For many Americans, the art of enjoyment and entertainment is best found online. Whereas in the past we were limited to what was on TV, the on-demand era is now well and truly upon us. This is one of the most important parts of modern internet usage, offering us total freedom over what we watch, view and read – and when. However, with so many different streaming services to pick from, you might be unsure of where to even start.
If you feel like this is the case, then we have some solutions for you to consider. Take, for example, the below streaming services. These are seen as some of the best on the internet and should really ramp up your entertainment options.
We’re sure just about everyone in the country has at least heard of Netflix. The popular streaming system is the go-to starting point for many people looking to find top quality entertainment. It’s got hundreds of shows and many Netflix exclusives. From finding awesome cartoons for the kids to a horror flick to watch on Halloween, this is a streaming service that you can love using.
However, you should be aware that Netflix loves to eat up your bandwidth. Like any good streaming service, you should be using high-speed internet to help make sure you can enjoy a good quality watching session. Also, keep an eye on problems with your bandwidth – if you start to notice needless buffering, you might be getting throttled by your internet provider. If that happens, you might want to consider enjoying Netflix on a new form of internet provider for the best results.
While most of us will use Amazon for shopping, some of us use it for streaming – especially movies. It’s quite a lot like Netflix, with some of the most popular and well-watched shoes on the internet appearing on it. Amazon Prime is growing all the time and shows no signs of slowing down. New content is added all the time, bringing in even more opportunity to enjoy the wider experience. You might soon find that Amazon Prime has a larger catalog to pick from than Netflix.
Given who backs up this amazing streaming service, it’s size and scale should be of surprise to nobody. It’s growing all the time at an incredible rate and shows no signs of slowing down. With so much to view and so much to enjoy, Amazon Prime Instant Video is probably one of the most upwardly mobile streaming services that you can access right now.
For a large chunk of Americans, sport dominates much of their social lives. Being able to cheer on your beloved teams at the sport of your choice is always a hugely enjoyable pursuit. However, for many of us, choosing the right way to watch them can be tough. One of the best streaming sites for sports fans at the moment is to use ESPN+, where you can get a huge amount of content to pick from.
There is a growing amount of live and replayable matches that you can watch from just about any kind of sport that you love. Most of us have a team in one of the big US sports, and you should be able to catch them on ESPN without a huge deal of issue. This is a site with a huge amount of content, and it looks set to become even bigger as American sports fans continue to be open-minded about new sports to watch.
FUBO TV is getting a lot of positivity from sports fans who love their sports from other continents. If you are a soccer fan, for example, you’ll love to have FUBO TV – it’s much more diverse than the ESPN+ offering. They cover major leagues in soccer like Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga. They also cover a lot of other sports, like the MotoGP and also various other college sports. This is why, for sports fans, FUBO TV is the best alternative to using ESPN+.
Though both are very much well-respected options, many fans are turning to FUBO TV as it has a touch more variety. With the easy control of the packaged add-ons, too, you can pick and choose what you went, when you want it, making it super-simple to get affordable, on-demand sports TV.
Though very much the outsider in many ways, Sling TV is hugely popular with a lot of users. It’s an ambitious project that has grown very quickly in terms of its size and scale in the last few years. With very cheap live TV packages, they allow you to get a lot of variety in what you watch. The fact that it comes with so much opportunity to change contracts, and it has no long-term commitment, makes this a common choice for those who don’t wish to be weighed down with contracts and other such headaches.
Streaming services such as Sling TV are growing all the time. Like most other streaming services like this, too, it does offer a decent trial experience that you can give a shot. With the affordable nature of its live TV offerings, though, those who still like to watch TV on a schedule will love Sling TV for sure.
Getting the most out of each streaming service
Of course, you should always look to make sure that your streaming service is backed up with high-speed internet. Through companies like Easy Internet Now, you can dodge the bandwidth throttling, buffering-causing internet issues that so many Americans face. This is the perfect way for you to get online and to enjoy modern entertainment without feeling trapped or constrained.
With the fact they reduce the need for things like credit checks and contracts, too, EIN is a fine place to start for those who like to stream. High-speed internet is very important for everything from watching your favorite shows to streaming your most beloved games. Quality counts, so don’t accept second best!
