The Roku Channel Is Now Available On Amazon Fire TV | MakeUseOf

If you have any Amazon Fire TV device, you can now watch The Roku Channel. The best part of all is that it's completely free.

What's The Roku Channel?

The Roku Channel launched in 2017 and is a free ad-supported service from Roku that broadcasts thousands of movies and TV shows.

You can stream Hollywood hits, children's shows, true crime documentaries, and much more.

Not only that, but The Roku Channel gives you access to over a hundred live TV channels like Fubo Sports Network, Reuters, and USA Today.

While you can add in paid subscriptions to providers like Starz and Showtime when using a Roku device, this won't be available on Fire TV. That said, there's enough free content on The Roku Channel to keep you busy.

According to the Roku blog, the platform streams to 43 million US citizens as of the second quarter of 2020.

How to Watch The Roku Channel on Amazon Fire TV

The Roku Channel has of course always been available on Roku's own devices, but now it's coming to all Amazon Fire TV platforms. This includes the streaming devices and smart TVs.

You can find The Roku Channel easily. On your Fire TV device, simply search for it from the top navigation bar. You can also download the app from Amazon's website.

Alternatively, use the power of Alexa. Say "Alexa, find The Roku Channel app" to get the app in the first place, then "Alexa, open The Roku Channel" once it's downloaded.

Speaking to Variety, Sandeep Gupta, VP of Amazon Fire TV, said:

We are excited that the Roku Channel is now available for all our millions of Amazon Fire TV customers in the U.S. We’ve always strived to have a broad selection of content on Fire TV, and believe this is a great addition that all our customers will enjoy.

What's Next for The Roku Channel?

Considering Roku has its own streaming devices, you might think it odd that it would place its app on a competitor's service---especially since Amazon Prime Video is available on Roku.

However, Roku want to get as many people in its ecosystem as possible. It makes nearly all of its revenue from ad sales and subscriptions. People watching The Roku Channel via Amazon Fire TV devices is only going to be a good thing.

Roku is also working on an Android and iOS app that will be available later this year.

Of course, the company isn't neglecting its own platform. It recently secured NBCUniversal's Peacock on Roku.


Disney+ Finally Organizes the MCU Movies for Fans | MakeUseOf

Disney+ launched in November 2019, so it's still a youngster in the streaming world. That said, the service is doing its best to catch up with competitors.

Now, it seems Disney has finally decided to sort out the way it presents its franchises, as all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are now logically organized into categories.

What is the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

First, a bit of a recap for those not in the know: the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are a series of superhero films based on characters like Black Panther, Captain America, and Thor.

Although Marvel produced films before it, the MCU as it is now known began in 2008 with Iron Man. The company had high hopes for the film's performance, but Iron Man exceeded its expectations.

Over the following years, Iron Man was joined by the likes of The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, before cumulating in the epic coming together of characters with 2012's The Avengers.

Disney+ Now Presents the MCU in Phases

The MCU is split up into different "phases", each with an overarching storyline. For those who dip in and out of the films it's not a big deal, but Marvel fans take the timeline and canon very seriously.

Until now, all Marvel films had been lumped together on Disney+ without much thought given to the organization. That's no longer the case, as all MCU films are now split into distinct categories.

The new categories are:

  • Phase One, Phase Two, Phase Three - The theatrical release order.
  • Timeline Order - Ordered chronologically by narrative, though the correct order is a debate amongst fans.
  • Legacy Movies - Those that sit outside the MCU timelines, like X-Men and Fantastic Four.
  • Action Series and Specials - TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., behind-the-scenes shows, and documentaries.
  • Legacy Animation - Classic cartoons like Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk.

You can see these wherever you watch Disney+. Just head to the homepage and go to the Marvel section.

Easier to Discover What Disney+ Offers

It's great that Disney+ is making these changes to the platform. While it has a wealth of great archive and modern Disney content, it's important to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they want to watch. The more users have to fiddle around in search menus, the more likely they are to give up.

Of course, there's way more than just Marvel on Disney+. There's The Simpsons, Pixar, and Star Wars to name but a few.


Some Apple TV+ Members Will Get Free Subscription Extensions

Apple is giving away extra months of Apple TV+ membership to a large number of subscribers for free.

It's because Apple wants to thank its subscribers and keep them entertained during the winter. Or, if you want to be skeptic, keep its membership figures boosted.

Are You Eligible for a Free Apple TV+ Extension?

As first reported by TechCrunch, Apple is giving many existing Apple TV+ customers a free extension to their subscription.

