What is a Firestick? An A to Z Guide to Unlocking Amazon Fire TV Stick’s Streaming Media Power

by
Frederik Lipfert
Dr. Frederik Lipfert Founder, vpncheck
Updated on 24 Dec 2021

Guide to Firestick:

You must be wondering, “What is a Firestick?” Perhaps you recently just got one. Well, then, this guide will take you through everything you need to know to turn your TV into an ultimate entertainment center, using a seemingly ordinary device such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Indeed, the streaming world has expanded dramatically over the last ten years as more and more people continue to cut the cord. Before everyone knew it, IPTV services and Kodi apps have become mainstream. One of the most significant facilitators of such growth is the rise of streaming devices such as Firestick, Roku, Nvidia Shield, Chromecast, and Android TV Boxes. Among them, Amazon Fire TV Stick has grown extremely popular since its launch in 2014, owing to a combination of the device’s processing power, ease of use, low price, and unlimited possibilities.

What is a Firestick?

Firestick is officially known as the Amazon Fire TV Stick. It is a portable streaming device that lets users access digital content through their TV screen. The device is small in size and is connected to the TV through an HDMI port. It is then powered through a USB cable and connected to the internet to access content.

Amazon Firestick runs on an operating system known as Fire OS, a fork of the popular Android TV OS. This makes Firestick compatible with almost all Android apps, something that has greatly contributed to its popularity as there are thousands of free Android streaming apps.

However, Amazon Firestick doesn’t have Google services, so it’s incompatible with the Google Play Store. You can install official apps such as Netflix and YouTube from the Amazon Appstore or sideload third-party apps (also known as jailbreaking a Firestick) such as CyberFlix TV through another app.

Fire TV Cube vs Firestick: What’s the Difference?

The topic of Amazon Fire TV devices can often be confusing as there are several variations of Fire TV Stick, and then there’s the Fire TV Cube. All these devices offer the same content, but the Fire TV Cube provides many extra functionalities borrowed from the Amazon Echo. For example, while all devices support Alexa voice control, the Fire TV Cube handles it much better in that you don’t have to press down on your remote to give voice commands. 

You can also seamlessly integrate the Fire TV Cube with your smart home gadgetry and use it to control lights, thermostats, door locks, and lots of other devices. It also has its own speaker such that when you ask about the weather, it won’t need to turn on your TV. But if you tell it to play music, it will turn on your TV rather than play music through its small speaker. Cool, huh?

Nevertheless, when we go back to streaming, the Cube doesn’t do anything more than the higher-end versions of Fire TV Stick. It typically provides the same functionalities as Firestick 4K.

What are Fire TV Stick Variations?

There are several variations of the Amazon Fire TV Stick, with the main difference being the capabilities and the cost. Here’s a quick summary of the different Firestick versions:

  • Fire TV Stick: HD streaming with convenient TV controls. 1 GB RAM.
  • Fire TV Stick Lite: HD streaming with no TV controls. Lacks Dolby Atmos audio support. 1 GB RAM.
  • Fire TV Stick 4K: Cinematic 4K streaming with Dolby Vision support. 1.5 GB RAM.
  • Fire TV Stick 4K Max: High performance 4K streaming with Wi-Fi 6 support. 2 GB RAM.

All devices run on a quad-core processor, which ensures smooth streaming.

Note: Each device has various variations as they are all frequently updated. For example, the current Fire TV Stick is Firestick Gen 3, but the Firestick Gen 2 version is still available in stores.

How to Set Up Firestick?

The Amazon Firestick is a straightforward device, and it doesn’t require much to start working. Once you unpack it, you can get it running in a few steps:

  1. Insert the provided batteries in the remote.
  2. Connect the stick to your TV through the HDMI port.
  3. Connect the device to a power outlet through the USB cable and adapter provided.
  4. When the device powers on, use the remote to connect it to the internet through your Wi-Fi network.

Firestick set up and use guideImage source: Amazon.com

If you bought your Firestick from the Amazon website, it should already be connected to your Amazon account. Just install apps and stream away!

If you bought your device elsewhere, you’ll need to log in – or register for free if you don’t have one – with your Amazon account.

How Does a Firestick Work?

Amazon Fire TV Stick works like most streaming devices in that you only need to set it up as shown above. You can then install apps to start streaming. The best thing about the device is that you won’t be limited to the Firestick apps provided on the Appstore, as the device also runs third-party Android apps.