The internet has made it easier to make money selling your stuff, but you may not know all the other ways you can earn rewards (including money) without selling a thing.
Not long ago, I wrote an article all about how to sell your items online. Now it’s time to talk about the many different ways you can earn money, gift cards, and items through different apps and websites.
There are a lot of different apps and sites that ask you to take certain actions to earn points or build up a cash total. In this article, let’s take a look at some of the most well-known, established, and tested ways you can earn rewards with just a little effort.
What can you earn?
Depending on the app or site that you use, there are many different things you can earn. Some services let you use your accumulated points to choose from certain branded items. Others might have you use your points to get discounts and promo codes. Many let you choose gift cards and, in some cases, actual money.
What do you have to do?
Different apps and sites ask for different actions. With some rewards services, you’re asked to watch or interact with sponsored content or surveys. You might need to exercise to earn your points, or you could get your rewards by getting rebates on purchases you were already going to make anyway.
What should you watch out for?
The idea of earning rewards for things you either already do or things that are relatively simple is very appealing. Because of this, there are some services that may very well be scams, as well as ones that just don’t work as well as they claim they will.
Before you start using a rewards app or site—including the ones listed in this article—look a little closer at it to make sure it’s actually as good as it appears. Consider doing some of the following things:
- Make sure to read the reviews on an app’s page so you get an idea of how satisfied other users are
- Check to see how many downloads an app has (too few might mean it hasn’t been well-tested yet)
- Do a web search with a phrase like “is [this app] legit” or “is [this app] a scam” and look for credible sites discussing the service
- Read the app’s or site’s fine print to make sure there are no catches
- Look at the service’s app or site to make sure it looks professional and well-maintained
Remember: never give your personal information (like your bank information) to a service without researching it first to make sure it’s safe and secure!
At the time of writing this article, all of these apps and sites appear to be legitimate, but some formerly popular apps (like the now-deleted Pact app) have later been found to be untrustworthy. It’s important to check for the most recent reviews and news.
10 apps & sites you can download and visit now
Now that we’ve discussed how some rewards services might work, what you can get from them, and how to look out for scams, let’s look at some apps and sites you can try! These are just ten rewards apps and sites that can earn you money, items, and other rewards.
Achievement is an app that rewards you with money for doing things that manage or improve your health. It uses monetary rewards to encourage you to keep track of your eating habits, walk more, get more sleep, and other various health-related activities. You simply connect one of the health apps you already use (like Samsung Health, Fitbit, or Garmin), then build up your points for your activity. 10,000 points can be redeemed for $10, and you can earn as much money as you want, with no maximum. Once you can redeem your points for money, they’ll be sent to you using PayPal or a direct deposit to a bank account.
This app rewards you with points for watching trailers. The trailers are for other apps, as well as other entertainment videos. You can also earn points by doing quizzes and playing trivia games. Once you have enough points built up, you can redeem them for gift cards or money sent through PayPal. They offer gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, and iTunes.
This app is different from most of the other apps on the list. If you enjoy helping good causes, you can use this app to earn rewards in the form of donations to the charity of your choice. If you already donate to the cause, you can give even more using this app, or you can use it as the sole means of donating. With Charity Miles, you earn money for a charity by running, walking, or biking. After opening the app and starting to track your distance, with each mile you complete, you add more money for your charity. There are many different charities to choose from, including well-known ones like Habitat for Humanity, American Diabetes Association, ASPCA, and World Wildlife Fund.
Ebates is a well-known rebate service that pays you back for some of the purchases you make. If you’re already planning on purchasing something, this is a way to get some money back. When you buy from different stores online through Ebates, you can earn money. You can search through Ebates for certain stores, certain items, and more. There are also some rebate offers that are in-store only. Once you find something you want, you can see how much of a rebate you’ll get. After your order is verified, you can get your money through a check or by PayPal payment.
This app from Google offers small amount of money for taking surveys. As soon as there’s an available survey, you’ll be notified. There are all kinds of different surveys you might take. You can earn as much as a dollar for a survey, though most of them seem to be closer to ten cents each. If you use the app with Google Play, your money is given to you as Google Play credit, while iOS app users have their money transferred with PayPal.
