There is strong evidence that FireStarter, the alternate launcher that can replace the Fire TV home screen and provide custom remote home button functions, has been explicitly blacklisted, by name, by Amazon. Fire TV and Fire TV Stick owners that have manually installed the unofficial app through sideloading will find that it has been disabled after their devices update to the latest 188.8.131.52 software version. Uninstalling and reinstalling the app will restore it, but once the Fire TV reboots or sits idle for a period of time, the app is once again disabled. Amazon has always rejected apps that “override the native user experience” and blocked their entrance to the official Fire TV appstore, but this appears to be the first time they’ve deliberately targeted and prevented the use of a specific unofficial app.
XDA forum member jkchr1s has discovered that FireStarter is being explicitly disabled by name. After taking FireStarter’s open source code and compiling it into an identical app, but with a different package name, he discovered that the new clone app worked fine on the Fire TV and was not being disabled by the operating system. Some have suspected that FireStarter’s unconventional method of detecting remote home button presses, specifically its exploitation of internal ADB connections, was being detected as malicious behavior, resulting in the app being disabled. In reality, it appears to be far less sophisticated and FireStarter is just being picked out by name.
It’s unclear why Amazon has put FireStarter in its crosshairs. It could be as innocent as wanting to prevent FireStarter’s home button double-press function from interfering with their own newly added double-press feature, or as nefarious as not wanting Fire TV owners to have the option to bypass the Fire TV’s main interface, where Amazon makes money selling digital content and advertisements. I’ve reached out to Amazon for comments but have not received a response.
Many Fire TV owners primarily use FireStarter as an easier way to access their manually installed apps. Now that Amazon has fully supported sideloaded apps as equal citizens to official apps by displaying them in the Fire TV’s “Recent” list and “Apps” section, many FireStarter users have no need for the app. Regardless, it should be the user’s choice. Despite Amazon’s new willingness to support sideloaded apps on the Fire TV, the company dictating which apps can and can’t be used is reason for concern, and makes you wonder which app will make its way to the new supposed blacklist next.