Getting Started Developing Apps and Games

When developing apps for Fire TV, you can choose from a variety of frameworks and options depending on your skillset (Java developer, web developer, or content developer), your platform preference (Android or HTML5 web app), the features you want (advertising, authentication, etc.), and more. The information here will help you get started in building an app.

Options for Building Fire TV Apps

To build an app for Amazon Fire TV, you have several options:

  • Amazon Creator: Intended for content developers, Amazon Creator provides a simple browser-based interface where you can build an HTML5 web app for Fire TV in a matter of minutes. No coding is required. Amazon Creator automatically builds your app from the media assets and categories in your YouTube channel or Media RSS (MRSS) feed. Videos are grouped by your channel sections (for YouTube data sources) or by your feed item categories (for MRSS feed data sources). After you configure your feed, you can style the appearance of your app using the sidebar's visual editor to select colors, fonts, or background images you want. Learn more.

  • Fire App Builder: Fire App Builder is a robust development framework created by Amazon specifically for producing Fire TV media apps. It is based on Java and uses Android Studio, Gradle, and other tools common to Android development. When you create an app with Fire App Builder, you configure the settings for your data feed, screen layouts, and functionality through a series of JSON files. Similarly, simple config file changes allow you to customize the look and feel of your app with no Java coding. Fire App Builder is designed to help you create high-quality media apps without advanced Java programming, but it is also extensible. If you are comfortable coding in Java, you are free to build on top of Fire App Builder to add more advanced features. Learn more.

  • Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV (WASK): Web App Starter Kit (WASK) is a framework created by Amazon specifically for web developers building apps with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. It includes a full-featured, customizable HTML5 web app template to jumpstart your dynamic media app development. Baked in is the code needed to build the big screen experience consumers expect, including a selectable list of categories and rotating carousel of media content. Starting with the base app template, which contains the specific media functionality you want to support — for example, media RSS, JSON feeds, or support for online video providers such as YouTube or Brightcove — you can customize the experience through settings files or by coding extended features directly in the template source files. Learn more.

  • Custom Android App: If you're an Android Java developer, you can use Android tools (like Android Studio) and frameworks to build a TV app. Sample code, documentation, and guidelines are available to help you make the most of your apps. Most apps that work on Android will also work on Fire TV because Fire TV is built on Android. The only difference is with services — for Fire TV, you'll want to use Amazon services instead of Google services. Learn more.

  • Custom Web App: If you're an HTML5 web developer, you can leverage the Amazon WebView to develop apps and games. You have the option to build HTML5 web apps, Cordova apps using the Fire OS port, or hybrid apps. Learn more.

  • Game App: If you're building a game app, there are many third-party development frameworks that work with Android, so you have lots of alternatives to choose from. If you are proficient using Unity, Cocos2d-x, GameMaker, or one of the many other systems popular among mobile app developers, you will find it straightforward to package your game for Fire TV. If you can produce an .APK file, you can probably install it on Fire TV. To learn more, see these Gamemaker Tutorials.

In choosing the right option, consider your skill set. Are you Java-based Android developer, an HTML5/web developer, or a content creator? Choose an approach that aligns with your expertise and app requirements.

eBook on Developing Streaming Media Apps for Amazon Fire TV

If you're developing an app for Fire TV and want a high-level overview to help you navigate the Amazon landscape, see the eBook How to Develop Media Streaming Apps for Amazon Fire TV. This eBook contains best practices for designing for a 10-foot UI, information on Amazon’s dedicated tools and templates (Fire App Builder, WASK, and Amazon Creator), details on publishing to the Amazon Appstore, and more.

Android App Development for Amazon Fire TV

For Java-based Android developers, Amazon Fire TV uses the same tools, IDEs, and APIs you're already used to for Android development. To get started, see Fire App Builder, which is a starter kit for building Java-based Amazon Fire TV and Android apps. Fire App Builder is designed for streaming media TV apps (not games).

If you're building your own app from scratch, see these topics:

If you're an experienced Android developer, also check out this list of what's different about developing on Fire OS.

HTML5 Web App Development for Amazon Fire TV

If you're an HTML5 web app developer building a streaming media app, you can use the Web App Starter Kit for Amazon Fire TV (WASK). WASK is an open source project designed to get you up to speed quickly with a simple media-oriented app for Fire TV. This starter kit includes an example user interface designed for the 10-foot experience, support for the Fire TV remote control, and sample components that you can use to create and customize your own media app.

