Amazon makes Sideloading on Fire TVs a seemingly more serious offence

Amazon seems to have a love-hate relationship with sideloading apps on its Fire TV devices. On one hand, sideloading is a necessary feature of any Android-based device to attract developers and the flexibility sideloading provides consumers is certainly attractive to advanced buyers that like to tinker with their devices. On the other hand, sideloading likely accounts for some unwanted percentage of customer service calls and it gives consumers more ways out of Amazon’s walled garden. While nothing has, thankfully, been changed to the functionality of sideloading on Fire TV devices, a recent update has changed the on-device messaging about the act to be far more severe.

In a recent Fire TV software update, Amazon has updated the descriptive text and warnings present when trying to enable installing apps from unknown sources. On the most recent Fire TV models running Fire OS 7, the description presented alongside the setting option used to be:

“Allow specific applications to install other applications that are not from Appstore.”

Old message on Fire TV devices running Fire OS 7

On older Fire TV models running Fire OS 6 or Fire OS 5, which use a slightly different menu format for enabling apps from unknown sources, the description used to be:

“Allow installation of applications that are not from Appstore. Turn this option ON only if you install apps from reliable sources as a developer.”

Old message on Fire TV devices running Fire OS 5 & 6

Both newer and older Fire TV models now list a more ominous message that reads:

“Turning on this setting enables you to install apps from unknown sources on your device. Be aware that installing or using apps from unknown sources may make your device and personal data more vulnerable to security risks or damage.”

New message on all Fire TV devices

Additionally, when enabling the “Apps from Unknown Sources” option on older devices, a popup message would appear giving the user one last chance to cancel the action. Amazon has now added “WARNING:” in all capital letters to the front of the popup message text.

New popup message with the addition of “WARNING:” at the front.

While these updated messages are inconsequential and will likely go mostly unnoticed by the vast majority of Fire TV users that want to enable the ability to install apps from unknown sources on their device, it does show that Amazon is thinking about app sideloading and wants to deter it with warnings. One would have hoped that Amazon could secure its devices to the point where installing any app, whether it was sideloaded or not, couldn’t possibly “make your device and personal data more vulnerable to security risks or damage,” but these new warnings seem to indicate otherwise.

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94 comments
  1. Mike says:

    How can a person sideload an app from an ‘unknown source’ ?
    If they don’t know the source, how do they acquire the app?

  2. Anthony says:

    Unknown source top the firestick. I.e not the app store.

  3. Juan Ortiz says:

    They are just crying about Kodi well truth is no one would buy the stick if they couldn’t upload the Kodi and they would lose 80 percent of the business selling firesticks because no one really watches the apps that firesticks offer

    • Jeff W says:

      Nonsense, I think you’ve got that backwards. There’s always a small, vocal, and rabid community of tinkerers. But the basic user just wants to watch TV, and doesn’t even know what sideloading is, nor do they care about such things in the least. Hell, most of them have never even looked at the settings menu.

    • Kary says:

      Wow, someone is really overly impressed with Kodi. I doubt 5% of Fire Stick owners even know what it is, and less than that use it.

      But yeah, I don’t use Channels DVR on my Fire Cube, or the PBS app, or Netflix, or Hulu, or Apple+, etc. /sarc

      • Sandys63 says:

        Add em up!
        Although I still love kodi there are 100s of FREE APKs
        Amazon is just pissed bc we don’t by 10-15 apps they’re making millions off.
        Amazon will lose 50-60% of their buyers bc there are 100s of Android streaming devices out there!

        • Brian says:

          Guess I’m not savvy enough. I can never figure Kodi out so I have up on it

        • Ready VisionTV says:

          Honestly, Amazon really looked the other way with sideliading because you need an Amazon or Prime account to use the Firestick. Their hope is you become an Amazon shopper as well. They really don’t lose either way

    • Misty Ferguson says:

      I won hundred percent agree with you on that. Cork cutters is a good 80% to 85% of their business. Period lol

    • Tyrone W says:

      I think that number is inflated, but even if it were true that would make Amazon want to dissuade people from sideloading more because they don’t make very much, if any, money on firesticks. They make their money selling the services being offered on the firesticks. So obviously anything that steers people away from buying their services, Amazon would see as a threat to their business.

