Blacklisted Fire TV apps display new notices with questionable accuracy

Amazon has been blacklisting and disabling specific apps on Fire TV devices since at least 2016, which is when it first blocked two popular apps that replaced Amazon’s own ad-filled Fire TV home screen with much simpler alternatives. The battle between Amazon and the Fire TV modding community over control of the streaming device’s home screen has been raging on ever since, with new apps being added to the dreaded blacklist of disallowed apps once they become popular enough to garner Amazon’s attention. While Amazon has been blocking and disabling Fire TV apps for years, it hasn’t been straightforward about the behavior. Recent Fire TV software updates show that Amazon is now being more upfront with customers about apps being disabled, however, many would disagree with the truthfulness of Amazon’s reasoning.

When Amazon first began disabling apps it deemed unwelcomed on Fire TV devices, there was no indication to the user that it was behind the action. Hours or days after a blacklisted app was installed on a Fire TV, it would simply disappear from the streaming device’s list of installed apps without any notification. In reality, the app was still on the device but just disabled and hidden. While this achieved Amazon’s goal of making the app unusable, it left no easy way for a customer to uninstall it. This left customers confused and left the app to forever take up valuable internal storage space.

About a year later, the process Amazon used to disable unwanted apps improved slightly, from a customer’s perspective. Blacklisted apps were no longer just being hidden away without notice. Instead, the blocked apps remained visible and displayed a message when launched, which explained the app could not be used. While this, at least, allowed customers to uninstall the blocked app to free up storage space, the message shown when trying to use the app made no indication that Amazon was the one preventing the app from being used. It, instead, sent the customer on a meaningless hunt for an update to the app.

Amazon’s cagey messaging around disabled apps, and unhelpfully advice to seek out app updates, continued through last year when it blacklisted Launcher Manager, a popular app used to replace the Fire TV home screen with a custom launcher. Thanks to a recent Fire TV software update, Amazon has now, finally, owned up to disabling apps with all-new messaging. More so, the new messaging appears instantly when an unwelcome app is installed, as opposed to waiting for the app to be used.

When a blacklisted Fire TV app is installed, the new message shown above appears within seconds to inform the customer that the app has been disabled. If the customer chooses not to take Amazon’s suggestion “to remove the app and recover storage space,” they will find that the app is no longer present in the Fire TV’s main app list. The app is, however, still in the Fire TV’s settings where customers can manage installed apps. Although, the app still can’t be opened from this menu, like most apps. It can only be uninstalled.

While it’s good to see that Amazon is no longer hiding the fact that it is disabling certain Fire TV apps, I and many others don’t agree with Amazon’s explanation for the action. Amazon claims that these blacklisted apps are “potentially harmful” and “can put your device or personal data at risk.” Launcher Manager, the most recently blacklisted app that I’m aware of, has never been shown to harm a device, let alone put personal data at risk.

Reddit user Somar2230 put it best by saying “It’s harmful to Amazon’s ad revenue” when referring to the new messaging. That’s because the primary types of apps that make it onto Amazon’s blacklist seem to be ones that allow customers to bypass Amazon’s own Fire TV home screen, where Amazon undoubtedly earns a lot of ad revenue from things like full-screen auto-playing video ads. None of these apps have ever harmed the device they’ve been installed on, as Amazon alludes.

  1. Leon says:

    I think there will be fire stick owners who wouldn’t care much about this but for the ones who don’t want the full screen ads that Amazon shows, are gonna be pissed that Amazon is doing this. I thought one buying a device constitutes that the person buying it owns it and can do what they want when they want with it.. I guess Amazon doesn’t see it that way

    • Patrick says:

      I agree , I never saw a rental agreement when I purchased my device.

    • Adam says:

      You own the hardware.

      The software to that it gets from Amazon belongs exclusively to Amazon, and they thereby say exactly what it does and doesn’t do for you.

      Its not a situation that I’m at all fond of, but it is unequivocally the situation.

      • Leon says:

        That’s true and there’s no going around that but for them controlling how we use the device? Isn’t that slight overreach?

        • Adam says:

          Unfortunately they calculate, correctly so far, that what they get from their overreach is worth more to them than the customers’ dissatisfaction with it.
          Put plainly, those customers are insignificant to them. Their quarterly dividends only reinforce this attitude.
          Again, its not a perspective that I think is at all a good thing, but enough people don’t care, or actively endorse it as an ideological point, that its not going to change.

      • Vince says:

        But Amazon are basically changing the product (for the worse) after we’ve bought it. Imagine buying a 4K television and updates a few months later mean it’s only capable of FHD. You wouldn’t be too pleased, but in principle that’s exactly what Amazon are doing with our Fire sticks.

        • JC says:

          That’s not really the case when their people remove unlicensed apps that they, as far as I know, have never promoted or promised us access to. I dislike Amazon’s greed, and I’ll never use their ridiculously cluttered home page, but I do understand why they want people to use it: they apparently make money off of the ads. What I DON’T understand is why they don’t just offer a subscription for an ad-free home page of their own, or why they can’t think of a way to make the page cleaner, like Roku’s.

  2. Norm says:

    I PURCHASED THE DEVICE TO USE AS I PLEASE. Amazon is being control Nazis over what you can and can’t do. F*** Amazon. I have thrown in the trash the 4 k Firesticks and switched to Android tv devices. KEPT THE REMOTES TO PAIR UP WITH SAID DEVICES

  3. A guy says:

    Why I’m glad two of my three fire devices are rooted.

    Common Amazon L

  4. Geoff says:

    This happened to me the other day when I tried to use Launcher Manager on my 4k Max v2.
    Laucher Manager was disabled and I had no option to run it.

  5. Tingo says:

    I don’t agree you own the hardware, if you did you could add a custom rom. Aside from that amazon’s software allows bypassing the home screen. On cubes you ask alexa to launch apps while sleeping and you go straight into the app drawer. I assume the same for remotes with voice control. Some remotes have an app drawer button or can map it to a programmable button.

  6. Chuck Fluri says:

    The simple answer is don’t buy Fire TV devices. Buy TiVo or Walmart Onn 4k or any Android streaming device.

  7. Timbo303 says:

    I smell a big lawsuit with amazon someday for having an anti competitive monopoly such as this.

  8. Carsten says:

    I had already reported this in my comment from February 14, 2024 at 2:00 pm, which got no reaction.

  9. Me says:

    Amazon Fire stick needs more competition wherein a user would have other GUI interface options besides Fire stick to be used on either the fire stick or another similar internet device

  10. JC says:

    With all due respect, I was a little confused as to why this was being mentioned. Amazon’s true motivations aren’t really news at this point. With that being said, I’ve found that Launcher Manager, while helpful once, wasn’t that big of a loss now. The remap feature had stopped working for me. As far as I know, the only way to link a custom launcher to a remote button, at present, is to assign App Launcher to either the 1 or 2 buttons on the Voice Remote Pro. It works well, but I preferred the original remote.

    • JC says:

      I meant App Opener.

    • Norm says:

      Launch on boot works. Takes a few seconds to kick over to custom launcher, but it still works as of now.

      • JC says:

        Yes it does. I use it every time. Losing that would be difficult. But losing the seemingly little-known App Opener would be the worst. As long as you have AO and and a Voice Remote Pro, you have a home button for your custom launcher. Also, there’s an official custom launcher in the App Store, for now, called Sideload Folder. But I see no need to use it unless the sideloaded launchers disappear.

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