The file browser app ES File Explorer has a unique characteristic that no other official Fire TV or Fire TV Stick app posses. It is the only official app that can load a URL you enter and download a file. While that may seem insignificant to some of you, it’s important because that ability of ES FIle Explorer means it’s possible to sideload apps on Fire TV devices without needing anything external like a PC, a thumb drive, or a microSD card. It is by no means the most efficient way to sideload apps, but it is the most popular way because it can be done from your couch with just the Fire TV remote control. At some point, ES File Explorer lost the ability to directly download APK files from a website loaded in its built-in browser. There are thankfully a couple solutions to work around this new limitation, so I have updated my sideloading guide that uses ES File Explorer accordingly.
ES File Explorer’s recent inability to download an APK appears to be a limitation of the app itself, and not a system wide limitation. I’ve been able to successfully download APK files directly using other Fire TV apps, like web browsers, that I sideloaded. I was even able to get ES File Explorer to download an APK directly by formulating a special link on a test server that changes the HTTP mime type header.
The solution, which I’ve updated my sideloading guide to use, is to have ES File Explorer download a zipped version of the APK file that you wish to install, which ES File Explorer can then unzip. The app has no problems downloading zipped files. If a zipped version of the APK you want to install cannot be found, you can use an online zipping utility, directly from within ES File Explorer, to automatically convert an APK downlink link into a zipped download link.