      • EJ says:

        Spot on. The devices are loss leaders. A way to rent/sell content. Consumers who need to run apps not available directly from Amazon should consider using devices more amenable their installation.

        • Kary says:

          The Fire devices can download all the major streaming services and sideload others. As long as the service has an Android app it should work on a Fire device. Not sure what you see as the problem.

    • Tooher says:

      Who uses Kodi anymore? That’s so outdated these days. There’s way more better and easier apk than the tired out kodi

    • Wild Willy says:

      You hit the nail on the head otherwise people would be buy Roku’s, not fire sticks.

    • Jerry Emery says:

      Most people using Kodi avoid Fire like the plague because of its limited resources.

      • Yesiwill says:

        Right the apks are not an entire platform like Kodi where you could probably watch some small unknown countries local news or anything else you can imagine.but Yes the anyone’s APK are user friendly.

    • Daniel says:

      Yeah all kodi is it’s the old xbmc you got that on the 1st xbox out

    • aross76 says:

      People actually still use kodi and kodi addons?
      I haven’t for years now, the dedicated apk’s are so much easier and easier to install and maintain, kodi has always been a convoluted mess.

  4. Marc says:

    Go ahead, Amazon. Lock your precious devices. I’m close to moving to a non-Amazon streamer anyway. I’d rather pay more and be able to customize MY device how I see fit.

    • Kary says:

      The only threat is from the author of this article. Amazon is just warning users what can happen.

      Google Chrome warns me each time I try to connect to an unsecured website. That doesn’t mean Google is threatening me.

    • EJ+ says:

      Right on! Pick up a Roku and try sideloading an app onto it. And please tell us how that works out.

  5. bubukébulinhu says:

    Well, Google TV devices already do that on a more scary level even, they actually don’t let us install it by default and we have to activate 2 settings instead of one…Sometimes the setting is buried deep on developer settings!!!

  6. Kary says:

    I imagine this is more due to user complaints that turn out the result of a sideloaded app than any attempt to deter sideloading. If there were to take a policy against sideloading, stopping the install of the Google Playstore on Fire Tablets would likely be the first step.

    This seems more like them being able to say “I told you so” after something bad happens.

    • Robert Wright says:

      Exactly. So some idiots who install Google Play Store then an app from it that turns out to have spyware/virus and their bank account gets drained or their identity stolen or such can’t turn around and complain, threaten, sue Amazon. It makes total sense, and to another persons comment about losing 80 percent of their customers as a 3rd commentor pointed 9ut, that’s nonsense. Most people use it to stream Amazon Prime Video as do I, and I use a couple free apps they have available. It’s great. I have more TV and movies than anyone can possibly have time for.

  7. hegemon13 says:

    This seems like a more accurate and user friendly description to me. Very few people who enable unknown sources are actually developers. They are more likely to be sideloading someone else’s app. The new message more accurately addresses the most common use case for the desire. And since it’s an entirely unverified app, yes, there are security risks. If you are loading a Kodi distro preloaded with a bunch of piracy plugins, guess what? Not going to be as safe as a verified app. The risk is on you. Nice of Amazon to let us take that risk, though, unlike Apple.

  8. Amazon Bloatware says:

    No, this is totally about Amazon locking down their Fire TV to increase profits. If they could they most definitely would have blocked sideloading apps to make you stick to Prime for watching content. Look at their past history.

    1. Bricking devices that were rooted.
    2. Disabling 3rd party home screen launchers to force users to watch their ads.
    3. Disabling deep linking on apps like Plex. This forces users back to their ad-riddled home screen instead of the app opening directly from within another app.

    They want to discourage sideloaded apps that offer free TV so you buy their content. Plain and simple. Avoid any tech products with Amazon’s branding on. There are much better alternatives out there.

    • Kary says:

      What makes you think they couldn’t block sideloading?

