Compared to Netflix, Disney Plus and other major streaming services, Prime Video has never been the most elegant and intuitive app. Its user experience lacks the polish of these competitors and feels more connected together. There are good sides to what’s out there – like the long-running X-Ray feature that displays cast information and other trivial facts when content is paused. But Prime Video hasn’t received any major overhaul or rethink in many years.
At long last, that day changes. Starting now and continuing over the next two weeks, Amazon will launch a new Prime Video experience for Android and connected living room devices, including smart TVs, Fire TV streaming devices, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, and game consoles. Amazon says the experience is designed to be “less busy and stressful for our customers.” The result is, frankly, something a lot like Netflix. Perhaps this is the best.
Prime Video’s main navigation has been moved to the left side of the screen and is now a vertical column of icons. These six main areas are “Search”, “Home”, “Store”, “Live TV”, “Free” and “My Stuff”. The Home section contains subsections for Movies, TV Shows, and Sports. The store has similar sub-menus for Prime channels (also known as subscriptions), rentals/purchases, and deals.
The Top 10 list is now on the home screen so you can easily go back to what’s popular, and the new Prime Video is even clearer about the entertainment included with your Prime subscription. These shows and movies are marked with a blue check mark in the description, while content that requires rent or purchase will have a golden shopping bag icon. This is cleaner than adding a badge to every piece of TV show or movie artwork like Amazon has been doing before, although it does mean you’ll have to dig around in the listings a bit to figure out what it is.
As you go, you’ll find that many of the rotors hold the same horizontal artwork as before. But Prime Video also introduced what it calls “super rotators,” with a poster-style vertical graphic that expands into a video preview when you hover over a selection. Again, stop me if you see this concept elsewhere.
The Prime Video redesign was an 18-month project. As it neared the finish line, the new experience was overseen by Ben Smith, who is now Amazon’s vice president of product for Prime Video and Prime Studios. Smith is the same CEO who led Hulu’s radical redesign in 2017. In hindsight, Hulu tried to reinvent the user interface and pushed too far in a new direction. Customers were quick to voice their grievances, and the company spent several months reining in some changes and getting back to what was familiar.
By comparison, Prime Video’s redesign is deliberate and calculated – and as the similarities to Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney Plus demonstrate – it’s much less daring. Amazon did extensive usability testing and user research, and found that people generally took the changes very quickly. Given the growing similarity between all of these apps, this isn’t too surprising.
In some cases, the goal was to better highlight Prime Video’s underutilized privileges. The new, dedicated Live TV Center provides a guide that brings together line programming from channel subscriptions like AMC Plus and Paramount Plus, plus exclusive Prime Live Sports events and ad-supported content free for all. This interface is already available on the web but is likely to be used more widely now that it has got a lot of exposure in the Prime Video app. “In usability testing, we repeatedly heard the phrase, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know Prime Video had live TV,'” product manager Helena Serna said during a recent press preview.
Prime Video has a new layer of paint and layout, but popular features like multi-user profiles, X-Ray, and Alexa are still there. Just like before, you’ll see a great deal of promoted content, and Amazon is still trying to push subscriptions for third-party content to customers — just as rumors circulate about HBO’s possible return to the fray.
Some annoyances have remained, too: Prime Video still delivers TV seasons in weird ways (Episode 0: the trailer, anyone?) and can sometimes separate 4K and HD versions of the same movie. Some of these scratch-off picks are due to the fact that Amazon still sell Lots of this content, while competitors just have to worry about letting you stream it.
After this initial phase of rollout, the new Prime Video design will arrive on iOS and the web in the coming months. However, not all devices will be able to run the redesigned experience. For example, the PlayStation 3 and the third generation Apple TV will not be updated from 2012. In cases where devices do not get the new version, they will stick with what they currently have and will continue to provide access to Prime Video in the future
The next several weeks will prove to be a good test of the new Prime experience with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power And the NFL Thursday Night Football Both debuted in September. Amazon plans to continue iterating on the new design based on customer feedback.