Ibotta is a rebate app that can be used to earn real money or gift cards. If you shop at any of the stores they have listed, you may be able to accumulate a high enough balance to get real rebates. You can use the app to get rebates on items you’re already buying, or you can use it as a way to find out about more products you want to try. You can find available grocery stores that you can add to your favorites, then look through the categories to find items you’re interested in. To add some products to your list, you might have to watch a short ad or answer a poll. After you’ve bought some items currently available in the Ibotta app, you use your receipt to add your rebates to your account. Once you have $20 racked up, you can have the money transferred to you in several different ways, including PayPal and Venmo. Or you can get gift cards to places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart.
iPoll offers rewards for performing activities like reviewing products, visiting certain stores, and more. All of their activities are typically based around learning your opinions on certain brands and products. Some of these activities could include recording a video or taking photos. Once you’ve performed an activity, you can earn rewards like money transferred through PayPal, gift cards, and entry into a cash drawing.
Swagbucks rewards its users for doing a number of different things. Swagbucks users earn rewards for taking surveys, watching videos, searching online, playing games, and buying certain items for a rebate. Once you have enough points, you can either have the money transferred via PayPal, or you can get a gift card. Gift cards are available for many different outlets, including Walmart, Amazon, and Bath & Body Works.
This app hopes to encourage people to exercise more by offering rewards. The app acts as a step counter. The more you walk, the more “Sweatcoins” you earn. You can then use these Sweatcoins to purchase rewards. Rewards include actual products (like Apple products), as well as services (like exercise classes) and events. You can even choose to donate your Sweatcoins to a charity.
Walk for a Dog by Wooftrax is another app that gives a different kind of reward: the knowledge that you’ve helped an animal-based organization. This app doesn’t specifically give you a reward, instead letting you donate money to your favorite organization that helps animals. Whenever you walk your dog, you simply use the app to track how much you walk. This builds up activity for the organization you’ve chosen. After a certain period, all the funds raised are given to the organizations people chose. If you don’t have a dog, you can walk a shelter dog or a friend’s dog. Or since the app simply follows you as you move, you can walk without a dog (though walking with a dog is much more fun).
Developers of Alexa skills now have a way to make money off their offerings.
Alexa skills can now include money-making features, according to The Verge. If you use Alexa skills, you have probably noticed they’re all free. This is a refreshing change of pace from other services, like app stores on phones that can offer apps for large amounts of money. With Alexa’s available skills, you never have to worry about whether a skill you’ve found is going to end up costing you.
But now the developers of these skills do have some small ways to make money. The Verge notes that now skills can offer one in-skill purchase. This means they can have extra content or special features available for a cost. This can be a one-time fee or a subscription that continues. Compared to many apps, having one in-skill purchase is still a nice change of pace, since so many apps lock feature after feature behind a pay wall.
Developers can also now allow users of their skills to buy items. With Alexa, users could already use their voices to buy products from Amazon. But now they’ll be able to ask to buy things within other skills. This new feature will make use of Amazon Pay, letting developers offer a way to order through the skill. The Verge mentions that TGI Fridays and 1-800-Flowers are already making use of this new feature. With these skills, you can now directly place orders for the companies’ products.
While the skills themselves are still free (and there seem to be no plans to change this in the near future), adding a way for developers to make money through in-skill purchases and the use of Amazon Pay could end up being a big change. It could make Alexa skills seem more appealing to other developers who have yet to bring their ideas to the Alexa skill format. It may also make ordering items from companies other than Amazon much easier. Keep watch on Alexa’s skills to see which ones begin making use of these new capabilities.
If you’re a Prime subscriber, take note: your yearly cost will soon go up.
Amazon’s new price jump for their Prime service isn’t particularly small, either: an annual subscription is soon going to be $119 instead of the current $99, says Variety. That’s $20 more than before, which is about a 20% increase.
Amazon Prime has a large number of subscribers. Digital Trends reported earlier this month that Amazon had revealed how many people subscribed to the service. At the time, it was reported that there were over a hundred million subscribers across the world.
