How Does A Fire Stick Work?

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The number of people streaming movies and TV shows is quickly surpassing the number of cable and network television users – and for good reason. In large part due to devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick being so affordable and versatile.

If you haven’t made the leap to a streaming device yet, you might be asking yourself: “What exactly is a Fire Stick?” or “What does a Fire Stick even do?”

If that sounds like you, don’t worry. You’re not alone in having these questions! That’s why, in this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Amazon’s Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick. You’ll be streaming video in 4k Dolby Vision in no time.

What Is A Fire Stick?

A Fire Stick (Or Fire TV Stick) is a streaming device manufactured by Amazon that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, effectively converting any modern television into a smart TV. Downloadable apps are available on Fire TV for all of the major streaming services and most of the smaller-known services.

These streaming apps include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Sling just to name a few. With live TV options available through some of these apps, many users are even able to completely replace their cable package with their Amazon Fire Stick.

Fire TV devices connect to the internet via your Wi-Fi router, allowing them to access Amazon’s app store and all the streaming services that come with it.

Editor’s Note: Replacing cable or satellite television with streaming services is also known as “Cord Cutting“. Cord-cutting has become a popular way to save money since streaming subscriptions are so affordable. I, personally, cut the cord some time ago and I’ve never looked back.

(Skip to Best Fire Stick Devices)

So, What Is Streaming?

Streaming refers to the ability to watch or listen to continuous content (video or audio) over the internet in real-time and without downloading. This allows you to access virtually any movie, TV show or song instantly, as long as the app you’re using is hosting that particular piece of content.

Fire Sticks are great devices for accessing these apps on your TV. You can also stream on your computer or mobile device.

How Does A Fire TV Stick Work?

An Amazon Fire Stick works by allowing you to stream movies and TV shows over your home WiFi network. It simply plugs into any available HDMI input in the back of your television and is paired with a WiFi remote control.

Upon initially powering on, all Fire TV devices will walk you through a simple setup that will require you to select your WiFi network and enter a password. Many of the most popular streaming apps will come pre-installed, but you can quickly download those that aren’t.

All apps are free to download, but Generally speaking, you’ll need an account with each specific streaming provider to watch their content. If you are a Prime subscriber, you will already have Prime Video included in your account which has a ton of movies, documentaries, and TV shows.

Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote (includes TV controls), HD streaming device

Is My TV Compatible With Amazon Fire TV Stick?

If your TV has a functional HDMI port, then it will likely be compatible with Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. Luckily, HDMI ports come standard on just about any television produced over the last decade.

A couple of other things to think about are that Fire TV devices do require TVs to have a minimum resolution of 720p and to be HDCP compliant. Again, most modern TVs fit this profile. If you have a tube TV from 30 years ago, then you may need an upgrade.

You’re also limited to your TV’s resolution. So, if you have an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4k and a 1080p TV, then you’ll be streaming in 1080p.

HDMI Port For Fire TV Stick
This image shows 3 HDMI ports. One of them could easily be used to install a Fire TV Stick.

What Does A Firestick Do For A Smart TV?

If you already have a smart TV, then you may possibly still want to purchase a Fire Stick. The term “smart TV”, is used very liberally and not all smart TVs are created equal. If you aren’t happy with your television’s current features and capabilities, then a streaming device would be beneficial.

If your television has an internet connection, a processor, and a selection of apps, then it’s technically a smart tv. But, does it have voice assistant compatibility, an Alexa voice remote, and lightning-fast execution? Does it have all the apps your heart desires? Can you see if someone is at your front door via your Ring doorbell?

These are just a few reasons people have Fire Sticks plugged into their smart TVs. Now, if you’re in the market for a new television, there are smart TVs with built-in Fire TV. In this case, there is no need for a Fire Stick, because the capabilities are pretty much the same.

Fire Stick Channels

This is your Fire TV Home Screen, where you can find Fire TV apps and Channels.

You can access virtually any channel on your Fire TV Stick that you access on cable or satellite. And there are even channels that you won’t necessarily find on your local provider.

Channels on your Fire TV are accessed through apps. Some channels have their own apps and some apps allow you to access content from multiple channels. You can often access live broadcasting for these channels, and nearly always stream their content on demand.

As an example, let’s take HBO. HBO has its own app called HBO Max. You can watch HBO programming on demand with their app if you subscribe. You can either subscribe directly to the app through HBO, or if you have HBO through your cable provider, you will have access to the HBO Max app for free.