      • bubukébulinhu says:

        Because there are forums teaching how to install a custom firmware on Fire Sticks and it works. And if not you have a nice brick anyways…

        • Kary says:

          You realize there’s a on/off for sideloading, right? That you can turn it on/off means Amazon could just set it for off without a choice.

          Locked bootloaders and such are an entirely different topic.

          • bubukébulinhu says:

            Lol, and will they lock adb also? Errr, you know that you can install any app by adb even with sideloading disabled right?

            Can they lock adb? Don’t think so. They have several developer tools and stuff…

            They can make it harder for the majority of people but…

  9. Paul T says:

    I disagree with many of Amazon’s decisions on FireOS, but adding warnings to sideloading apps makes sense. Everything is sandboxed, but the apps could do *anything*, they could mine bitcoin or whatever.

  10. James says:

    Does this mean I’ve wasted money on Amazon Fire Cubes and I should have bought Nvidia Shield instead?

    • Chad says:

      You’re fine. This article is a nothing sandwich. Basically amazon now warns people that sketchy apk files might not be safe and you should be careful about where you get your apps from.

  11. Joel says:

    Just a mere warning in hopes of scaring some people… just like any other warning about “modifying” cars, bikes, helmets, clothing etc, that may render them dangerous and the “creator” is not responsible for anything that happens if you do so. Some will freak out and not enjoy all that sideloading can do for them, and others will just keep going status quo. It’s all lawyer speak IMO. Otherwise, just go back to the Google Chromecast with TV… works just as good, maybe even better for adding external memory as well.

  12. Anthony says:

    I literally tossed my Fire Tv Stick in the toilet and flushed. For the last year you never knew if the stock remote was gonna work or not and
    over the last month apps would crash so often that it just wasn’t worth the headache…

  13. SonnyB says:

    They have so much of their Amazon crap pre loaded on the fire stick that it runs out memory quick. Amazon music etc.. watching the boobtube not wanting games or music on my tube.

  14. Tooher says:

    Who uses Kodi anymore? That’s so outdated these days. There’s way more better and easier apk than the tired out kodi

    • Adrian Kemp says:

      It’s fine though not perfect. The secret is a good build. I found Diggz Xenon does the trick: live Sports, live TV, & movies on demand.

      • vinyltapelover says:

        You are so right, nothing is perfect, but I think us dug in kodi users accept that and have learned to be patient with kodi because it does have learning curve. I’m a 75 year old retired vet and have been using kodi for about 10 years, my 4 fire tvs about 6 years and my 2nd gen stick about 5 years.
        I’ve used and liked Xenon diggs through the years. They have been pretty reliable and supported. Theirs and a couple of others had “lite” versions of their builds that worked really well for Fire tv Boxes and sticks because they were smaller size builds that were less resource hogs, because they didn’t have all the widgets, whistles and moving background graphics. Some of the packaged add ons were good only for users of RealDB/Preimiumrize etc, so uninstalling them and the All In Ones add ons(AIOs)like 7 of 9, freed up more Available Space on my stick and boxes. Truth be told, the install size of some of the “lite” builds, would for some unknown reason, be smaller in size than using a straight kodi legacy build with your choice of add ons.
        If I use the Kodi Estuary skin, I can go from kodi to one of my android apps and back, without having to go through the Amazon Prime home screen.
        I don’t have a NAS, but instead, I use kodi to play archived content through my pc from ExtHDDs to my old 5.1 Yamaha and big screen vizio.
        Kodi will play any format including bluray which I have a lot of.
        I think the naysayers complaining about kodi, saying its old etc, are either jaded previous users, lazy, or never used it and repeating the the negative talking points of other people. Actually it may work out that the less attention to kodi the better for us users lol lol.

    • vinyltapelover says:

      @Tooher

      “Who uses Kodi anymore? That’s so outdated these days. There’s way more better and easier apk than the tired out kodi”

      Apks may be easier to install, to use but they are not much more better as I think you know, apks can be limited on links. I have 3 on my fire tvs along with my kodi build. If can’t get content through them, then I go to my backup, kodi, and it does what the apks couldn’t because of more available links. I don’t look at kodi as better than apks, I just look to have entertainment viewing options. Apks are not immune to being pulled down. One recently took a copyright hit.

