The following is the first few sections of a chapter from The Busy Coder's Guide to Android Development, plus headings for the remaining major sections, to give you an idea about the content of the chapter.
Amazon has joined the TV set-top box fray with the Fire TV and, more recently, the Fire TV Stick. These devices are powered by FireOS, Amazon’s variation of Android. And, as with other Amazon FireOS devices, like the Kindle Fire tablet series, you can write apps that run on Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick.
This chapter will review these devices from a developer’s standpoint, to help you create apps for this platform.
Understanding this chapter requires that you have read the core chapters of this book. Reading the chapter on the ten-foot user interface is also recommended, either before or after this chapter.
Also, some sections will make reference to Android TV as a point of reference.
As of August 2017, there were two major flavors of Fire TV device: the original Fire TV, and the Fire TV Stick. Both run FireOS, Amazon’s name for their derivative of Android.
As with most Android-powered set-top boxes, the original Fire TV is small and is designed to connect with your television (or monitor, or projector, or whatever) via HDMI:
Figure 1112: Fire TV
It comes with a small wireless remote designed for basic controls, akin to what you might find on other streaming boxes or similar entertainment devices:
Figure 1113: Fire TV Remote
Optionally, you can get a gaming controller that works with the Fire TV. While the regular controller is fine for navigating the Fire TV UI, the gaming controller will be more suitable for more serious game play:
Figure 1114: Fire TV Gaming Controller
While the Fire TV is powered by Android, the on-device UI is definitely targeting a set-top box environment. The home screen is dominated by media, coming from whatever supported streaming content providers you have set up with the Fire TV (e.g., Amazon Prime):
Figure 1115: Fire TV Home Screen
The “Apps” section shows a mix of what is installed and what is available for you to download, with “cloud” icons indicating apps that are available but are not presently installed:
Figure 1116: Fire TV “Your Apps Library”
The Fire TV Stick is physically substantially smaller than is the Fire TV, designed to more closely resemble the Chromecast:
Figure 1117: Fire TV Stick, with Remote, AC Adapter, and HDMI Extension Cable
The user experience of a Fire TV Stick, though, is largely the same as with a regular Fire TV. Both run the same FireOS environment, with the same sort of browsing metaphor.
The biggest difference is that the Fire TV Stick is less powerful (less RAM, weaker CPU and GPU). For conventional apps, this is unlikely to be a problem, as the Fire TV Stick is as powerful as many standard Android phones and tablets. Games, however, are more likely to stress the hardware.
From the user’s standpoint, the Fire TV Stick’s big selling point is its low price, about a third of what the Fire TV costs.
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