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Sound and Vision: Can Amazon beat Apple with the new Fire TV Cube?

There were plenty of products revealed this week and at the centre of this deluge was Amazon’s latest range of Fire and Alexa-enabled products.

What caught my eye from a TV perspective was the new Fire TV Cube. I’d interviewed Daniel Rausch, Vice President, Entertainment Devices and Services at Amazon earlier in 2022 and I broached the subject of whether there would be a new Fire TV Cube in 2022 and if Amazon had any interest in doing a premium Fire TV Cube that would compete with Apple.

As you can guess he gave nothing away, but this announcement shows that Amazon did harbour ambitions to challenge Apple in the premium area of the streaming market.

It’s an interesting gambit by Amazon because at first glance the specifications correlate similarly to the Apple TV 4K, and with the Alexa Remote Pro it seems as if Amazon has cribbed a few notes from Apple’s newest Siri remote.

It doesn’t have as much storage – 16GB compared to the Apple TV 4K’s 32 and 64GB configurations – and although the Fire TV Cube 3 jumps in price by £30, it hits a less expensive RRP at £139.99 compared to Apple’s £169.99, which gives them the prime (pun intended) advantage.

The Apple TV 4K 2021 has, for me, never quite reached the sweet spot where I’d be tempted to purchase. It’s probably the reason why Apple’s streaming boxes have never really sold in mass quantities, and for home cinema enthusiasts who want flexibility in their set-ups, the Fire TV Cube 3 looks like the more versatile option with its wider selection of inputs and ports.

This doesn’t mean its an absolute slam dunk for the Fire TV Cube 3. Those ads that litter the interface are going to annoy more than a few people who think they shouldn’t really be seeing them considering they (likely) already pay for Amazon Prime. And given that this is an Amazon product, it only really makes sense for Prime and Alexa users – though you could say the same about iOS users for the Apple TV 4K.

As homes become smarter than Amazon’s products start to stretch their legs. Privacy concerns notwithstanding, Alexa is by far the most popular voice assistant and as is the case with many of Amazon’s products of late, the integration with other services such as Ring is becoming much closer knit whereas Apple’s HomeKit is an ecosystem that plays much nicer with Apple products.

So can Amazon beat Apple? I think they have a good shot at squeezing Apple in this area of the market as the Fire TV Cube 3 would, on paper, appear to be more accommodating. What threatens to spoil the party and turn a possible victory into a potential loss is Amazon’s approach (or lack of) to bundling accessories.

The HDMI and IR extender cables are sold separately, while the streamer only comes with the Alexa Fire TV remote and not the Pro model. That implies Amazon is skimping on a few items to hit its lower price and once you buy these accessories, the price advantage will effectively be eroded.

The lack of HDMI cable being bundled was annoying with the first model and the fact neither it nor the IR extender is included is doubly annoying. Who would purchase the Cube and then pay extra for the Pro remote? If you’re buying the best streamer Amazon has to offer, it ought to have everything you need in the box.

I get the sense that the Fire TV Cube 3 gets close but then flubs the dismount for a good but imperfect landing but we’ll have to wait and see when reviews start to roll in. And they missed a trick by not calling if the Fire TV Cubed. It was right there for the taking, Amazon.

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