  15. Jay says:

    Just use a Nvidia Shield…..

  16. Andy says:

    They would be shooting themselves in the foot as these devices are bought for sideloading… Smart TVs these days have most or all the apps anyway. Can always fall back to regular android TV boxes.

  17. Owen says:

    They aren’t at all saying it’s a serious offence, they’ve simply updated it with a message that tells the truth.

  18. Daniel says:

    Hahaha, so they are doing this . Why the f are they putting it in their software

  19. Paul says:

    looking free trail ,my excuse is that you get the whole deal but still have pay for movie.

  20. Will Dirks says:

    In the US streaming is legal regardless if you have this party apps or not because it’s not considered illegal downloading

  21. Cynthia says:

    I have fire TV and my cable service is wifi based and I have to turn on to allow unknown sites so this says I may not have cable when I upgrade

  22. Chuck Fluri says:

    Every smart TV is ready to accept apps, like Kodi & Cinema HD, just like Firestick. The advantage that a Firestick has is that sideloading these apps has been easier and once programmed the Firestick is portable. You can take it from room to room and on vacation, as a plug and play device. If you reduce or eliminate the functionality, you’re just going to shoot yourself in the foot. Why would I want a Firestick if it has the same, or less functionality, compared to my smart TV?

  23. William says:

    Kodi is a platform, not a source or provider, it will enable you to do more with your 4K Movies and sideloaded mini builds! A must for any serious users!

  24. McDave says:

    This is just another was of “clamping down” and trying to make sure users do it their way. It wrong and not fair. Users should be given more freedom like in the old days were the Internet wasn’t governed by greed and greedy companies. Society is totally Fubar now and is run by the “my way or the highway” mentality. Its disgusting and wrong all based on greed and the want to control users. Bring back the old days when the Internet was truly free for all.

  25. aross76 says:

    It’s not just Amazon, I heard heard that google will be blocking sideloading on Android come Android 14.
    I heard that ADB over USB will now be the only way to sideload apps come Android 14.
    They are already blocking old apps on 13 and not providing any back compatibility.
    I just got the pixel 7 pro and there a few apps that will not install
    32 from what I was told is not possible to install by any method on android 13.
    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was prompted by Google since they are using their OS.

  26. Ken walker says:

    To be honest, is this the worst offence in the UK at the minute, kids stabbing each other , grooming gangs getting bigger and bigger , the police are struggling to cope now !

  27. Ron Spillers says:

    Does anyone know how to prevent the install unknown apps from shutting off as soon as you leave the screen?

  28. Steve says:

    There is no way that Amazon will block sideloaded apps. This is the way developers test their apps before official release, and Amazon would lose so many users, including developers if that were the case. If you want to use sideloaded apps then just run a good well known and respected VPN.

  29. laura sawyer says:

    I did do this with my fire TV and I really didn’t notice too much of a difference! The weird part is is it has two options for third party installations.. So what always confused me because I wasn’t 100% if I should be putting both of them on. However, the other one automatically turns off if you turn it off lol.. have to individually turn them both on.. bizarre scenario.. you’d think they would just totally give people the option to get rid of the shopping and the kids app without any qualms! Because obviously not every household has a child in it and it’s actually pretty presumptuous of Amazon to assume that every household has a child or someone that wants to use the Amazon kids app. I can understand the photos because of screensavers in such like that even though I don’t sync mine so it won’t upload anything from my Amazon or Google photos… Because I set it that way. But it is very strange how all this bloatware is on here and how we have to give ourselves permission to upload something onto our own televisions that we purchased and we pay an additional monthly fee for our Amazon prime. So honestly it feels fraudulent. What do you guys think?

  30. With the new Vega operating system, sidelaoading apps may be a thing if the past!
    https://troypoint.com/amazon-may-remove-android-os-from-firestick/

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