When Apple TV+ launched, purchase of eligible Apple products would also come with a free annual subscription to the streaming service. If you entered this deal at launch, that means your subscription is set to end in November.

Now, Apple has announced that it is extending those subscriptions. If your subscription is set to end between November 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021, your next billing date will now instead be February 2021.

According to Apple, via TechCrunch, the company are offering this generosity because it "knows everyone is still looking at a tough winter ahead filled with COVID-related restrictions".

That's certainly true---many people around the world will be stuck indoors, desperate for entertainment as movies get delayed and theaters close.

Of course, it also helps keep Apple TV+ subscriber figures healthy, and might incentivize those existing users to keep extending their membership beyond February 2021.

Monthly Apple TV+ Users Get Free Months Too

If you subscribe to Apple TV+ on a monthly subscription, don't worry. You aren't forgotten.

If your subscription start date is before November 1, 2020, you will get a $4.99 credit for November, December, and January. The credit will be automatically applied if you keep your account open and you do not need to activate anything.

Anyone who is eligible for this offer, whether it's from an annual or monthly subscription, will receive an email to confirm the details.

Apple has also confirmed that it will be continuing its program where you get a free year's subscription with purchase of one of its devices.

Is Apple TV+ Worth It?

Apple TV+ had a slightly shaky start. Reviews over some of its launch titles, like The Morning Show, were mixed despite the star appeal, and the platform didn't have much content to offer.

However, over time, the service has grown to play host to some exciting original films and TV shows. Popular shows like Dickinson are returning for a second season, and a host of new nature documentaries are currently rolling out.


Share Spotify Music and Podcasts With New Promo Cards | MakeUseOf

Spotify has made it easier than ever to share your favorite music and podcasts with others.

That's because it has introduced Promo Cards, a new feature that anyone can use to create personalized assets to share on social media.

What Are Spotify Promo Cards?

Promo Cards is a new Spotify feature primarily targeted at artists and creators, though it can easily be used by anyone.

Promo Cards are easily customizable graphics that you can share on social media to promote an artist, their songs, their album, or when they have been featured on a popular playlist.

Some eligible playlists include African Heat, Hot Country, Just Good Music, Pop Rising, Today's Top Hits, and Viva Latino.

You can also create a Promo Card for a podcast show or episode. Spotify continues to make a push into the podcast world, as shown by features like the podcast playlists to aid discover.

These Promo Cards can be shared on places like Twitter and Instagram because the creation tool allows you to easily change the size of the graphic.

How Do I Create Spotify Promo Cards?

To create a graphic of your own, just head to the special Promo Cards website.

The site requires no login and is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German.

First, select whether you want to create a Promo Card for an artist or podcaster. If you choose the former, you can switch between a specific artist, album, or song. For the latter, you can choose between a show or episode.

Once selected, input your search term in the field and click the Search button to begin the process.

On the next screen, confirm your selection on the right-hand pane and click Customize.

First, change the background color of the graphic (from a small preset of choices generated to complement the artist or album artwork).

Second, switch to the Size tab to choose between Portrait, Landscape, or Square.

When you're happy with your customizations, click Share. From here you can download the static image, copy the URL, and share directly to Twitter and Facebook.

Listen to Spotify With Friends

With Promo Cards, it's now easier than ever to share your love of artists and podcasters with the world.

However, you can take this one step further by using Spotify's Group Session feature. This allows you to listen to Spotify with friends and family online, even when you're not in the same place.


Apple Joins Coalition to Help Combat Piracy | MakeUseOf

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment is an industry coalition that exists to try and combat piracy.

In a move that signals its commitment to original content, Apple TV+ has joined the group.

What Is the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment?

The Motion Picture Association (MPA) is an American group founded in 1922 that is chaired by the major film studios in the US: Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros.

Netflix joined the MPA in 2019, which signified a significant shift in the industry---a streaming platform joining alongside traditional Hollywood studios.

Broadly, the MPA aims to champion the movie and television industry and protect copyright.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a group launched in 2017 that formed from the MPA. It's a "global coalition of leading content creators and on-demand entertainment services committed to supporting the legal marketplace for video content and addressing the challenge of online piracy".

Members of ACE include those in the MPA, but it also includes other streaming services like Amazon and Hulu, along with global creators such as BBC Studios and Star India.

Why Has Apple Joined ACE?

Apple is joining the governing board of ACE. It's a move that shows its commitment not only to tackling piracy of copyrighted materials, but also to the continued production of original content on its Apple TV+ streaming service.