Prime likely draws in so many people because it has features that appeal to many different interests. With Prime, you can get free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible offers. You can also watch a great deal of TV shows and movies for free. This includes some Prime-exclusive shows, like their popular shows Sneaky Pete and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. You can also stream music and rent e-books. Plus you have access to things like Prime Pantry (where you can have household items and groceries sent to you), Amazon Fresh (grocery delivery in select areas), and photo storage in the cloud.
It’s unclear if Prime’s price hike will cause some subscribers to skip renewing in the future. It is a significant price increase, but Prime membership can also become embedded in peoples’ lives because of how many different things are offered.
If you’re considering subscribing for the first time, you have until May 11 to sign up at the current $99 fee, says Variety. They also explain that for current subscribers, rates won’t increase until June 16. So if you’re trying to decide whether to renew your membership or create a new one, you still have a little bit of time to decide before the price jumps.
Alexa has gotten an interesting new addition, and in the near future the smart assistant may also be able to continue a discussion without using a wake word.
To correspond with what’s known as ‘Alien Day,’ Alexa has a new skill called Offworld Colony Simulator. According to Fortune, you can use the skill on all devices that have Alexa. The skill is a game that’s similar to roleplaying games and that uses voice prompts and responses to challenge you to get away from a Xenomorph. There have been other voice-based RPGs available on Alexa (like The Magic Door). This one, though, is for sci-fi and Alien lovers.
There’s also news that Alexa may soon gain some more useful abilities. TechCrunch reports that Alexa users will be able to talk with Alexa more naturally and have Alexa remember certain things they choose.
Currently, when you want to use Alexa, you have to use a wake word (like “Alexa” or “Echo”). But in the future, Alexa will not always need you to use the wake word when you’re asking follow-up questions. So if you ask a question and then need more information, you won’t have to wake Alexa up all over again and form a complete new question. This will make conversations with Alexa flow more smoothly and be a little easier to manage.
As TechCrunch notes, you’ll also be able to ask Alexa to remember things. You can ask her to remember peoples’ birthdays or other important pieces of information. Then you’ll be able to ask her about that information in the future and retrieve it easily.
All of this is meant to give Alexa a more expansive and useful memory. It will make her more personal to each user’s account and it will make conversations with her feel a step closer to a conversation with a human (though, of course, we’re not fully there yet).
Offworld Colony Simulator is available to play now, while Alexa’s new memory updates are coming soon (TechCrunch says there’s not yet a launch date).
Have plans to travel? If you’re like a lot of other people, you might be headed on vacation this summer. Or you could have business trips planned. Whatever the case may be, traveling can be fun. But it can also have its own stresses and issues. Whether you’re driving a car or heading to an airport, it can sometimes seem tricky making it to a destination.
Thankfully, there’s some great technology available to make trips a little easier. You might need something to keep kids distracted during family trips, something to help you find your destination more smoothly, or something to give you peace of mind while your home is empty. All of these worries and more can be taken care of with some devices you’ve already heard of (and perhaps some you haven’t).
Tech For Traveling
Don’t lose your stuff
Want to keep track of your luggage or other important items? Tile is one way to do that. Luggage can sometimes get lost. And while you’re away from home, being in unfamiliar places can make it easier to lose things like your keys or your wallet.
With Tile, you can easily track important items, whether it be a suitcase or your rental car keys. All you have to do is attach Tile to whatever you want to keep track of, then use Tile’s app if you need to locate the item. There’s the Tile Slim, which is a thin version of the device that isn’t too bulky in a wallet. There’s the Tile Mate, which has a small hole in the corner so you can attach it to anything, like purses, backpacks, keys, and more. These two are most likely to be helpful during your travels. There’s even an accessory for the Tile Slim that is specifically made for traveling: the Tile Slim Luggage Tag.
There’s also the Tile Sport, which could come in handy if you’re going on a trip that might get a little rough (like if you’re camping, hiking, biking, or doing things outdoors). And there’s the Tile Style, which adds some extra flair to the device for a more fun appearance.
Prices vary for each Tile device, and there are also combo packs. You can buy 4-packs or 8-packs to pay a little less for each device, or you can mix it up and buy the different devices separately.