Overall, you can do the following on Firestick:

  • Access movies & TV shows
  • Stream live sports
  • Watch live TV
  • Watch catch-up TV
  • Stream music.

Apart from streaming, you can also use Alexa on Firestick to ask for answers and give commands.

Note that the new version of Fire OS allows you to set up profiles such that each user has their own customized experience.

How to Download Apps on Firestick?

Amazon Firestick comes with an official store that hosts hundreds of apps you can install to stream both free and paid content.

Amazon Appstore Download

If you already know the Firestick apps to download, you can use the search option on your Amazon Fire TV Stick:

  1. While at the Firestick main screen, go to Find, then select Search.Firestick home page with prominent Find and Search buttons
  2. On the search window that opens, start typing the name of the app. For illustration purposes, we’ll use ExpressVPN, a crucial utility app for accessing geo-restricted content and streaming privately. After you start typing, Firestick will give you a suggestion. Click on it.vpncheck-spectrum-searching-expressvpn-on-amazon-firestick
  3. You should now see the app you were looking for. Click on it.Amazon Firestick Express VPN highlighted on home screen
  4. On the app information page, click Download, and the app will install.ExpressVPN installation option on Firestick
  5. If you are not sure of the app you are looking for, go to Find then select Appstore.The Appstore tab highlighted in the tile menu

You’ll now see a search option alongside four subcategories: All your Apps, Featured, Games, and All Categories.The All Categories tab highlighted in App Store’s screen with a tile menu of the items below it

The latter will allow you to search for apps that relate to your interests.

The Movies & TV tile highlighted in the All Categories tile menu of the App Store

If the app of your choice is geo-restricted and not available in your region, you can change your Firestick location and install it.

Jailbroken Firestick Apps Download

Free Firestick apps such as Crackle, Tubi, and Xumo TV only offer little content and are usually geo-restricted. To unleash the full power of your Amazon streaming device, you will need to install third-party apps such as CinemaHD, and most popularly, Kodi.

This is often referred to as jailbreaking a Firestick as it does away with subscriptions and geo-restrictions, although it also requires users to connect to a reliable VPN to stream safely.

The best and most popular way to install third-party apps is through an app known as Downloader.

Step 1: Install Downloader

Downloader is a download manager, which also facilitates the installation of apps. The app is available on the Appstore.

  1. While at the Firestick main screen, go to Find, then select Search.Firestick home page with prominent Find and Search buttons
  2. On the search window that opens, start typing Downloader. Firestick will then give you a suggestion to make the search easy. Click on it.Amazon Firestick search function with Downloader highlighted
  3. You should now see the app. Click on it.Amazon app menu with Downloader highlighted
  4. On the app information page, click Download, and the app will install.Clickable option to install Downloader on Firestick

To enable Downloader to install your app of choice (and any future apps for that matter), you’ll need to set up a few things on Firestick.

Step 2: Prep your Amazon Firestick

The first thing you need to do is allow “apps from unknown sources.”

Allow “Apps from Unknown Sources”

Depending on your Firestick version, this will either allow the entire device to install third-party apps or only allow Downloader to do that.

  1. Go to Firestick Settings and select My Fire TV.Amazon Firestick Settings menu with My Fire TV highlighted
  2. Select Developer options.Developer options highlighted in the My Fire TV menu, find Developer options.
  3. If you are using Firestick Gen 2, Firestick 4K, or Fire TV Cube, you only need to click Apps from Unknown Sources and accept the warning. The state will then change from Off to On.Apps from Unknown Sources categorized under Developer Options in My Fire TV settings

If you are using Firestick Lite or Firestick Gen 3, clicking the option will give you a list of apps. Click on Downloader and accept the prompt to allow the installation of third-party apps.Downloader shown as turned on and highlighted among the Install Unknown Apps options in My Fire TV settings menu

You can now go ahead and use Downloader to install third-party apps. But before you do that, you may need to disable data sharing to prevent Amazon from spying on you.

Turn Off Amazon Data Collection Settings

Firestick collects data by default since the rollout of their new version of Fire OS, but you can disable the option to enhance your privacy. 