It also cements the bond between the new-wave streaming studios and the typical Hollywood ones, as Netflix and Apple now both sit on the ACE board.

Shows like Dickinson, Long Way Up, and Trying are all part of Apple TV+'s growing catalog. The service costs $4.99 a month and is also available free for a year on purchase of eligible Apple products.

Does Tackling Piracy Actually Work?

According to statistics compiled by DataProt, over 17 million people in the US alone downloaded copyright material in 2018. Apparently, illegal downloading of copyrighted materials uses 24% of global bandwidth and 70,000 jobs are lost every year in the US because of music piracy.

It's clear that piracy is a problem to the industry, so it makes sense that it would want to protect its own interests. The belief is that by shutting down illegal sources of pirated material, people will be driven to legitimate providers. However, detractors will say that other illegal sites will simply appear to replace those closed.

Piracy Can Be Dangerous

Piracy doesn't just impact the film and television industry. It's a problem for the entertainment world as a whole, including video games. If you're thinking of pirating something, think again. Legality aside, it can pose a real security risk.


Only YouTube Premium Members Can Test Experimental Features Now

YouTube is now locking access to experimental features behind its YouTube Premium subscription service.

Want Experimental YouTube Features? You Need Premium

Google is always experimenting with new features. It's not uncommon for these features to be tested on a small batch of users before rolling out to the public at large.

That's equally true of YouTube. Existing features like video chapters, picture-in-picture mode, and the Explore tab were all beta tested by seemingly random users first.

Now, YouTube has changed how that works. While it's unclear if the change is permanent or temporary, the YouTube experimental features page now reads that "for a limited time, Premium members can try out new features".

YouTube Premium is an $11.99 a month membership service that removes ads, lets you store videos offline, and get access to YouTube Music Premium. You can also enjoy a decent range of YouTube original content.

Whatever happens, it's safe to assume that YouTube will still test some features on the general user base, simply because the audience and data will be different.

There are currently three experimental features that YouTube Premium members can try out, each available for a limited time:

  • Watch on your Home screen - iOS only, to watch with sound and seek within videos directly from the Home screen. Available until October 20th.
  • Voice search on web - Chrome only, use your voice to search for videos. Available until October 20th.
  • Filter by topic in additional languages- Find personalized topic filters in Spanish, French, or Portuguese. Available until October 27th.

Is YouTube Premium Worth It?

While it's unlikely that locking experimental features behind a subscription service is going to entice anyone, it's another added benefit to YouTube Premium. Whether it's worth the cost is another question entirely.


Netflix Is Now Available on Facebook Portal TV | MakeUseOf

Netflix has been absent from Facebook's Portal since it launched. That changes today, as Facebook has announced that all of its Portal TV devices worldwide will now run Netflix.

Netflix Is Now on Facebook Portal TV

Portal from Facebook is a device primarily designed to conduct video calls. One of its key selling points is that the camera automatically pans and zooms to respond to what's happening in the room. It even widens the view as more people enter.

The Portal comes in different models, one of which is the Portal TV---designed to connect to a large screen, it offers support for things like Alexa, AR experiences, and WhatsApp.

Portal TV launched in November 2019 with support for video streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, and Sling. Curiously, it was missing one of the largest platforms: Netflix.

As announced on About Facebook, Netflix's absence has been rectified. In all countries where Portal is sold, Netflix is now available on Portal TV.

If you don't see the Netflix app, head to the Portal's settings page and manually check for updates. Once you have the app, simply sign in with your Netflix details and you're good to start watching.

This news comes not long after Amazon announced that the Amazon Echo Show would support Netflix, and when Netflix arrived on the Google Nest Hub back in July 2020.

It's clear that Netflix is keen to push its service on to as many smart devices as possible.

One-Touch Access to Netflix on the Portal TV Remote

Facebook has also created a new remote for the Portal TV. The remote features one-touch buttons for Prime Video, Facebook Watch, and Netflix.

This means it's simple to access Netflix on your Portal TV. Just pick up the remote, tap the Netflix button, and you can begin.

According to Facebook, the remote is shipping immediately with the Portal TV when purchased through the official Portal store. Other retailers will carry the stock "in the coming weeks".

Should You Buy a Facebook Portal TV?

It's highly unlikely that the addition of Netflix to the Facebook Portal TV is going to be a device seller for anyone. Besides, the ubiquity of the streaming service means that it's likely already available on other devices in the home, like the smart TV itself.

