How To Unlock an Amazon Fire TV Stick
When you’re shopping for a brand-new set-top box, you’re likely to find the market full of choices. From Roku’s line of budget-friendly devices, to Apple’s high-end Apple TV 4K, there’s no shortage of options when you’re looking to buy into a streaming device for your television. Among the top choices, you’re likely to find Amazon’s own line of Fire TV devices, from the $39 Fire TV Stick, to the brand-new Fire TV Stick 4K and the Fire TV Cube. Outside of YouTube support, the Fire TV line offers almost everything you could ever want. From Amazon’s own Prime Video services to platforms like Netflix and Hulu, Amazon makes it easy to stream almost everything you could ever want, all while including support for features like Alexa and Fire Tablet casting.
Of course, there’s one other reason to grab an Amazon Fire TV Stick, outside of price and features. Like the Fire Tablets, the Fire TV devices all run Amazon’s Fire OS, a fork off of Android that makes it easy to take advantage of the easy hacking and modding that comes with the platform. Whether you’re looking to add new content to your Fire TV Stick, or you just want to make it easier to open up the platform to outside sources, choosing to upgrade your device to an unlocked Fire Stick may help you access more of the stuff you love on your television. Unlocking a Fire TV Stick is pretty easy, so let’s dive into an explanation of what unlocking does, the legal status of unlocking your device, and of course, the step-by-step guide to unlocking your Fire TV Stick.
What is an Unlocked Fire TV Stick?
Let’s start with the basics: the term “unlocking” is typically used interchangeably with “jailbreaking” when applied to a Fire TV device, means something far different than you might recognize from other uses of the word. For a decade, the term “jailbreak” has mostly applied to iOS devices, where jailbreaking unlocks the operating system from Apple’s walled garden and allows the user to install third-party app stores, pirated content, and to change the core files of the device. Likewise, rooting on Android also represents a jailbreak, albeit at a core level. Both services typically take some amount of technical know-how. Jailbreaking an iOS device almost always requires an older version of iOS, while rooting on Android is typically stopped at a carrier level, not by Google.
Despite calling it jailbreaking, the term means something completely different when it comes to using the Fire TV Stick. Jailbreaking a Fire TV device doesn’t require attaching the component to your PC, running lines of code, or even using software found on a random forum. Instead, people typically refer to jailbreaking a Fire TV device as the act of installing third-party apps not available on the Amazon Appstore in order to expand your content library, generally through the use of piracy. Most users turn to Kodi for their jailbreaking software, since Kodi is an open-source platform that works well with the Amazon Fire TV remote. While Kodi itself isn’t a piracy application, it does allow for thousands on thousands of add-ons in order to build instant movie streaming right into your device.
Is It Legal to Unlock my Fire TV Stick?
The process of unlocking your Fire TV Stick amounts to disabling app security installing software onto your device, so in that sense, unlo your Fire TV Stick is absolutely legal. Even though jailbreaking iOS devices and rooting Android devices has occasionally been brought under legal scrutiny, both of those cases have also been found to have legal grounds in users changing their device states. And of course, it’s worth noting that, as we mentioned above, the actual act of jailbreaking a Fire Stick is no different than installing Kodi on your computer.
Now, that said, it’s of course important to remember that adding content to Kodi that pirates films, television shows, and other content is the potion of jailbreaking your device that can be considered illegal. While companies typically will sue the distributors of illegally-hosted content online, there’s always a chance that your ISP could limit or cancel your internet usage due to illegal streaming. Using Kodi to stream hosted media online should be considered piracy by most users, and you’ll need to make sure you understand the risks in streaming content online. Kodi itself is not an app made for piracy, and the development team have come out in full force against using the app for such media services. As always, we don’t encourage or condone any illegal behavior, including streaming content illegally online, and should not be held responsible for any negative repercussions that spawn from the use of any services, applications, or methods featured on this guide. Refer to your country’s own stance on copyright, as well as the terms of usage for each Kodi add-on you use for more information.
How Do I Unlock My Fire TV Stick?