Keep your passengers entertained
If you’re traveling with impatient kids or adults who aren’t fans of road trips, keeping them distracted can be a great way to eliminate some stress. The answer is simple: bring a tablet. Using phones can be a drain on the battery and run the risk of not having enough battery life if your car breaks down. And using a tablet can seem like a special treat if your kids don’t already use them regularly (if they do, I’m sure you already know how entertaining they can be).
Even if you don’t already have one, buying one for your trip doesn’t have to be expensive. There are pricey options out there, but it can be as easy as buying a Kindle Fire for just $49.99 (and sometimes for less during a promotion). You can easily set up a kid-friendly account and choose which apps they can use. This should make it easier to pass the time.
A tablet can also be a useful way to save space. If you like to read during your relaxing vacations, you don’t have to pack any bulky books—you can just read them on your tablet.
Find your destination with no problem
We all know about apps like Google Maps and Waze. You likely use Google Maps to find your way on a regular basis. But for some, this isn’t the most convenient way to travel. If you’re traveling alone, or if you are particularly uncomfortable driving on busy interstates, through tricky areas, or at night, having a GPS system in your car might work a lot better than having to look at your phone while on the road.
Navdy is one way you can integrate navigation into your vehicle. Information is projected onto your windshield with a transparent display, so you don’t have to look down at a phone. It also dims or brightens appropriately. It uses Google Maps, so that will be familiar to you, and you can also set up a dashboard that shows things like how much gas you have left.
If you can’t quite afford a system like that at the moment, you can also consider Garmin. Garmin offers many different GPS systems, some for less than a hundred dollars. Their website lists their many different products, and you can also find them on Amazon.
Track down your car
You might be worried you’ll forget where you parked at the airport. Or you might be parking on unfamiliar streets in a city away from home. You can take a picture of your surroundings, but that isn’t always enough to find your way back where you started.
Fortunately, there are many apps that you can use to track down your car when you’re ready to leave. The simplest solution? Drop a pin on Google Maps and save your location. By placing a pin at your current location before leaving your car and then saving it to your places, you can easily make your way back.
There are other options if you don’t use Google Maps or want a more streamlined way to get back to your vehicle. Find My Car is a well-known app that saves the GPS location of your car and navigates you back to it later. You can find it on iOS and on Android. There’s also ParkMe, which can not only help you find your car, it can also help you figure out where to park in the first place.
Keep your home safe while you’re gone
If you’ll be away from home for a while and there won’t be anyone staying behind to house sit, there are ways to make yourself feel less worried about your empty home. With smart devices, you can keep watch on your home and make it look as though it’s not actually empty.
Smart security systems are also great for peace of mind. There are a lot of options out there, so of course, research carefully before investing in a system. With these systems, you can typically set motion alerts so you get a notification if the camera catches movement. You can also usually check in on a live feed. Nest offers some popular devices, as well as Frontpoint and Canary. Just make sure you know what the initial installation cost is as well as how much it will cost every month.
If you’re building your collection of cool devices, or if you have some specific tech you’re looking to purchase, it’s important to get the best prices. Different sites are often running their own promotions, and sometimes major manufacturers themselves will offer limited time deals.
Keeping up with all of these sales might seem tricky, but there are actually a number of sites you can use to keep track of current tech deals. Here are just a few you can bookmark and head back to every day!
The Tom’s Guide website features many different pages with how tos and product suggestions. Their Best Tech Deals page (currently titled “Best Tech Deals of 2018”) is updated every day with a collection of great deals. They mention some of the overall best deals, then show deals based on different categories, like laptops and smart watches. Since it’s updated so regularly, you can be sure you’re not wasting your time looking over deals that have already expired.
PC Mag is a hugely popular site that features news, how tos, and perhaps most importantly, detailed product reviews. They’re well-respected when it comes to their reviews. Their Best Deals Today page is, of course, updated daily. There are several categories, including laptops and gaming. The page is arranged in a slightly overwhelming way, with quite a lot of information, but the information is all useful and relevant, making it easier to spot which deals are the right fit for you.
CNET is another very popular site that’s well-known for its product reviews. They’re also popular for their news articles. On their Deals & Promotions page, they might offer over a thousand different suggestions for current deals. You can click the check boxes on the side of the page to narrow down what you’re looking for, including things like tablets and televisions.
