Friday, September 15, 2023

Fire TV removing apps (not really)

I read an article earlier in the month that talked about the Fire TV platform planning to remove apps. The comments were interesting. Some understood what was being done, and some didn't.

Here's what's going on and prompted the decision, and why it's a good decision.

Fire TV, and other devices, only have a certain amount of storage. Manufacturers use as little as possible in order to keep costs down. But they put more than necessary so that users can add app and other personalized data and content on the device. But people want more.

People are correct in that more is better. Some allow expansion with a USB or microSD card. These are often helpful, but there are problems that come along with them.

Roku has always removed apps from a device when storage is a premium. They'll leave the listing of the app and it's configuration data. That way, it's not like you removed it and it took out of your lineup. It appears as if it's still there, and everything about the app is still there. The app itself isn't.

When you go to launch the app, Roku will download the app from it's Channel Store and play it. It's a fairly quick process, and some don't notice. It allows Roku to manage the space on your device.

Other platforms don't do that. They keep everything on the device. If you run out of space, it tells you that you are out of space and need to remove something. Here's an example.

Understand first that I'm making up numbers simply to show how this works. If you have, say, 20 apps on your device, and that's all you have room for, you can't add a 21st app. It will tell you to remove something. And, if App 21 is really large, it may tell you to remove two or three apps. You have to choose which apps to remove to make room for App 21. This can be a problem for some people, and can lead to frustration. Some accept it as "that's the way it is."

Roku has always does it differently. If this was a Roku device we're talking about, it would see that App 21 was too big, but then it would look at the apps you have, see which ones you haven't used in a while, and remove them for you. It left all the data about the app -- logins, preferences, etc. -- and left the app listed in the menu. The part left is pretty small, but the main app itself was removed, making space for App 21.

If you later went to the removed app (which you still see and still have your logins and preferences) and launched it, Roku would repeat the process if space was low. It would download the removed app, launch it, and play it as if it was always there. The process works well.

Now, Amazon is doing the same thing.

When a Fire TV app is offloaded, as opposed to just uninstalled, the app itself will be removed but the user data of the app will remain on the device. This means that if you reinstall the app in the future, it should, theoretically, be immediately ready to use without you needing to sign in or configure the app. I say theoretically because if the app has been updated in a significant way since you last had it installed, there’s always a chance the newer version of the app might be incompatible with the old user data that was left on the Fire TV when the app was offloaded.

The writers of the article aren't too keen on the idea, but if implemented properly, it'll work. That's one of the reasons Roku works so well, after all.

My Streaming Life has benefited from the way Roku does it. And now Fire TV doing the same thing will make it that much better. I don't use Fire TV as much as Roku, but when I do, it'll be a much better experience.

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