To get jailbroken apps on your Fire TV Stick, you’ll need to start by installing Kodi. For obvious reasons, Kodi isn’t listed in the Amazon Appstore as an application you can easily download for regular use. Unlike Google, Amazon takes a more Apple-like approach with their app market, only allowing in certain applications once they’ve been approved for use. While you’ll find Kodi readily available on the Google Play Store, it’s nowhere to be found on Amazon’s platform, having been removed back in 2015 for concerns surrounding piracy. But, like we’ve seen with most of Amazon’s products, it’s easy to use their Android basis as a method against them. Since Android allows for applications to be installed outside of the app store, getting Kodi up and running on your Fire Stick doesn’t take long at all. This method was tested on the newest 2016 Fire Stick with Alexa. We’ll be using screenshots from version 126.96.36.199 of Fire OS and Fire TV Home Version 188.8.131.52-264, complete with the newer 2017 user interface.
Enabling Your Device to Install Sideloaded Apps
Start by opening up your Fire TV display by waking up your device and holding the Home button on your Fire TV remote to open the quick actions menu. This menu has a list of four different options for your Fire TV: your list of apps, sleep mode, mirroring, and settings. Select the settings menu to quickly load your list of preferences. Alternatively, you can head to the home screen of your Fire TV and scroll all the way to the right along the top list of your menu, selecting the settings option.
Press the down arrow on your remote to move to the settings menu of your display. Fire OS has its settings menu set up horizontally rather than vertically, so scroll through your settings menu from left to right until you find the options for “My Fire TV.” (In older versions of Fire OS, this is labeled as “Device.”) Hit the center button on your remote to load the device settings. For most users, these options are mostly there for restarting or forcing your device to sleep, as well as viewing the software settings for your Fire Stick. However, there’s one option here we need to change before we can move forward. Click on Developer Options from the Device settings; it’s the second down from the top, after About.
Developer Options only has two settings on Fire OS: ADB debugging and Apps from Unknown Sources. ADB debugging is used to enable ADB, or Android Debug Bridge, connections over your network. We won’t have to use ADB for this (a tool included in the Android Studio SDK), so you can leave that setting alone for now. Instead, scroll down to the setting below ADB and press the center button. This will enable your device to install applications from sources other than the Amazon Appstore, a necessary step if we’re going to sideload Kodi onto our device. A warning may appear to let you know that downloading apps from outside sources can be dangerous. Click OK on the prompt and click the Home button on your remote to head back to the home screen.
Downloading Kodi to Your Device
With the ability to sideload apps enabled on your device, we can finally get around to downloading Kodi to your device. If you’ve ever used an Android device and had to sideload an application using an APK from a site like APKMirror or APKpure, you can probably see where this is headed. Yes, your Amazon Fire Stick might run a custom version of Android, complete with a custom app store and certain limitations on what can and can’t be installed, but when the underlying operating system is still Android, we can take advantage of the ability to sideload apps and get Kodi onto your device, whether Amazon wants it there or not.
Of course, to do that, we’ll need to first add the ability to download applications onto your Fire Stick. Amazon doesn’t include a browser with your device, so you’ll have to download a third-party app that allows you to use URLs on your device like a normal phone or tablet. While there isn’t a specific browser application available for download inside the App Store, there is an app that allows you to download content directly to your device.
Using the built-in search function or using Alexa on your Fire Stick remote, search for “Download,” “Downloader,” or “Browser”; all three will bring forth the exact same app we’re looking for. That app is, appropriately, called Downloader. It has a bright orange icon with a down-facing arrow icon, and its developer name is “AFTVnews.com.” The app has hundreds of thousands of users, and is generally regarded as a great application for your device. Hit the download button on the Amazon Appstore listing for Downloader to add the app to your device. You won’t need to keep the app on your Fire Stick after we’ve used it for this installation process, so don’t be afraid to uninstall the app if you’d rather not keep it around.