But, maybe you subscribe to Hulu? Hulu has an app available on your Firestick and you can stream lots of movies and TV shows on demand. You can also add live TV programming to your Hulu account, just like you would have with cable.

Also, just like with cable, you can add premium channels – like HBO. So, in this one app, you would have access to more content than you could ever hope to watch by itself. And, because you’re an HBO subscriber (through Hulu), you also have access to everything on the HBO Max app.

There are literally thousands of apps available for your Fire Stick, so we’re just going to cover some of the more relevant ones in this article. First, we’re going to answer a couple of questions that I seem to get most frequently, just to get them out of the way.

Is Amazon Prime Free With Fire Stick?

A Fire Stick purchase does not currently include an Amazon Prime membership. A standard Amazon account is free, however, and that is all you need to operate your new Fire TV Stick.

A subscription to Amazon Prime would give you free access to Prime Video, which is a popular streaming app that many people use. A Prime membership also grants you a whole slew of other benefits through Amazon like music streaming, same-day shipping and Amazon Fresh grocery delivery.

This Amazon link will give you a free 30-day trial to Amazon Prime, so you can try it out first.

Do You Have To Pay For Netflix With Amazon Fire Stick?

There is a rumor that has led some people to believe that there is a free version of Netflix with the purchase of Amazon’s Fire Stick. To be completely accurate, the Netflix app is technically free to download (just as any Fire TV app is), but you’ll need a subscription to log in.

Netflix subscriptions are very affordable though. You can view their plans here.

Top Amazon Fire TV Apps and Channels

Again, you can really get any channel you want using your Firestick. You might want to decide which content is most important to you before deciding which apps to sign up for. Or, you can start with the free streaming services and then go from there.

My recommendation would be to start with our top 3. But, remember, you only need one to get going, and don’t forget to check out our free list.

Our Top 3 Paid Fire Stick Channels (Apps):

  1. Netflix (streaming only)
  2. Amazon Prime (streaming only)
  3. Hulu (streaming and live TV packages available)

Top 5 Fire Stick Apps For Live TV Channels

  1. Hulu
  2. Sling TV
  3. YouTube TV
  4. Fubo TV
  5. Philo
This is how a fire stick works with Hulu for Live TV.
When you subscribe to Live TV through your Fire Stick’s Hulu app, you’ll have a channel guide that works much like cable. It has much less latency than most cable boxes in my experience.

Fire Stick FAQs

Does Amazon’s Fire Stick Need Internet?

Yes, the Amazon Fire TV Stick will certainly require a solid internet connection to function properly. You could, however, use a hotspot on your phone if your home network goes down.

Does A Fire TV Stick Need WiFi?

If you don’t have WiFi goes, you can technically still access the internet by hardwiring an Ethernet cable. You’ll just need an Ethernet adaptor for your Fire Stick.

Is There A Monthly Fee For Fire Stick?

There is no monthly fee associated with owning a Fire Stick. The only recurring costs associated with Fire TV devices would be your internet package and whether or not you decide to subscribe to paid streaming service.

What Channels Are Free With The Firestick?

Each of the following will provide many channels worth of free streaming on your Firestick:

Peacock
Pluto TV
Tubi
Roku Channel
Xumo
YouTube

Watching Apple TV + on Fire Stick is super easy too…

Learn how to use Fire Stick with your computer…

Amazon Fire Stick Comparison

Wondering which Fire Stick you should buy? Here are the 3 best options and the main differences between them:

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Is A Firestick Worth It?

The Amazon Fire TV Stick has changed the world of streaming media devices and given everyone the option to have a smart TV at an affordable price. The Fire TV technology is arguably better than any other competing smart television technologies and comes in at a fraction of the price.

I’d say that, in nearly all cases, adding a Fire Stick to your arsenal is well worth it. Fire TV will change the way you watch television moving forward. That being said, if you already have a great smart TV, then you probably will be perfectly fine with what you have.

Hopefully, this article has not only answered for you what an Amazon Fire Stick is, but also how it works. I have to say, no matter if it’s a Fire TV Cube, a 4k Fire Stick or even a Fire TV Stick Lite, I think you wouldn’t regret the purchase. Fire TV devices are in my top 5 favorite smart home devices.

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