Amazon’s Deals page is not quite the same as the others. Instead of linking to various different outlets (like Walmart, Newegg, etc.), you’ll obviously only see deals for products you can purchase on Amazon. This means it’s not really an aggregator like the other sites and you might miss some good deals that aren’t available on Amazon. However, if you prefer to purchase using Amazon Prime, or if you want to find more than you might spot on the other sites, Amazon’s Deals in Electronics can offer some good buys. You can see currently available deals, and you can even see which deals are coming soon. And they show deals on Amazon devices (like the Echo Dot), so it’s a good place to check if you’re in the market for a new smart speaker or tablet.
Interested in more ways to save money on Amazon and maybe even get free stuff? Check out The Babble Out and see if their program might be a good fit for you!
Amazon has now given Echo users a new way to make Alexa even more personalized. Skill Blueprints, added this past week, allow Alexa users to program their own customized skills for personal use.
Amazon announced the new ability for Alexa on their Alexa blog last week. Skill Blueprints is a feature that makes it easy to further personalize an Alexa device by creating your own trigger phrases and setting Alexa’s response, building your own trivia game, making personalized stories, and more.
On the Alexa Blueprints website, the feature is explained and the many different Skill templates are described. After logging in to the Amazon account that’s connected to your Alexa device, you can choose from a template and customize your personal skill. These skills are only available on your Alexa devices and aren’t publicly published. You can also have as many Skill Blueprints as you want.
Alexa is known for having some silly quips and fun easter eggs when she’s asked the right phrase. Now you can make your own fun responses with the Q & A Blueprint. You can set up a phrase like “Who’s the best basketball player?” and program Alexa to respond however you’d like. You can also have fun with other Blueprints like the one that “roasts” your guests with custom insults. There’s Family Jokes, which lets you put in your own jokes, as well as Compliments, Trivia, Inspirations (with your favorite quotes), and much more.
Plus you can use these Blueprints to make your smart home easier to navigate. You can use the Pet Sitter Blueprint to enter all the information someone might need to care for your pet (like where to find the food, how often to feed your pet, who to call in an emergency, etc.). And Houseguest has you enter information about staying in your home (and the nearby area) so that if someone is house sitting or visiting, they don’t have to keep texting you with questions about where to find extra paper towels or how to turn on the dishwasher.
There are many other Blueprints available, as well. In fact, there are currently 21 different Blueprints to choose from. Whenever you’ve created a Blueprint, you can go back to it and edit it whenever you want. Amazon’s blog says that your newly-created skills show up on your Alexa devices “instantly,” though it’s important to note that it takes a moment or two for the skills to actually be created. (The Blueprints website asks you to wait as the skill is actually finalized and ready to use—this seems to typically take less than a minute.)
Alexa Skill Blueprints are now available for use in the US. For more information, take a look at the Alexa Blueprints website.
Long gone are the days when people had to wait for a show to air and watch it live. For many years now, TV shows and movies have been available to stream online. There are too many streaming services to even remember them all.
Whether you have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, or any other streaming service, it’s very likely you’ve streamed an episode of your favorite show or a full movie in the not too distant past. You might have watched it by using your phone, your tablet, your computer, or perhaps something like a video game console connected to your TV.
There are many different streaming services and streaming options. One option is to use a streaming device (or a streaming stick). These streaming devices are focused solely on being small, unobtrusive, quick, and easy to use. You’ve likely heard of the most popular devices on the market.
You also might be wondering what the differences are between the devices. For those looking to get a streaming device, it might be difficult to choose. Or you might be wondering why so many people want to use these devices. In this article, I’m going to cover the basics as well as some of your options!
What is a video streaming device?
The video streaming devices this article talks about are typically small devices that plug into your TV. They can be tiny plugins that work with a remote, larger sticks, or other forms. While using one of these devices, people can stream videos from different places depending on the device: from specific services (using apps) or even from absolutely any service or site (using screen mirroring).
Some devices are more limited in what you can watch. Others (that use screen mirroring to let you display your phone, computer, or tablet on your TV) are nearly unlimited in what you can decide to watch.