Once the app has finished installing, hit the Open button on the app listing to open Downloader on your device. Click through the assorted pop-up messages and alerts detailing updates to the application until you’ve reached the main display. Downloader includes a bunch of utilities, all neatly outlined on the left side of the application, including a browser, a file system, settings, and more. That said, the main aspect of the application we need is the URL entry field that takes up most of your display inside the application.
Downloader will allow you to download content from a specific URL that you enter into the application, making it easy to get the APK directly onto your device. You have two different options here to download the Kodi APK: first, you can download Kodi using our shortened link below, which will automatically download Kodi 18 Leia.
Alternately, you can head over to the Kodi Downloads site here, click on the Android option, right-click “ARMV7A (32-BIT)” and copy and paste that link into the link shortener of your choice; we recommend bit.ly, for its custom link options that make it easy to make something that can be inputted into your device, though goo.gl, Google’s link shortener, will also work here. Without a link shortener, you’ll have to enter a long URL using just your remote, so we recommend doing either of these two options above.
Our custom URL for Kodi 18 Leia is: http://bit.ly/tjkodi18
By entering that URL, or by creating one of your own from the Downloads site linked above, you’ll make it so that your device can automatically start to download Kodi right through your Downloads application. Click the Next button after inputting the link into your device. Your Fire Stick will confirm the link you wish to download from; press Select to confirm the Download option on your device and your download will begin immediately from that URL. Most Kodi APKs are around 80 or 90MB, so expect the download to take 10 to 20 seconds total, depending on the speed of your internet connection. Once the APK has finished downloading, it should open automatically on your device. If you receive a prompt to open the Kodi installer, hit OK.
Installing Kodi to Your Device
With the APK now downloaded onto your device, all that’s left to do now is install Kodi directly onto your device. When the installation display for Kodi appears on your screen, you’ll be greeted with a display that alerts you to the information Kodi can access. For anyone who has installed APKs on Android devices previously, this screen will immediately look familiar; though it’s the Amazon-themed version of the installation screen, it’s still very ‘Android.’ Use your remote to highlight and select the “Install” button and your device will begin to install Kodi. Kodi itself is a fairly large application, so allow it some time to install on your device; in our installation, the process took about thirty seconds total.
When the installation has completed on your device, you’ll receive a small notification in the bottom-right corner of your display, alerting you that you can press the menu button to open Kodi on your device. Alternatively, you can also hit the “Open” button on the installation display to automatically open Kodi. You’ll be greeted with the Kodi start-up screen, and once Kodi is finished setting itself up after its first boot, you’ll be at the main display. From here, you can add repositories, view movies stored on your network, and more. The best part of this: unlike with devices like the Apple TV, you can always return to the standard Fire TV home screen by pressing Home on your remote. Basically, you get the best of both worlds, with both Kodi and Fire OS apps coexisting peacefully on one platform.
Well, to be blunt, that’s really up to you. Kodi by itself is a pretty capable media platform, and it even has the option to stream content like YouTube using official add-ons. But generally speaking, anyone looking to jailbreak their device likely wants to install add-ons or builds into their instance of Kodi. Typically, this additional software is added by using the add-on browser within Kodi, using a link to the software you found online.
If you’re curious on where to start, we have plenty of guides to look through on installing the best Kodi add-ons (which allow you to keep the typical Kodi interface while adding new apps one at a time) and Kodi builds (which completely overhaul your software with a new visual appearance). Check out our list of the best Kodi add-ons you can’t miss out on here, and for those looking for a full experience, check out our favorite Kodi builds in this list right here.
Unlocking your Fire TV device sounds difficult on paper, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The ease of access to adding new content not officially approved by Amazon is basically as easy as installing a few new apps to your device. For just $40 (or $70 for the 4K Fire TV model), the Fire Stick is one of the best devices you can buy. While it’s unfortunate that the app’s ties to piracy have moved Amazon to delist Kodi from the Amazon Appstore, that hasn’t stopped the ability to sideload Kodi onto your device. The combination of Kodi and the Amazon Fire Stick has become incredibly popular over the world, and it’s easy to see why. And with the ease of access for getting Kodi onto your device, installing the app—and Covenant, for that matter—is really a no-brainer.