Since the original Fire TV was released, it has been a constant back-and-forth battle between Amazon and modders over control of the Fire TV’s home screen and its remote buttons. Most recently, Amazon clawed back control by blocking a method used to replace the Fire TV’s launcher and by blocking my method of remapping the app shortcut buttons on the Fire TV remote. Control has now shifted back towards modders with the release of an update to the app Launcher Manager which allows for both the home button and app shortcut buttons to be remapped.
Launcher Manager was the go-to app for changing the launcher, a.k.a. home screen, of Fire TV devices prior to the update released last year by Amazon that made it stop working. Its developer, SweenWolf, with the help of another modder by the name of Finnzz, has released the app’s first major update in over a year. This new update, essentially, allows you to, once again, use a custom launcher of your choice and includes a few bonus features.
Instead of allowing you to change the Fire TV’s default launcher app, like it used to do, the new Launcher Manager v1.1.8 update simply detects when you press the home button on the Fire TV remote and launches the app of your choice. While most will select an alternative launcher to open, you can technically choose any app to launch when the home button is pressed.
Launcher Manager detects the press of the home button by monitoring the Fire TV’s log file for cues that Amazon’s default launcher has opened. It does this through an internal ADB connection between the app, Launcher Manager, and the Fire TV, so you must have ADB debugging enabled at all times for the remapping to work. When it sees the default launcher has opened, it then opens the app of your choice. In practice, this means you may briefly see the default Fire TV home screen open when you press the home button on the remote before your chosen app replaces it.
Since pressing any of the app shortcut buttons can also be detected through the Fire TV’s log file in the same manner, SweenWolf has also added the ability to remap app shortcut buttons, located along the bottom of modern Fire TV remotes, to Launcher Manager. Since Launcher Manager is simply reacting to a log file entry when an app shortcut button is pressed, you may see the default app open first before your chosen app opens.
To install Launcher Manager v1.1.8, enter short code
While taking control of the Fire TV remote’s home button and app shortcut buttons is great, if you choose to do so, be aware that this method will surely be blocked one way or another by Amazon in the future. Consider it temporary unless you’ve blocked software updates. Even then, there are ways for Amazon to prevent this from working even if you have updates blocked.
All of this will sound familiar to those of you who have been around the Fire TV modding community for as long as I have. In 2015, an app called FireStarter was released to replace the Fire TV home screen launcher. It detected the Fire TV remote home button being pressed in the same manner as Launcher Manager v1.1.8, through an internal ADB connection that monitored the device’s log file. FireStarter was eventually blacklisted by Amazon as were other apps that allowed the Fire TV’s home screen from being bypassed. FireStarter relaunched as AppStarter without home button detection and, as far as I’m aware, was never blacklisted by Amazon.
It’s pretty safe to assume Launcher Manager’s ability to remap the Fire TV remote’s home button and app shortcut buttons will eventually stop working. It could happen within a few days or it could work for months. If Amazon chooses to simply blacklist the app, which it hasn’t done to an app in a very long time, it’ll probably happen quickly. However, if Amazon takes a more sophisticated approach by figuring out a way to prevent installed apps from knowing which buttons are pressed by monitoring the Fire TV’s log file, Launcher Manager will likely continue to work for several months.