Keep in mind that you’ll still need to subscribe to services separately. If you buy a video streaming device, you don’t get subscription services included (for instance, you’ll still need to pay to use Netflix).
Which TVs can use these devices?
Video streaming devices use recent technology to work. They typically need to be able to plug into an HDMI port on a TV. For this reason, you’ll nearly always need to have a fairly modern TV. Some devices specifically require you have an HDTV. If you have a pretty old TV that doesn’t have HDMI ports, you’ll very likely need to upgrade to a slightly newer TV.
You can check your TV’s manual to see if you have an HDTV with HDMI ports. Or you can look on your TV to find the TV model and look up its information online.
What’s so great about them?
Video streaming devices like those in this article are fairly popular at the moment, and they have been for years. One reason they are so well-liked is that they typically offer a wide range of streaming options. With most of these devices, you can choose between just about any service you use—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Vudu, YouTube, you name it. This means your video streaming might be entirely controlled through one device.
They’re also great because they’re usually very small and portable. They’re typically small sticks that can be quickly unplugged and used in a different TV. So if you buy a new TV, there aren’t a bunch of confusing cords to figure out. Or if you’re going to watch TV with someone else, you can easily transport the device to their home and set it up there.
Another positive is that there are some pretty affordable options. You don’t have to buy a new computer or use a gaming console to stream your shows. Those can be kind of pricey (though, of course, they do a lot more than just stream shows). If your main concern, though, is to stream TV and movies, you won’t have to splurge on an expensive, larger product.
And with these devices, controlling them is easy and convenient. Some of them have small remotes for controlling what you watch. Some of them also work through apps on phones. It’s no trouble at all to use the devices.
What are the most popular options?
There are a number of streaming video devices out there. If you’ve heard people talking about them, though, you’ve most likely heard them mention one of the devices listed below. The four devices in this article are some of the most popular and well-liked choices you have. Of course, they’re not your only options. But these devices are probably your likeliest contenders.
Apple, of course, has a streaming video device. They have more than one model, in fact. They offer the current model of their regular device (the 4th generation Apple TV) as well as the new Apple TV 4K (for use with 4K televisions). The 4K version is specifically designed to work with 4K TVs. If you have a 4K TV, you’ll want this model. It’s designed to run faster and display 4K video.
With the Apple TV, you simply plug the box into your TV with an HDMI cable (not included). The Apple TV comes with the Siri Remote so you can control what you watch. Once you’ve purchased Apple TV, you also get access to tech support for 90 days, plus you can get help from the Genius Bar.
Apple TV has many different apps to choose from. The product description specifically lists Netflix and Hulu. It also works with the other apps you’d expect, like YouTube and Amazon Video. It’s difficult to find a comprehensive list of all the available apps, but if you’re wondering whether your service works with Apple TV, a quick Google search should tell you. If you have an iOS device, you can also either cast an app to your TV or even mirror your iPhone’s screen to the TV.
Apple TV is currently $149. If you want the 4K version, you have two options: 32GB for $179 or 64GB for $199.
Chromecast is a little different from the other devices. It’s focused on casting from your other devices. Instead of having a remote that lets you choose between different apps, you use your phone, tablet, or computer to pick what you want to watch. Then you press the “Cast” button on the app and it’s displayed on your TV. It works with a number of devices, including those that use iOS, Android, and Windows. And there are many different apps that work with it, including the typical ones like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play.
Screen mirroring is also big with Chromecast. If you have an Android device or use the Chrome browser on your computer, you can display your device’s screen. This means you can watch anything with your Chromecast. If there’s a streaming website that doesn’t have an app, you can simply open it on your Chrome browser, mirror the browser using Chromecast, and watch on your TV.
A regular Chromecast 2nd Generation device is currently $35. Chromecast Ultra is $69.
The Fire TV Stick plugs into an HDMI slot and can be controlled with the included remote. The remote, called the Alexa Voice Remote, lets you control what you watch by either using the buttons or by using your voice. For instance, you can say “Alexa, open Hulu” to launch the Hulu app, or ask Alexa to play a specific show or pull up a genre of shows. And if you don’t want to use the remote for some reason, you can also use your Amazon Echo device to control your TV.
