Amazon's new Fire TV update prevents 3rd party apps from skipping its ads

Mike Wheatley

Amazon has apparently made a bit of a balls up with its latest Fire TV platform update, breaking a number of popular third-party apps. So-called “modding apps”, which enable users to skip the Fire TV home screen and avoid many of the ads it displays, are said to be among the most seriously affected.


The report comes from AFTVnews, which explained that the latest Fire OS software seems to prevent apps from accessing what’s known as the Android Debug Bridge, or ADB. According to AFTVnews, this feature is used by developers to access various system controls and settings that are normally hidden away.

By preventing apps from accessing ADB, it means they’re no longer able to do many things they normally do, such as clearing the Fire TV cache to free up memory, or run a console game emulator.

In a statement provided to media sites, Amazon said the update is designed to boost the security of Fire TV devices and asked developers whose apps have been crippled to get in touch with it directly.

Amazon justifies the need to improve security because ADB connections, with their deeper access, can potentially be used for malicious purposes. However, Fire TV already has a number of safeguards in place to prevent this, and so malicious activity will not happen without some kind of user interaction to enable it

AFTVnews says Amazon failed to warn developers in advance about the forthcoming update, which means that numerous apps were left vulnerable. Dozens of users have reported crashes and errors on forums such as Reddit, and for now there is no obvious fix other than to abandon any affected apps.

AFTVnews speculates that Amazon’s buggy update may in fact be intentional, in order to prevent people from modding the operating system and skipping the home screen. After all, that’s not in Amazon’s best interests, as its business model for Fire TV is largely based on ad revenue rather than hardware sales. It wants its customers to go through the home screen each time so that they will see as many ads as it can throw at them.

The update means that two of the most popular Fire TV modding apps no longer work. TDUK APP Killer and TDUK APP Cache Cleaner both use ADB commands to skip the home screen, but they currently cannot be accessed anymore.

In a separate report, Ars Technica said that one developer who contacted Amazon was told that their app has been broken because it “overrides the native user experience”, which suggests that the theory posited by AFTVnews may have some grounding in truth.

The situation could soon get worse for modders and their developers, as Amazon is reportedly building its own software framework for Fire TV. At present, the Fire TV OS is basically a heavily customized version of the Android TV operating system. Assuming it does ditch Android, Amazon will likely have even more control over the software, making it all but impossible for users to customize the experience and avoid the ads.