Earlier this week, Amazon went where no other streaming device or smart TV maker has gone before.
As AFTVNews first reported, the company now guarantees at least four years of security updates for your Fire TV devices, as of their last available sale date on the Amazon website. That adds up to at least eight years total updates for the second-gen Fire TV Stick, seven years total updates for the Fire TV Stick 4K, and five years for the current Fire TV Stick, which launched in 2020. The warranty even includes It extends to Fire TV Edition televisions from other brands such as Insignia and Toshiba.
This is a good dose of transparency for an industry that otherwise avoids putting support commitments in writing, and got me thinking about how long other streaming devices last by comparison. Instead of the warranties of other device manufacturers, the best we can do is dig into their respective backgrounds.
If you value longevity on your streaming player or smart TV, this is my best attempt to rank them based on past behavior:
# 1 year
As of this writing, all Roku players from 2013 onwards and smart TVs from 2014 onwards can run the company’s latest Roku operating system software. Even the first of those devices continue to get new features and have no noticeable gaps in app support (despite recent threats from Google to remove YouTube from the platform). This effectively adds up to at least eight years of support from the original release date of each device.
Roku did cut support for streaming players prior to 2013 a couple of years ago, and those devices are no longer able to run some popular apps, like Netflix, Disney +, and HBO Max. Still, no other company can boast of having Roku’s software support record, especially on the smart TV side, where long-term updates are notoriously rare.
# 2: fire TV
Amazon’s four-year commitment only applies to security updates, not new features or bug fixes. Still, there is evidence that those updates are somewhat intertwined.
Consider, for example, the major Fire TV interface update that Amazon rolled out to existing devices earlier this year. What AFTVNews notes, Amazon’s 1st-gen Fire TV box and 2014 Fire TV Stick aren’t eligible, and they’re not getting any more security updates, either. The 2015 second-gen Fire TV box isn’t getting the new interface either, and it’s only guaranteed to get security updates until the end of this year. Using security updates as a rough proxy, Fire TV devices will likely get six to eight years of Amazon support from their original release date.
However, keep in mind that individual applications may continue to work beyond that time. While you can’t run Apple TV or DirecTV Stream on a first-gen Fire TV box or Stick, for example, most other apps should run smoothly.
# 3: Apple TV
The modern era for Apple TV began in 2015, when Apple released the fourth-generation Apple TV box alongside its tvOS software. While Apple left previous models behind at the time, it has continued to back the fourth-generation Apple TV with all the major tvOS updates since then.
It’s unclear how long this trend will continue, 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 are likely to continue to work longer.
# 4: Android TV
Like the mobile version of Android, the history of support for Android TV devices is a bit conflicting.
For one thing, most smart TV and streaming device manufacturers have a poor track record of updating their operating systems to the latest version (Nvidia being a notable outlier). But because device makers are so bad at delivering updates, Google has decoupled much of its software from Android’s core operating system.
As a result, most of the 2016 Sony TVs received a major interface overhaul recentlyAnd most of the major streaming apps claim to be compatible with Android TV devices from 2015 onwards. (Apple TV is the main exception, as it only supports 2018 and newer Sony TVs along with a select the number of other Android TV devices.) While it is a messy situation overall, it still stands above other smart TV platforms.
# 5: Vizio TVs
Unlike other TV vendors, Vizio has found that “post-purchase monetization” becomes easier when users are running up-to-date software. As such, the company has been constantly releasing software updates on televisions since 2016. Personally, I have a four-year-old Vizio television running the latest SmartCast 5 software, and it was one of many Vizio models that received Apple AirPlay 2 support in 2019.
Vizio TVs before 2016 are not so lucky, as they run on an older smart TV platform that the company has since abandoned. But when it comes to TV vendor software, five years of updates is pretty decent.
Tied for last: Samsung and LG
Samsung and LG are still hardware vendors at heart, so it’s perhaps not surprising that long-term software support isn’t a top priority. Neither company releases major version updates on older TVs, so whatever version you get is what you have, and both companies left pre-2018 TVs behind when they added Apple AirPlay 2 to their TVs in 2019 (LG, too). took one more year to bring the feature to their 2018 TVs).
That practice of ditching older TVs has put a brake on app support. Paramount + and HBO Max, for example, only work on LG TVs as of 2018. Discovery + and Peacock require LG and Samsung TVs as of 2017. And for Apple TV +, you need a Samsung TV from at least 2017. Everything which means you will need to purchase a separate streaming player just to keep your television experience up to date.
Honorable mention: Chromecast
I hesitate to give Google’s Chromecast dongles a real place on this list, because the burden of the software falls primarily on whatever phone, tablet, or computer you’re using to control the TV. That said, even the original Chromecast from 2013 received six years of feature updates, at which point Google only commits to “bug fixes and security”. That first-gen model can still be used today, even if it’s noticeably slower at launching videos than its successors.
Either way, Google deserves some kudos for creating a device that inherently stands the test of time. We’ll have to see if the Android TV-based Chromecast with Google TV can last that long.
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