This device from Amazon doesn’t just play Amazon content (I did mention Hulu above). You can launch many different apps, including the ones you’d expect, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video (of course), and HBO NOW. You can also open web browsers and find content that way.
The Fire TV has some slight differences from the Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV isn’t the same kind of stick—it has a “pendant” design, so it looks a little different. It’s also designed to be faster, which is a definite plus. And, of course, it can display 4K content, so if you have a 4K TV, the Fire TV will be superior to the Fire TV Stick.
The Fire TV Stick is currently $39.99, while the Fire TV is currently $69.99 (or $74.99 if you get the bundle that includes a TV antenna).
Roku offers a number of different video streaming devices, each a little different. There’s the standard Roku Streaming Stick, the Streaming Stick+ (intended for 4K TVs), the Roku Express, the Roku Express+, (which works on older TVs!), and the Roku Ultra (intended for 4K TVs).
With a Roku device, you simply plug it in and set it up by creating a Roku account (or using an existing one). Depending on which device you choose, you’ll have some different features and options. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s different with each device:
- Roku Express is designed to be easy to set up (for those who are new to video streaming devices); it still has access to the same apps and it has a remote, but its performance may not be as high, and the remote doesn’t have voice control ($29.99)
- Roku Express+ is meant to be able to be used on older TVs; it comes with a composite cable as well as the typical HDMI cable, so if you don’t have HDMI ports, you can plug in the oldschool red, white, and yellow cords ($35)
- Roku Streaming Stick is the standard stick, with access to all the typical apps; it comes with a remote that includes voice control ($49.99)
- Roku Streaming Stick+ has the capabilities of the regular Streaming Stick, but it’s higher quality (it can stream 4K) and it can work well when further from your internet router, so it’s more easily used throughout your home ($69.99)
- Roku Ultra is meant for intense streaming and can stream 4K content; it’s designed to be faster, clearer, and it comes with some extras, like headphones, a feature for finding the remote when it’s lost, and other audio features ($99.99)
Though Roku’s devices all have some things in common, like access to typical apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, they all have some slight differences, so make sure to consider each one before deciding.
As is often the case, Amazon has appeared in the news quite a bit recently. Much of their recent news has had to do with updates to their devices, though their services have been updated, as well. Specifically, their Fire tablets, Echo speakers, and Amazon Key delivery service have seen some changes. Here’s a rundown of what you might have missed!
Fire 7 and HD 8 users can now access Alexa hands-free
Users of Amazon’s current Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 will now have easier access to Alexa. Older devices can already use Alexa by pressing a specific area on their screen, but CNET is reporting that these newer models of the Fire tablet won’t need to be tapped on to wake Alexa. If the tablet’s screen is on or if it’s charging, you’ll be able to wake Alexa. This adds a little convenience, making Alexa a hands-free helper on certain tablets.
You can now have every Echo in your home repeat audio messages
If you have multiple Echo devices in your home, you may appreciate Amazon’s recent update. Mashable is reporting that you can now broadcast from one Echo device to all of your others. You simply have to use one of the triggers, including “Alexa, tell everyone to […]” “Alexa, announce […]” or “Alexa, broadcast […]” and then every other Echo device will announce what you’ve said. Even if you only have one Echo, this could be useful, because you can trigger an announcement through the Alexa app on your phone or tablet.
Fire parental controls can now be changed remotely
If you have kids who use an Amazon tablet with FreeTime, you no longer have to adjust settings on the tablet itself. The Verge has reported that Amazon now has a Parent Dashboard that allows people to change parental controls from a computer or phone. You can also use this feature to check up on what your kids are doing, taking a look at what apps they’ve been using, looking at their activity, and more. The Verge also mentions this is only available for parents whose children are using the kid-oriented versions of Amazon’s Fire tablets.
More smart locks will now work with Amazon’s delivery service
If you use Amazon Key (or are thinking about using it), you now have more options and features. According to Digital Trends, there are now five more smart locks you can use with Amazon Key, giving your more choices with the service. You may remember hearing about Amazon Key—it’s Amazon’s delivery service that has their delivery drivers bring your packages inside by using your installed smart lock. Digital Trends also notes that Amazon has updated their service to include video footage of people who enter or leave homes using the smart locks.