Amazon is coming out with a third generation of its Alexa Voice Remote, and it includes some unwelcome new buttons that will take you to the Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu apps. If you’re one of the people who subscribes to and regularly uses all of those exact streaming services, this remote could be a nice upgrade. But for everyone else, the buttons will only add friction and annoyance to the Fire TV control experience.
We here at The Verge have talked about why we don’t like these buttons before. They turn your remote into a canvas for permanent advertising for services you may not even use, and they take up space that could be used for buttons that take you to services you do use. If you, say, don’t subscribe to Disney Plus or Hulu, then the buttons are, at best, useless to you and, at worst, waiting to be accidentally pressed, leaving you to back out of an app that’s begging you to subscribe.
The obvious alternative is to make the buttons mappable to the services you use and not put permanent branding on them. If the remote instead came with four buttons you could use to open your preferred streaming services, this would be a very different story. Alas, it is not. But hey, now the voice control button is an Alexa button for even more branding! (I will concede that this isn’t that bad, given that it was already called the Alexa Voice remote.)
I don’t want to make it sound like a few annoying buttons (that could actually be useful to some people) are the end of the world or that this new remote has no redeeming qualities. There’s actually one more new button that takes you to a “guide” showing you a cable-esque timeline of all the content available from the live providers you have, such as Sling, Hulu, or YouTube TV.
Unlike the branded ones, it’s small and not brightly colored, so it’s easy to ignore if you don’t need it (and it won’t be as prone to accidental presses). I just wish remote manufacturers would let us choose the functions we want on our remotes, especially since the streaming service landscape is ever-changing, and people have taken to subscribing to one service for a few months then switching to another.