If you're building your HTML5 web app from scratch, see Getting Started with Web Apps.

APIs for Your Amazon Fire TV App

When you build your Amazon Fire TV app, you can also implement other Amazon APIs to provide a more robust experience:

  • In-App Purchasing API: When customers buy Fire TV devices and register with their Amazon accounts, they are already set up with their Amazon payment profiles and are ready to purchase apps or in-app items with no further effort. Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick support the Amazon In-App Purchasing API, so you can offer consumable items, permanently entitled items, and even subscriptions for sale in your app.
  • Amazon Fling SDK: The Amazon Fling SDK allows customers to fling or cast the screen that appears on their phone or tablet directly onto their television. Extending apps to two screens allows more than one person to engage with your app.

To see more Fire TV APIs and SDKs, see Apps & Games Services SDKs.

Device and Media Specifications

If you're looking for information about the media, device, and specifications Amazon Fire TV supports, such as video formats, DRM, codecs, resolution rates, and more, see Fire TV Device Specifications. Detailed developer specifications are available for each device.

In general, Fire TV is flexible and provides high performance across a wide range of applications. It has a powerful quad-core CPU and a dedicated GPU. The hardware on the latest Amazon Fire TV offers 2GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, support for 4K video output, support for HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio. These features mean that Fire TV has the muscle to run all sorts of apps and games—streaming media is just one more thing it handles well.

Naming Conventions for Amazon Fire TV Devices

Amazon Fire TV device names
Amazon Fire TV device names
Name Device Description
Amazon Fire TV Cube

Refers to the cube form-factor of Fire TV devices. (Note that Fire TV Cube is not merely Gen 4 of Fire TV. The Cube is a new product line of Fire TV devices, so this first release is technically Gen 1.)

On Amazon.com, the device is called "Fire TV Cube | Hands Free with Alexa and 4K Ultra HD | Streaming Media Player."

Amazon Fire TV

Refers to the versions of Amazon Fire TV that are either a pendant (small box hanging from a USB cable) or set-top box. There are 3 generations of Fire TV:

  • Gen 3: Released October 2017
  • Gen 2: Released December 2015
  • Gen 1: Released April 2014

On Amazon.com, the latest version of Fire TV is called "Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote (Pendant Design) | Streaming Media Player." The Gen 2 version is no longer available except as a refurbished device.

Fire TV Stick Refers to the stick version of Fire TV. There are 2 generations of Fire TV sticks and a "Basic Edition":
  • Basic Edition: Released November 2017
  • Gen 2: Released September 2016
  • Gen 1: Released November 2014

On Amazon.com, the latest version of the Fire TV Stick is called "Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player."

Fire TV Edition

Refers to all smart TVs with Fire TV built into the TV hardware. If necessary, the specific model of Fire TV Edition is noted in the name, such as "Fire TV Edition - Toshiba 4K" or "Fire TV Edition - Element 4K." Otherwise, references to "Fire TV Edition" apply to all smart TVs with Fire TV built-in.

For TV dimensions (e.g., 43", 50"), weights, stand details, and mounts, see the Comparison Chart and Tech Specs on the Fire TV Edition page on Amazon.com. On Amazon.com, the latest version of Fire TV Edition is referred to as "Toshiba 43/50/55-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV with HDR - Fire TV Edition."

Amazon Fire TV Devices

Refers to all versions/models of Fire TV devices (box, pendant, stick, smart TV).

When you upload an APK into the Appstore, the names listed for Fire TV devices varies a bit. In the Device Support dialog box, the names often used the release year as an identifier. The following table shows which names correspond to which device.

Device support name Friendly name
Fire TV (2014)—AFTB Fire TV (Gen 1)
Fire TV (2015)—AFTS Fire TV (Gen 2)
Fire TV (Gen 3)—AFTN Fire TV (Gen 3)
Fire TV Stick—AFTM Fire TV Stick (Gen 1)
Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote—AFTT Fire TV Stick (Gen 2)
Fire TV Edition - Element 4K—AFTRS Fire TV Edition - Element 4K
Fire TV Edition - Toshiba 4K—AFTKMST12 Fire TV Edition - Toshiba 4K
Fire TV Cube—AFTA Fire TV Cube

Amazon Fire TV Forums

If you need help, have a question, or want to share other feedback, use the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick categories on the Amazon Developer Forum.