If you’re an Amazon Fire TV Stick owner (or, in fact, a user of basically any Amazon streaming device, from Fire TV Cube to straight up TV set), you’re likely about to lose a cool feature you may never have realized you had.
Amazon is rolling out updates to its Fire TV devices that will block the installation of custom launchers on its devices. In other words, Amazon is stamping down on tools that will allow you to use the Amazon Fire TV gadgets with customisable interfaces that would not otherwise ship with Amazon’s gear.
According to AFTVNews.com, there are a handful of Fire OS updates which are rolling out and pulling the plug on the home screen tweaks.
Fire OS 7 version 126.96.36.199 (PS7273/2622) will kill custom launcher use on the 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick 4K Max, 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Stick Lite.
The Fire OS 6 version 188.8.131.52 (PS6287/3768) will do the same for the original Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick 4K and third-generation Fire TV (the so-called ‘Pendant’ version that hangs behind a TV from a HDMI cable).
In addition, a change to the Fire OS 5, version 184.108.40.206, is thought to do the same to second-generation Fire TV Stick, original Fire TV Stick, and 2nd-gen Fire TV. Though this has yet to be confirmed, it’s likely that Amazon will want to plug every possible gap during this crackdown.
Analysis: Why custom launchers are a no-go for Amazon
One of the most enticing things about Amazon’s TV devices is their price point. For a few bucks (and literally pocket change come Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday), you get responsive and capable streaming devices that open you up to the wealth of content that the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon’s own Prime Video services have to offer.
But there’s a hidden cost here – these devices are only so cheap because Amazon expects to subsidize them through purchases in its interface. Whether you’re renting or buying a new movie or boxset, or scrolling past an advertisement on its homescreen, the Amazon Fire TV interface is packed full of opportunities to put money in Amazon’s coffers. That’s before considering the valuable data it harvests based on your interests and viewing habits.
And so, any attempt to circumvent this money-making portal for Amazon is going to be squashed out as soon as possible. By running on a forked version of Android, Amazon Fire TV devices open themselves up to the intrepid tinkerer looking for a back door to increased functionality through the base code that the interface is built on. And while Amazon’s interface may not be the prettiest or simplest, it’s in the company’s best interest to protect it.
In other words, enjoy those custom launchers while you can – they won’t be there for much longer.
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Gerald is the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site’s home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves his gaming, but don’t expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Based out of TechRadar Towers, London, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK. He dreams of the day when he can pop on a VR headset and meet Lawnmower Man-era Pierce Brosnan. Sadly, Pierce doesn’t share the dream.