Amazon’s Fire TV 3 is a 64-bit device running a 32-bit operating system

Since the Amazon Fire TV 2 was a 64-bit device, many people seem to have assumed that the new Fire TV 3 would also be a 64-bit device. In reality, that’s only partially the case, because while the Fire TV 3 has a 64-bit CPU, the current version of Fire OS 6 running on the device is actually a 32-bit operating system.

The 3rd generation Fire TV has a brand new Amlogic S905Z CPU. It’s so new that not much is known about it. What we do know is that it’s part of the S905 family of processors, which is Amlogic’s first line of 64-bit products. However, trying to install a 64-bit app will result in the installation failing, as many trying to install the 64-bit version of Kodi have learned.

If you run the ADB command adb shell cat /proc/cpuinfo on the Fire TV 3 to display information about its CPU reports that it has a AArch64 processor. This means that the device definitely has a 64-bit CPU.

Running the ADB command adb shell getprop ro.product.cpu.abilist on the Fire TV 3 to view the device’s Application Binary Interfaces (ABI) reveals that it’s missing the arm64-v8a ABI that you would expect a 64-bit Android device to have. That explains why 64-bit apps will not install on the Fire TV 3. The current version of Fire OS 6, which on my device is version 6.2.1.0, is a 32-bit operating system.

Now that we know what’s going on, what does it mean? Not much really, but that’s just my opinion. You can find thousands of pages of forum posts full of people arguing the pros and cons of the 32-bit vs. 64-bit debate, and honestly, I don’t know enough about it to confidently give an opinion. What I do know is that most people are in agreement that a device benefits most from a 64-bit architecture if it has 4GB or more of RAM, which the Fire TV 3 nor any other Fire TV model have.

If had to guess why Amazon put a 32-bit operating system on 64-bit hardware, I’d say it’s because this is the first release of Fire OS 6 and making it universally usable was probably a priority. By making the first version of Fire OS 6 a 32-bit operating system, it means it can be used on both 32-bit and 64-bit devices. Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire Tablet models consist of a mixture of 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. It makes sense to, at first, concentrate on an OS that could theoretically be installed on all devices and then work up to a 64-bit version later.

Amazon’s Fire TV Hardware Specifications page for developers lists whether the CPU of each Fire TV and Fire TV Stick model is 32-bit or 64-bit, but the new listing for the Fire TV 3 is distinctly missing that information. This could be because they don’t yet know if they’ll be updating the Fire TV 3 to a 64-bit version of Fire OS 6 at some point in the future.

For now, all this just means you should stick to choosing a 32-bit app when sideloading, if you have the option to choose between a 64-bit or 32-bit version. Apps installed from the Amazon Appstore will automatically install the correct version, so there’s no need to worry there.

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20 comments
  1. xnamkcor says:

    How much effort is required to develop both a 32 and a 64-bit program for Android? If I did have a 64-bit device and OS, would I need to be concerned that an app wouldn’t work when it works on a 32-bit device/OS? I’m sure large companies like Facebook and Google can easily just develop both versions of an application, but what about real indie devs?

    • AFTVnews says:

      32-bit apps will run perfectly fine on a 64-bit device/OS. There’s no concern with that at all. I’ve yet to come across an app that has a 64-bit version but doesn’t have a 32-bit version.

      The difficulty of making a 64-bit version varies greatly on the specific app and how much effort is made to take advantage of the potential benefits of moving to a 64-bit architecture.

      • xnamkcor says:

        Dolphin(Gamecube/Wii) devs refuse to make a 32-bit version because there are features they apparently use in 64-bit that they don’t want to have to manage two separate builds for. And they did it even when there were 0-4 devices with Android 64-bit in the wild.

        But, other than that I can’t think of any.

        • PurplePecker says:

          Can you name a “feature” in a 64-bit architecture that is not available in 32-bit? Register widths rarely impact source code.

          • xnamkcor says:

            That’d be up to them to state. Probably something not technically not in 32-bit, but only ever is included in 64-bit devices or OSs.

  2. Taveras says:

    Hi I have the new firetv (3-GEN) and I have Kodi-17.5.1 ARMV8A (64BIT) running in it with no issues

  3. clocks says:

    Honestly, there could be pros to using 32bit. Usually the apps size is smaller for one thing. Unless video decoding is impacted, not sure what advantage making the OS 64bit would have, but I’m not an expert.

    • Reflex says:

      I was going to point this out as well. There are a few benefits to 64bit even on low memory devices (much larger address space for ALSR and other security methods) but you have to weigh those benefits against the drawbacks such as larger memory profile and larger app sizes. It is perfectly defensible to go with 32bit if you have 4GB of memory or less and do not need a larger memory address space.

  4. sasha says:

    I could nt able to install Stbemu pro on new firetv (3gen). Could you please provide me instructions , any settings to work.
    Stbemu worked flawlessly on my previous generation all fire tv devices

  5. Tech3475 says:

    I suspect that simplicity is the main reason, perhaps they only have stable 32bit blobs or theyre building from the same base os and dont want to make a 64bit variant when they have multiple 32bit devices which may be based on the code e.g. Echo, Stick 2, etc.

    Considering the main intended use of these devices, they likely see no rush to go 64bit.

    • Seb says:

      Exactly my thoughts. You have to consider the purpose of the device. You wouldn’t want a web server or database server running a 32 bit operating system. You would quickly discover the limits of a 32 bit architecture (not only RAM but much more).

      But on a single purpose device (side loading is up to your own risk of course) there is simply no need to rush to 64 bit. The device will perform just as good or even better on 32 bit than it would on 64 bit.

  6. joe lopez says:

    Now the big question, should i stay with my Fire tv 2 or buy the new Fire tv/

  7. Taveras says:

    Hi, my kodi 17.5.1. ARMV8A (64BIT) just stop working today, in new firetv (3-GEN) it won’t open after the new update

  8. Taveras says:

    Hey, my kodi 17.5.1. ARMV8A (64BIT) just stop working today, in my new firetv (3-GEN) it won’t open after the new update

  9. Jonathan Kingsbury says:

    Has anyone worked out yet how to put Google Play onto the Fire TV 3? I know it’s early days but wondered if anyone has had any luck?

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