Nonetheless, it's good that the support is there. The only question remains is whether you should even trust the Facebook Portal with your privacy in the first place.


Netflix Introduces New Section to Highlight Upcoming Releases

Netflix is always tweaking its user interface to try and get subscribers to discover and watch its new content.

Now, the introduction of a "New & Popular" tab rolls several sections into one to aid discovery.

If your smart TV has Netflix, you should now see a new menu category called "New & Popular".

The aim of this page is to highlight the latest Netflix content, along with teasing what's coming to the platform over the next year.

Featured on this tab are a number of pre-existing Netflix rows. "New on Netflix" shows the latest releases, "Coming Soon" is content that will be launching on Netflix imminently, and "Top 10" lists the most popular shows in your country that day.

The new addition to this page is the "Worth the Wait" row. This will display the movies and shows coming to Netflix in the next 15 to 365 days. You can also set a reminder to be notified when the content launches.

Last year, Netflix lost subscribers for the first time, though it has performed well during the global coronavirus pandemic as people are stuck indoors looking for entertainment.

The introduction of the "New & Popular" tab is a small first step for the streaming giant to try and retain its millions of worldwide subscribers.

Find What to Watch on Netflix

Finding something good to watch on Netflix can get tricky after a while. That's why it's handy to use a number of online tools and apps to help you discover the next best thing.


You Can Now Search for Spotify Songs With Lyrics | MakeUseOf

If you struggle to remember the name of a song, but have a couple of lines stuck in your head, Spotify has now made it easier to find what you want to listen to.

That's because the Spotify app on Android and iOS now supports searching for a song by its lyrics.

How to Find a Song on Spotify Using Lyrics

Following the news that Spotify is working on a karaoke feature, the music streaming platform is making more use from its lyric integration.

As announced by Spotify designer Lin Wang on Twitter, you can now find songs by lyrics on Android and iOS.

Simply type some of the lyrics into the search bar and Spotify will surface all the songs that match.

No longer do you need to scramble around on lyric websites or use music recognition apps like Shazam. Even if you don't know the song name or artist, all you need to know are a few of the words.

It's a feature that is frankly long overdue---Apple Music has done the same thing since 2018.

Hopefully this new lyric search feature rolls out to desktop platforms soon, though there's no word from Spotify.

Find a Song by Hum

If searching by lyrics still isn't good enough to find the song you need, you could go one step further and use an app that searches by what you hum.


Older Macs Won’t Be Able to Play Netflix in 4K | MakeUseOf

It's currently impossible for the Mac operating system to play Netflix in 4K HDR. With the release of macOS Big Sur, that's set to change.

However, if your Mac was released before 2018 then the enhanced resolution won't be available to you.

4K Netflix Is Coming to Macs

macOS Big Sur is the next version of Apple's operating system and is due for release later in fall 2020.

With the update, you will be able to watch Netflix in 4K on your Mac. However, there are some prerequisites to this.

The first is that you have to subscribe to the Netflix premium plan which costs $15.99 a month. The second is that you have to use Safari---other web browsers aren't supported and can only stream Netflix in 720p.

The largest caveat is that your Mac must have the Apple T2 security chip inside it.

T2 is a second-generation, custom silicon security chip for Mac. According to Apple, "by redesigning and integrating several controllers found in other Mac computers ... the T2 chip delivers new capabilities to your Mac".

Neither Apple nor Netflix have commented on why this limitation exists, though The Verge theorizes that the T2 chip has built-in support for the HEVC video codec, along with the ability to process video quickly and smoothly.

Don't forget that streaming in 4K also uses a lot of data, so your internet connection will need to be up to the job.

Which Macs Will Support Netflix in 4K?

The following Mac computers have the Apple T2 security chip, which means they will be able to play Netflix in 4K:

  • iMac introduced in 2020
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro introduced in 2019
  • Mac mini introduced in 2018
  • MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later
  • MacBook Pro introduced in 2018 or later

If you're unsure what model Mac you have, there's an easy way to see if your Mac has the T2 chip. To check, follow these instructions:

  1. Hold the Option key and click Apple menu > System Information.
  2. On the left-hand sidebar, click either Controller or iBridge (the option you see depends on your version of macOS).
  3. If Apple T2 chip is listed on the main pane, your Mac has the T2 chip and can support 4K Netflix.

Can You Watch 4K Netflix Elsewhere?

The ability to watch Netflix in 4K has been available on other platforms for a long time. For example, you can do it on Windows 10 and on devices like the Roku Premiere.