In a joint press release, Amazon and Google announced today that YouTube apps will soon be available on Amazon devices, and the Prime Video app will be returning to Chromecast and Android TVs.
How Did We Get Here?
This is the most significant compromise we’ve seen in a war that’s been brewing for a long time. Amazon dealt the first real blow back in 2015, when it stopped selling Google Chromecast and Apple TV because they didn’t play nice with Prime Video. “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion,” an Amazon spokesperson said at the time.
In December 2017, Google fired back. It abruptly pulled the YouTube app off all Amazon devices in response to Amazon refusing to sell its hardware. In a statement, Google said:
“Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make (its) Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of (our sister company) Nest’s latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV.”
Official Google Statement
Recently, there have been signs that the two sides were warming. A year after YouTube was initially pulled, Amazon quietly made Google Chromecast available again in its online store. Finally, they released a joint statement today saying that they would be lifting all restrictions.
YouTube Apps are Coming to Fire TV Devices and Smart TVs
YouTube and its live streaming service counterpart YouTube TV will both be coming to Fire TV devices and Fire TV edition smart TVs “later this year.” (The specific date is the biggest remaining unknown; the press release says “later this year” and “in the coming months” at various points.) Unfortunately, this deal doesn’t include the Echo Show. When I reviewed Amazon’s smart display in March, the lack of a YouTube app was one of my biggest bones to pick, so this is disappointing news.
While you could still access YouTube through Amazon’s Silk browser on Fire TVs, having an actual app will improve the experience a ton. Most notably, you’ll be able to use Alexa to play YouTube videos directly, rather than opening the browser and typing your search out manually. Amazon also touts the ability to “play videos in 4K HDR at 60 fps” through the new YouTube app, but this is a bit empty. Amazon’s default browser, Silk, released an update in July 2018 to support 4K HDR video, so Fire TV users have had access to YouTube’s 4K treasure trove for a while.
Prime Video Will be Available on Android TV and Chromecast
The 4K TV owners who will really be impacted by this announcement are the Android TV and Chromecast users. (If you’ve purchased a Sony, HiSense, or Philips TV in the past year, it’s probably an Android TV.) Having Amazon’s Prime Video app on board gives you access to tons of 4K content. With a Prime membership, you’ll get all of its original shows and movies in 4K, along with licensed 4K titles like “Arrival,” “Hereditary,” and “Moonlight.” Even if you’re not a Prime member, Amazon also has about 250 4K titles available to rent or buy.
The Bottom Line
For a year and a half, this has been one of the most frustrating feuds in tech. While this news is a relief for consumers, we’re probably not totally out of the woods yet. Amazon still doesn’t sell Google Home devices, for instance. Here’s hoping both parties can learn to compete without hurting the people who actually use their stuff.