. If we use security updates as a rough proxy, Fire TV devices are likely to get six to eight years of support from Amazon from the original launch date.
Note, however, that individual apps may continue to function beyond that time. While it is not possible to run Apple TV or DirecTV Stream on a 1st generation Fire TV or Stick box, for example, most other apps should work without problems.
# 3: Apple TV
The modern era for Apple TV began in 2015 when Apple launched the fourth generation Apple TV box along with its tvOS software. Although Apple left the previous models behind at that point, it has since continued to support the fourth generation Apple TV with all major tvOS updates.
How long this trend will continue is unclear, hence my reluctance to rank Apple ahead of Amazon and Roku, but we can safely assume at least six years of Apple’s software support for its modern streaming players. Individual streaming apps will likely continue to run even longer.
# 4: Android TV
Just like the mobile version of Android, the story of support for Android TV devices is a bit of a conflict.
On the one hand, most manufacturers of streaming devices and smart TVs have poor results in updating their operating systems to the latest version (Nvidia be a notable outlier). But as device makers are unable to provide updates, Google has decoupled much of its software from the core Android operating system.
As a result, most 2016 Sony TVs received a major interface overhaul recentlyand most major streaming apps claim to support Android TV devices from 2015 onwards. (Apple TV is the main exception, which only supports Sony TVs from 2018 and newer along with aa select the number of other Android TV devices.) While it’s a messy situation overall, it’s still head and shoulders above other smart TV platforms.
# 5: Vizio TV
Unlike other TV salespeople, Vizio realized that “post-purchase monetization“It becomes easier when users are using updated software. Therefore, the company has consistently released software updates on TVs dating back to 2016. I personally have a four-year-old Vizio TV running the latest SmartCast 5 software and it was one of many Vizio models that received Apple AirPlay 2 support in 2019.
Pre-2016 Vizio TVs aren’t that lucky, as they run on an old smart TV platform that the company has since abandoned. But in the software realm of TV vendors, five years of updates is pretty decent.
On par: Samsung and LG
Samsung and LG are still hardware vendors at heart, so perhaps it’s not surprising that long-term software support isn’t a top priority. Neither company releases major version updates on older TVs, so whichever version you get is the one you’re stuck with, and both companies left pre-2018 TVs behind when they added Apple AirPlay 2 to their TVs in 2019. LG too it took an extra year to bring the feature to its 2018 TVs.)
That practice of ditching old TVs has hindered app support. Paramount + and HBO Max, for example, only work on LG TVs from 2018 onwards. Discovery + and Peacock both require LG and Samsung TVs from 2017 onwards. And for the Apple TV +, you need a Samsung TV from at least 2017. All of which means you’ll need to purchase one separate streaming player just to keep your TV experience current.
Honorable mention: Chromecast
I hesitate to give Google’s Chromecast dongles an actual spot on this list, because the software load is mostly found on whatever phone, tablet, or computer you’re using to control your TV. That said, the original 2013 Chromecast too received six years of feature updates, at which point Google would only commit to “bug fixes and security”. That first generation model is still usable today, even if it is noticeably slower in starting videos than his successors.
Either way, Google deserves some compliments for creating a device that inherently stands the test of time. It will be necessary to see if the Chromecast based on Android TV with Google TV it can last that long.
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