How to Sideload Apps on Firestick

and 3 Reasons Not to Bother

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Craig Hanks
Apr 07, 2021
Icon Time To Read5 min read

If You've heard of sideloading or jailbreaking your streaming device, but weren't sure what it was all about, or if you should be doing it, well, that is the topic of today's video.

We'll go over what sideloading is and how to do it and then honestly, three reasons why you might not actually want to bother. Now, let's dive in.

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The overview

Thanks for joining me today, everybody. If this video is helpful or enjoyable in some way, then don't forget to give it a like, and if you enjoy what we do on this channel, subscribe.

All right, now, what is sideloading? Let's do a quick tutorial. If you already know what it is and how to do it, then go ahead and skip the next 60 seconds or so of the video. If not, here is a crash course in sideloading.

Sideloading means putting apps on a device that aren't available in that device's app store.

The details

So, today I'm going to be using the Firestick as my example, since it's the most common device that allows sideloading.

The same principles we'll talk about will apply to many other devices as well, with the giant exception of Roku, which uses a closed software system and doesn't allow sideloading, that kind of tinkering.

Sideloading is, in theory at least, pretty simple. You just need a file manager and you need some files to put in it. On the Firestick, the first step is to allow files from unknown sources. To do that, go to the Settings menu, go to "My Fire TV", then "Developer options", and then set "Apps from Unknown Sources" to "on".

The next step is to get a file manager, or get the Downloader app or something similar that lets you download files from online or send files from your phone to your Firestick.

Once you've got that. You can search or browse for stuff to download to your device. Not too complicated, right? So, what's the point of all this?

Your device is sideload ready

Think back to those long forgotten days of yore, all the way back in 2019, when you couldn't get YouTube on your Firestick or Prime Video on your Chrome cast, because Google and Amazon were fighting.

Or, the first few months of Max and Peacock. When they weren't available yet on the Firestick. Well, sideloading allows you to circumvent those restrictions and get those apps, or apps like them, without having to go out and buy a whole new device.

Now, obviously those particular issues have been worked out since then, but who knows, maybe similar issues will pop up in the future or maybe it's something else entirely.

You want a browser that's not available natively on your device for Kodi, or whatever? Now, once you've learned how to sideload, you can download just about any app that you can find online.

Sounds pretty sweet, but hold on a second. I mentioned earlier that there are a few reasons why you might not want to even bother with all of this.

Potential downsides

The first is the potential legal issues, the second is your online safety, and the third is more of a practical point.

Let's talk about the legal issues first. This is a topic that comes up a lot on our channel. I review a lot of streaming services and one of the questions I get most often is, why don't you review Cinema HD or other APKs?

APKs by the way is simply any file extension for the Android operating system. That's what Fire TV operates on.

Well, like I said, there are a few reasons not to bother with sideloading, but one of the big ones for me is that watching the copyrighted content that you find on some of these apps, the content you're not paying for?

Not legal. Now, call me old fashioned, but I'm a big fan of supporting creators who work hard to bring you good content. Like and subscribe, thank you very much.

Now, this legality thing can get a bit confusing because the apps themselves are actually perfectly legal most of the time. These apps don't actually host any copyrighted content, which would be illegal.

Instead, when you click on a title, the app will go fetch the content from somewhere online, where it is being stored. Same thing goes with gaming emulators, which are pretty popular on the Firestick.

The emulator itself is totally legal, but it's often illegal to actually play the copywriter games they let you play, unless you have some legitimately source ROMs or something.

Online safety

Anyway, the point is if the legality or morality of the issue is important to you, then maybe that sways you away from a sideloading spree.

If not, consider the more selfish reason here, your online safety. You know the expression, "there's no such thing as a free lunch"? Well, it's extremely apt here. Basically what it means is the thing you think you're getting for free, that show or that movie that you're downloading, it might not be as free as you thought.

I won't point any fingers at any particular app or emulator out there, but some of them are actually just malware in disguise, and they're looking to use your streaming device to get access to your network.

Now, some of those are Trojan Horse apps that get really slick at imitating a bigger name app in the hopes that you'll download it on accident, and once you do, you're open to all sorts of data theft.

So, remember the warning we saw when we turned on "Apps from Unknown Sources" in the Fire TV menu? It warns you that your Firestick and your personal data are less secure, and they essentially wash their hands of any responsibility for what happens after you do this, and this is pretty much why.

Wrap up

Now, maybe that's worth the risk for you. For me, not so much. At least, not these days because frankly, I just don't see the need for it at this point.

When I started using the Firestick years ago, I couldn't get, say, the Firefox browser or YouTube, or more recently Max, like I mentioned before, or any number of other apps that weren't playing nice with the Firestick system.

Nowadays, it's just really not that much of an issue anymore. Everything's pretty much there, and because of that, although I used to do some sideloading, these days, I figure it's just not really worth the risk to my security.

It's not worth going around copyright law, and everything else that I used to want that I used to have to sideload to get on my device is pretty much there in the app store now.

But hey, maybe that's just me. Let me know your thoughts on this issue. I know it's kind of a controversial topic and I'm probably coming across as a killjoy here, but I'll always tell you how I see it.

But what about you? Are you a sideloader? What are you using it for that I'm just not thinking of? Let me know in the comments below. Don't forget to like and subscribe if you enjoyed the video. Thank you so much for watching everybody, and I will see you next time.

Craig Hanks
Written by
Craig Hanks
Craig is a long-time writer, presenter, and podcaster, and he now runs the YouTube channel, where he strives to be far more charming and presentable than he is in real life. Within the umbrella, he has accidentally become a streaming expert after covering the streaming wars for almost three years. Craig is also the founder and host of The Legendarium Podcast, his outlet for his love of fantasy and sci-fi literature.

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