SAN FRANCISCO – Roku is looking to outshine its rivals by adding a headphone-listening option to the latest version of its thumb-sized stick for streaming Internet video.
The headphone option works with Roku’s next-generation streaming stick and its updated smartphone application unveiled Tuesday. The stick and app sync together so a viewer can hear the audio of an Internet video though headphones plugged into a smartphone’s jack.
Roku built the feature in response to the popularity of its recent line of video-streaming boxes that can be heard through headphones plugged into the remote control.
The headphone feature on the updated app only will work with the new streaming stick for now, but Roku says it hopes to extend the capability to some of its older streaming boxes that don’t enable viewers to listen to a video on headphones.
The new streaming stick is also equipped with a more powerful chip that gives it eight times more processing power than its predecessor. That translates into faster scrolling through video menus and quicker searches for something to watch, too.
Roku is still pricing the stick at $50, the same as its predecessor.
Although it’s still much smaller than most of its rivals, privately held Roku is a pioneer in Internet video streaming.
The Los Gatos, California, company got an early jump in 2008 when it released its first box for streaming Netflix on big-screen TVs, and has built a loyal following even as better-known and richer companies like Apple, Google and Amazon.com have stepped up the competition. Many of the features on the rival devices have been copied from Roku.
Roku says it currently has 10 million active accounts using its video-streaming devices. Its audience collectively streamed about 5.5 billion hours of Internet video last year, a 73 per cent increase from 2014, according to the company.