A new $49 Roku Streaming Stick gets slimmer and runs faster than its predecessor, and it lets consumers listen privately to soundtracks through headphones connected to a smartphone or tablet.
Consumers will be able to listen to soundtracks through wired headphones and Bluetooth headphones connected to their mobile device, or they could choose to listen through the mobile device’s onboard speakers. The mobile device must run the new Roku Mobile app.
Private listening through a mobile device isn’t available with any competing streaming stick or set-top streaming player, said chief marketing officer Matthew Anderson.
The new Stick, which plugs into a TV’s HDMI port, doesn’t step up to 4K Ultra HD streaming from 1080p. Ultra HD resolution is left to the $129 Roku 4 set-top streaming player, which is one of four set-top streaming players available from the company.
The Wi-Fi-equipped HDMI 1.4 Stick is priced at a suggested $49, as was its predecessor until a recent price reduction to $39.
The new Streaming Stick is available for pre-‐order today at Roku.com and will be available later this month through national retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and others.
Speed stick: The Stick steps up to a quad-core processor from a single-core processor, delivering eight times more MIPs (millions of instructions per second) than its predecessor and offering more processing power than the competing Fire and Chromecast sticks, said Anderson. “We have the only stick with a quad-core processor,” he said.
With the new processor, the stick delivers faster boot-up time, app launching and scrolling, and it displays graphics more quickly. The Streaming Stick continues to offer dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n with MIMO.
7.1 OS: The Streaming Stick is the first Roku product available with the new 7.1 OS, which will be rolled out to all current-‐generation Roku players through a software update expected to be completed this month. The update will be rolled out to Roku TV models shortly after.
The new OS adds two new search functions, which will also be available on Roku’s set-top players. A Browse Movies function lets users browse through movies selected by their popularity and trendiness across Roku channels. A Browse TV function does the same for TV episodes.
Carryover features include Hotel and Dorm Connect, which lets users log onto managed Wi-Fi networks in dorms and hotels by entering the hotel or dorm password into a smartphone browser. Cross-channel search also continues, letting users search across more than 30 channels for movies and TV shows by title, actor or director.
My Feed also continues, updating consumers on when specific movies and TV shows become available, when their prices change, or when they become available for free.
New app: As for the new Roku Mobile app, it’s available today, and it makes private listening through a smartphone or tablet available only with the Stick, not with Roku’s set-top players. The Roku 3 and Roku 4 players, however, come with Wi-Fi remotes that feature headphone outputs for connecting wired headphones.
The mobile app also turns smartphones into a Roku remote, giving consumers a choice of remote devices. Google’s Chromecast, Anderson noted, lacks a dedicated remote and requires a smartphone for remote control.
Like before, the Roku Mobile App can cast a phone’s videos, music and photos to a TV connected to the Streaming Stick, Roku player or Roku TVs. With all but the $49 Roku 1 and special-edition Roku SE available last Christmas, users with compatible Android or Windows devices can use Roku’s screen mirroring (beta) feature to mirror the screens of their devices to the TV.
Sales: Privately held Roku enjoyed its best-ever year for player sales in 2015, having launched its first product in 2008, said Anderson. The number of monthly active users worldwide grew 50 percent in the past year to hit more than 10 million in February, he added. Monthly active users refers to people who have streamed in the past 30 days. Total hours of use grew last year by 72 percent to 5.5 billion hours.
Anderson didn’t say when Roku would add high dynamic range (HDR) capability to its 4K-capable Roku 4.