  1. Go to Settings from the homepage and select Preferences.Amazon Firestick Settings menu with Preferences highlighted
  2. Click on Privacy SettingsThe Amazon Firestick Preferences menu with Privacy Settings highlighted
  3. Now, click on “Device Usage Data” and “Collect App Usage Data” to turn them off.Privacy Settings menu, showing Device Usage Data and Collect App Usage Data

Step 3: Download & Install the App

You can now install the app that you want. We usually provide a frequently updated list of the best APKs for Firestick, so you can check it out for the latest. In this guide, we’ll use CyberFlix TV, one of the top apps on the list.

  1. Go to Apps & Channels by clicking the apps button at the end of the main menu.The Apps and Channels icon on Firestick- three boxes and a plus sign located on the far right of the Firestick home screen
  2. Select Downloader and open it. It should be the last app. The app will then ask for permissions that you can grant by clicking Allow. Allow button highlighted in the permission dialog to give the Downloader app access to photos, media and files on Firestick
  3. On the URL text box, type vpnch.ec/k/cyberflix then click Go.Adding the CyberFlix apk URL on Downloader
  4. The CyberFlix apk will start downloading.IPTV Smarters downloading status on Firestick
  5. You’ll then get an option to install the app. Click  Install.File Explorer CyberFlix install option
  6. When the installation completes, click Done. Do not open the app yet.CyberFlix TV installation dialog box with the DONE option highlighted for clicking
  7.  You’ll get an option to delete the installation file and save space. Click Delete and Delete again to confirm.Confirmation dialog box for deleting CyberFlix TV installation file on Firestick

You can now go ahead and open the app you’ve installed from the App & Channels page.Firestick’s Apps & Channels tile menu showing the CyberFlix app has been added

Here’s what CyberFlix looks like.CyberFlix Title Filters options menu

But before you start streaming, install the best VPN for Firestick and connect to a server. This will ensure that all your streaming activities remain private and anonymous.

How to Use the Firestick with Alexa?

Amazon Firestick comes with Alexa voice control. The functionality can be used to provide voice commands, and this can be anything from changing the volume or input on the TV to searching for a particular title.

To activate Alexa on Firestick, simply hold the microphone button on the remote, say out your command, and release the button.

How to Uninstall Apps on Firestick?

There are times when you may need to uninstall an app on Firestick because it either causes problems or simply takes up too much space. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Go to the Firestick main screen and click on the Apps & Channels button.The Apps and Channels icon on Firestick- three boxes and a plus sign located on the far right of the Firestick home screen
  2. Scroll down to the app that you want to uninstall and click the menu button (three lines) on the Firestick remote. You’ll see an option to uninstall the app.Your Apps & Games screen, Uninstall button highlighted

How to Restart Firestick?

In case you run into some problems, you can restart your Firestick to see if it will resolve the issues.

  1. Go to the Settings tab and select My Fire TV.Amazon Firestick Settings menu with My Fire TV highlighted
  2. Scroll down, and you’ll see the Restart option. Click on it.My Fire TV menu Restart highlighted
  3. Confirm by selecting Restart.

The device will now reboot.

How To Reset Firestick to Factory Defaults?

Once in a while, you may need to reset your Firestick when you run out of storage or feel that the device has become slow/unresponsive.

To do so:

  1. Go to the Settings tab and select My Fire TV.
  2. Scroll down, and you’ll see the Reset to factory defaults option. Click on it.<alt: Reset to Factory Defaults settings button on My Fire TV menu>
  3. Confirm by selecting Reset.

The device will now reset, and you will be required to connect to your network and log in using your Amazon account.

Conclusion

We hope that this guide satisfactorily answers your question: “What is a Firestick?” The Amazon Fire TV Stick is arguably the most popular streaming device in the market, and that is justified by the device’ functionalities and capabilities. If you have one or are thinking of getting one, we made sure to cover all the basics you need to get started. You can then check out our other guides for the best Firestick apps and Kodi addons.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is there a monthly fee for Firestick?

No, you won’t need to pay a monthly subscription to use Firestick. However, some of the apps may need you to have a subscription.

Do I need Amazon Firestick if I have a Smart TV?

If your TV is smart but it doesn’t run on Android, you’ll still need Firestick if you’d like to take advantage of the platform’s wide array of free streaming apps.

Is Firestick worth it?

Value is subjective at best, but the quality of service provided by Firestick and the capability to install lots of free and paid streaming apps make the device worth the $40 you’ll need to part with.

vpncheck ExpressVPN Offer