Though it has its fair share of problems, it’s no secret that YouTube is the most popular video app in the world today. Surpassed in video bandwidth online only by Netflix, YouTube is responsible for more than 11 percent of global internet bandwidth online, a massive amount considering how popular similar timewasting services like Facebook truly are, and a number that completely dwarfs other platforms like Amazon’s Prime Video. Likewise, Amazon’s Fire TV platform has continued to be a success in both the set-top box marketplace and as included software on popular televisions, becoming the way millions of people consume their entertainment around the world.
For years, the rivalry between Amazon and Google kept the two companies from working together on projects like YouTube for Fire TV (an app that had once existed, before being pulled from existence in 2017) and Chromecast support for Prime Video. No longer, however: it’s now easier than ever to watch YouTube on your Fire Stick. Let’s take a look at how to do it.
The Official Application
It’s no secret that Amazon and Google are two of tech’s biggest competitors today. Despite begrudgingly working together for years, the two companies now work to regularly undercut each other at almost every corner. Amazon has pulled devices like the Chromecast and Google Home from their digital storefront, while Google has pulled apps like YouTube from every Fire OS device, including the Fire Tablets and Fire TV. It’s hard to say where all this began, with the conflict likely dating back to the Amazon Appstore unveil in 2011. Regardless of how the fight started, the real victim between the two companies hasn’t been Amazon or Google, but the users who purchase devices from both companies.
For those who only jumped on the Amazon Fire TV platform over the last several years, you may not remember a time when Google even offered an official YouTube client on Fire OS. In fact, Amazon’s Fire TV devices, including the Fire Stick and the Fire TV Cube, used to come with YouTube preinstalled on the device, but unfortunately, YouTube was removed from the device back in November of 2017. Over the next year, both Amazon and third-party developers worked hard to create a new way to watch YouTube on your television. On April 18th, 2019, however, Google and Amazon announced in a joint press release that YouTube would be coming back to Amazon Fire TV devices, while Amazon will be adding Chromecast support to the Amazon Prime Video app. Now, finally, in July 2019, the official app has arrived back on the Fire TV, and you can install it right on your device.
To install YouTube on the Fire Stick, use your Alexa-enabled remote to search for YouTube, or search either on your Fire Stick or within the Amazon Appstore’s browser app, and hit the install button. After downloading and installing the app, open it using the center button on your remote, then turn to your phone or browser to log into YouTube on your device with the supplied code. After that, you’ll be up and running with the new native app for Fire OS.
While there’s really no reason that you would have to deviate away from the official app now that it’s back on the Amazon Appstore, there remains a number of ways to watch YouTube on your Fire Stick without the official app. Here’s three more ways you can use YouTube on your Fire TV.
Pre-installed Web App
When Google removed YouTube from the Fire TV in November of 2017, Amazon scrambled to find a workaround they could use to defend their platform against missing one of the web’s most important apps today. When YouTube was re-added to the apps list of every Fire TV device, it was done so without a YouTube logo. Instead, fans of the web’s most popular video site were greeted with a blue tile that simply read “YouTube.com.” Amazon had found their workaround: using the open web against Google to provide users a gateway to YouTube.
For most people, this is the most straightforward method to accessing YouTube on their Fire Stick outside of the official app, since Fire OS will walk you through accessing the platform. Open your apps list on your device by holding the Home button on your remote for several seconds and selecting the Apps shortcut from the quick launch menu. Find the blue YouTube.com tile and select the app. This will launch a menu within your Fire OS device that lets you know you can access YouTube and other services on the web by installing a web browser. Fire OS gives you two options to pick from: Amazon’s own Silk Browser, and Firefox, the browser from Mozilla. For YouTube, you’ll need to select Firefox, as Google likes to block YouTube through the Silk Browser.
With Firefox selected, you’ll be brought to the Appstore page for the app. Download the app on your device and wait for it to install, then open Firefox on your Fire stick. The main page in Firefox has some quick links for you to select from that allow you to automatically launch a website. In the future, you can hit the blue YouTube.com icon to launch right to YouTube, but for now, select YouTube from this quick links panel. When YouTube loads, you’ll be redirected to the TV-friendly website, which looks exactly like the old YouTube app on the Fire Stick. You can sign into your YouTube account to view subscriptions and recommended videos, and the app works almost identically to what we’ve seen on other platforms.
