LOS ANGELES - Apple has ways of encouraging you to buy more of its products: It offers bonus features on devices such as the iPhone and iPad that work only when paired with other Apple gadgets. ē Amazon does it, too. ē It's understandable. The devices need to communicate with one another at a deep level, and that's more easily done when a company controls the software on both ends. And these features are more like extras and don't affect the products' basic functionality.
LOS ANGELES ó Apple has ways of encouraging you to buy more of its products: It offers bonus features on devices such as the iPhone and iPad that work only when paired with other Apple gadgets.
Amazon does it, too.
Itís understandable. The devices need to communicate with one another at a deep level, and thatís more easily done when a company controls the software on both ends. And these features are more like extras and donít affect the productsí basic functionality.
Take streaming-TV devices, for example: These gadgets cost about $100 and let you watch Netflix, Hulu and other online services on a big-screen TV. Though you donít need any other device for basic streaming, some advanced features in Amazonís Fire TV require a Kindle Fire tablet or a Fire phone, while some Apple TV features work only with iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
As a result, youíre wise to consider the devices you already own when you buy a new gadget, as these devices become more powerful when combined. Hereís a closer look at how the Apple TV and the Fire TV work with other gadgets from Apple and Amazon.Amazon Fire TV
With a Fire phone or tablet, you can start a movie or TV show on one device and continue on another, at least when youíre using the companyís own streaming service, Amazon Instant Video. When watching on the TV, you can have the phone or tablet display trivia, cast information and character summaries ó culled from IMDb and other sources. Information on the mobile device changes from scene to scene.
Consider these scenarios:
ē Youíre near the end of a movie on the Fire TV at home but need to head out. Just pull down the Fire phoneís notification center and switch the movie to the phone. You wonít miss a scene. It works the other way if you start on the phone on the way home.
ē An actor seems familiar, but you canít remember his name or what else heís been in. With video playing on the Fire TV, check the phone or tablet to see head shots of actors in a given scene. Tap a head shot for more information. The feature also works with songs playing during certain scenes ó and you can buy the song through Amazon, of course.
ē You also can use the phone or tablet to pause, rewind, forward or go directly to a specific scene on the TV. Or you can check Facebook and email on the device once youíve had your fill of cast information.
What about streaming services beyond Amazonís? If you turn on a screen-mirroring function, anything appearing on the phone or tablet will appear on the TV. You have to dig through the settings on the phone or tablet to turn it on, though. Beyond video, I had a lot of fun pointing the phoneís camera at my cousinsí kids so they could see themselves on the TV live.
Unfortunately, audio and lips had a tendency to be out of sync when I mirrored using my home Wi-Fi network. Itís better to work with an app that directly supports dual-screen use. Only Amazon Instant Video does so for now.Apple TV
You can start video on an iPhone or an iPad and continue on the TV using a feature called AirPlay. Youíre not limited to Appleís own iTunes service, so this is a way to get Amazon Instant Video on the big screen.
However, services have the option to disable this capability. Showtime and ABC Family, for instance, have done this. Their apps lack the AirPlay button and arenít available on the Apple TV.
Apple doesnít offer supplementary information on cast and characters, as Amazon does. And while you can start something on a phone or tablet, switch to the TV and switch back, this doesnít work if you start the video on the TV.
Apple does offer screen mirroring, and itís easier to get to than Amazonís version. Just swipe up from the bottom for the Control Center. Itís not true screen mirroring, as video disappears from the mobile device when it shows up on the TV. This actually improves video quality because youíre not wasting Internet bandwidth duplicating the stream on a device youíre not watching.
You also can use screen mirroring from a Mac or use the Apple TV as a second monitor to extend your Macís desktop space.
Unfortunately, mirroring is sometimes blocked for copyright reasons. I canít fling DVDs from the Mac to the Apple TV, for instance. In trying to fling Showtime and ABC Family from the phone or tablet, I can get only audio on the TV. I havenít run into that with any of the video apps Iíve tried on the Fire.
Beyond streaming TV, Apple devices soon will work together even more extensively. The upcoming Yosemite operating system for the Mac and iOS 8 for iPhones and iPads will have a set of features called Continuity. You can start an e-mail on one device and finish on another. Or you can answer phone calls on the Mac. Stay tuned.