IFA, Europe’s annual consumer electronics extravaganza, is taking place this week in Berlin. The show’s interesting for me as I view it as the last peek at consumer electronics we will see before the vaunted “holiday” selling season in the western world.
While my colleague Mark Vena is in attendance (stay tuned for his takeaways), I have been jealously watching and providing coverage from home. As usual, it’s a who’s who in consumer electronics—Samsung, Qualcomm, LG, Lenovo, and other companies more familiar to local European audiences. Then of course, there’s Amazon.com. In my opinion, the tech giant stole the show on Day 1 of the conference with its announcement of the next generation Fire TV Cube, an expansion of Fire TV into Europe, and new Fire TV editions. Let’s take a closer look at what was announced.
Second generation Fire TV Cube
First, a little background—Amazon’s Fire TV offering has, well, caught fire since its original launch 5 years ago. It now boasts over 37 million active users and is the top streaming media player family in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and India. The first generation of the Fire TV Cube launched last year, represented Amazon’s first Alexa-powered hands-free streaming device. I used the first generation in my living room and it was the best one yet. It had some improvements it needed and from the looks of the second generation, it’s better than ever.
Lauded by Amazon as “the fastest, most powerful Fire TV ever,” the second-generation Fire TV Cube is twice as powerful as its predecessor, featuring a Hexa-core processor. I will assume this is a MediaTek processor as Amazon.com has partnered with the company for years. Adding more and faster cores should help improve the UI which I found had a bit of lag in certain intensive situations when compared with much more expensive devices.
It supports Dolby Vision and 4K Ultra HD content, up to 60 frames per second. It also features far-field voice control and local voice control (enabling faster execution of common voice commands—“Alexa, scroll right!”). All of this is enabled by the device’s eight microphones, which combine signals to suppress noise, reverberations, other voices in the room, and content on the TV itself so that voice commands are clearly understood.
I’m glad to see Amazon leaning even further into the voice control capabilities of this device. According to the company’s data, its customers utilized the first-generation Fire TV Cube’s voice control capabilities over 8 times more often than the other Fire TV devices. Additionally, the company found that 80% of its customers utilize Fire TV Cube for home automation requests, with tens of thousands of Alexa routines every week. With these statistics, it makes perfect sense for Amazon to enhance and perfect the second-generation device’s voice control abilities. Using the voice-activated controller is nice, but not needing one and being able to successfully ask from the couch is even better.
Available for pre-order now, the new Fire TV Cube will be available in the United States for a reasonable $119.99, and for the first time, it will be available in Canada, the UK, Germany, and Japan. I look forward to taking one for a spin.
Pushing further into Europe
The other big news was a significant expansion of Amazon’s Fire TV lineup into France, Italy, and Spain. This includes the Fire TV Stick 4K, the Fire TV Stick, and the brand new Alexa Voice Remote. Taken all together, this represents the very first time the upgraded Fire TV streaming and voice control experience will be available in these markets.
The Fire Stick 4K is Amazon’s most powerful streaming stick product, compatible with 4K Ultra HD TVs, with support for HDR, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. You just plug it into any HDMI port on the back of the TV and connect USB power to the TV or externally, and you’re off. I carry my Fire Stick 4K and remote with me on vacations as it’s so portable and powerful. The classic Fire TV Stick supports 1080p HD streaming as well as Dolby Audio. Fire TV in these countries also now features an upgraded, more cinematic user interface which we have in the U.S., which will deliver content and app recommendations to users.
The new Alexa Voice Remote looks to be a nice compliment to these products, allowing users to power on compatible TV and AV equipment with one remote and search and select content with voice control. The remote also features power, mute, and volume buttons. The volume buttons are very important I’ve found. The Alexa Voice Remote is compatible with the Fire TV Basic Edition, and now ships with the new Fire TV devices in France, Italy, and Spain.
New Fire TV Edition smart TVs and new soundbar
The last announcement I wanted to hit on was Amazon’s announcement at IFA of 15 new Fire TV Edition products across North American and Europe. Touting the success of the Insignia and Toshiba Fire TV Edition smart TVs (with millions sold, and an average 4+ star rating), Amazon announced a slew of new Fire TV edition products.
- Toshiba’s first 65-inch Fire TV Edition smart TV with Dolby Vision
- Dixons Carphone’s JVC – Fire TV Edition Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR LED TVs (the first Fire TV Edition devices in the UK)
- a lineup of Fire TV Edition smart TVs in Germany and Austria from IMTROM (a subsidiary of MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group)
- eleven Fire TV Edition smart TVs in partnership with Grundig, also in Germany and Austria. The Grundig announcement is particularly notable because one of these TVs is the first Fire TV Edition to feature far-field voice control.
Amazon also revealed that it is working with a slew of other TV manufacturers (ODMs) to build more Fire TV Edition products around the world. These partners include Arcelik, Compal, Skyworth, TPV, and others. I believe this move is priming the pump for even more growth around the world.
Amazon also announced Fire TV Edition soundbars—a new category of products—and the first entrance into the category, the Nebula Soundbar – Fire TV Edition. A collaboration between Amazon and Anker Innovations, the Nebula Soundbar supports 4K Ultra HD and offers a unified smart TV user interface, Dolby Vision, and near-field Alexa voice control. The Nebula Soundbar integrates the entire Fire TV experience directly into the soundbar, providing in Amazon’s word “a complete home cinema experience” in a single device.
It was a solid showing from Amazon on the first day of IFA 2019. The company clearly hit on a successful product with the Fire TV, so it makes sense that Amazon would continue to expand its capabilities and product offerings around it. The new Fire TV Cube looks particularly intriguing, and I hope to get to try one out firsthand soon. The soundbars with integrated Fire TV is, well, genius and it's hard to escape Fire TV now!
Amazon already has a high market share in Western Europe, and I believe this move will solidify its lead there with “smart devices.” It’s quite a sight to see Amazon just keep raising the bar so high, which makes it a lot more difficult for Google and Apple to keep up. In the next year, I am expecting both Amazon and Chinese brands to grow significantly in this space.
Stay tuned for more Moor Insights & Strategy coverage of IFA in the days to come.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.