Unfortunately, since you are using a browser, the app isn’t quite as slick and fast to load as dedicated applications, but for most people, this is one of the fastest ways to get YouTube up and running on your device. However, if you’re more interested in having a dedicated app instead of using a browser to view your favorite YouTubers on your television, two dedicated apps exist that allow you to do just that.
It’s worth noting that this method of accessing an app-style YouTube site in your browser is going away on October 2nd, so if you haven’t yet switched to the official YouTube app, now might be the time to do so.
Tube Videos (and Other Third-Party Apps)
If you aren’t interested in using the pre-installed web app alongside Firefox, you also have the option to install a third-party app available on the Appstore. The app, Tube Videos, allows you to watch YouTube videos with the same interface as the web option, but without having to deal with Firefox being installed on your device. It’s a simple installation process, even easier than using the blue browser link in the method above, and it works about the same as the Firefox version.
To install Tube Videos on your device, use your Alexa remote to search for Tube Videos. Searching for YouTube also brought up the app in our Appstore. Install Tube Videos on your Fire Stick, then launch the app by hitting the menu button on the installation screen. Tube Videos is, essentially, a browser gateway right into YouTube, without the need for a separate browser on your device. Like with the browser method, you can sign into the app to view your subscribed content, liked videos, and so much more.
Smart YouTube TV
This is a Fire OS device, of course, so your options don’t end at the Amazon-sanctioned tools. Using sideloading on your device, you can install a third-party YouTube app that works nearly-identical to the older app removed more than a year ago. This app doesn’t require a browser like Firefox, and of the three methods on this list, was by far the easiest to use. However, you’ll have to be willing to put up with the set-up instructions that come with sideloading apps within your Fire Stick. If you already know how to do that, or you don’t mind diving into the settings menu of Fire OS, read on to find out how to install Smart YouTube TV, the third-party YouTube app designed for smart streaming boxes.
Turn on Unknown Apps
To sideload applications like Smart YouTube TV on your Fire Stick, you’ll need to start by turning the option on within the settings of your device. 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 YouTube on 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.
With the ability to install apps from unknown sources now enabled, we just have one more step to go. We’ll need to install an application from the Amazon Appstore in order to properly download and install these APK files, since out of the box, your Fire Stick can’t actually do it. 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.
Downloading the APK
With Downloader installed we can finally move forward with actually installing YouTube. To do this, all you’ll need is the proper APK download link for the application you want to install, and thankfully, we have a direct link to YouTube for you to plug in. Using your Fire Stick remote, type the following URL into the field provided, then hit Go on your Fire Stick.
That link will provide you with a recent version of YouTube, and thanks to the auto-update built into the application, you can update the application once it’s been launched. With the Smart YouTube TV APK now downloaded onto your device, all that’s left to do now is install the app directly onto your device. When the installation display for Smart YouTube TV appears on your screen, you’ll be greeted with a display that alerts you to the information YouTube 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 the app.
Once you’ve finished installing the app, Smart YouTube TV will give you the option to pick from four different options for displaying the app. The app has four different “launchers” for YouTube, and the one you pick should depend on your model of Fire Stick and your television. If you have a normal Fire Stick or a 1080p television, make sure you select the 1080p or 1080p Alt option. For those with 4K hardware, select the 4K option to make sure you get the most out of the installed application. There’s no difference between the two settings outside the app selections, so make sure you select the one that fits your device the best.
Unlike most sideloaded apps, Smart YouTube TV doesn’t require an extra piece of software, like a VPN, to be used legally. Unlike with some apps you can install on the Fire Stick, it’s perfectly acceptable to sideload YouTube onto your Fire Stick, and though it takes a few minutes to accomplish, we wholeheartedly recommend installing Smart YouTube TV on your Fire Stick.
With four different ways to watch YouTube on your Fire Stick, there’s no shortage of options for anyone looking to watch their favorite content creators on their television. Let us know in the comments which version of YouTube for the Fire Stick you’re using, and check back at TechJunkie for more Fire TV tips, tricks, and guides!