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The Amazon Fire tablets are a force of nature. Cheap, flexible, and with decent battery life, they provide a good intro to tablets for kids, grandparents, and anyone who might be reluctant to progress from a smartphone or even a desktop PC.
We reviewed the Fire 7, Amazon’s $50 7-inch tablet, and although it’s a device you should certainly consider, we observed that it does have a key shortcoming: the Amazon-made version of Android that comes pre-installed.
Fortunately, you don’t have to use your Amazon Fire tablet with the software restrictions that Amazon forces on you. Several apps and customizations can be added that will give you a more traditional Android experience. Let’s take a look at how you can make an Amazon Fire tablet look like stock Android.
First Things First: No Root Necessary!
Many customizations for Android-based devices rely on unlocking the phone and gaining root access. This is tricky with Amazon Fire tablets because they are regularly updated by Amazon, which means the retail giant could potentially fix any vulnerabilities that allowed you to gain root access in the first place.
It’s a big pain, so while there is the option of installing a custom ROM, what we’re looking at here are Amazon Fire tweaks that don’t require root access.
You Need Google Play
Although there is a good choice of apps in the Amazon App Store — including many premium titles for free — for the best Android experience, you really need access to the Google Play Store.
To get started, you’ll need to enable Developer Options. Find this in Settings > Device Options, and tap Serial Number seven times until the Developer Options menu item appears below. Open this, and tap Enable ADB, agreeing to the warning. Finally, connect the device to your PC via USB, and unlock it, enabling Windows to download the necessary drivers.
Next, head to Root Junky and select the Amazon Fire version that matches your device and download the *Install-Play-Store.zip file (we’re using Amazon Fire 5th gen, and Amazon-Fire-5th-Gen-Install-Play-Store.zip, as this matches our device).
Once downloaded, extract the contents and run the 1-Install-Play-Store.bat file. Unlock your Amazon Fire tablet and agree to the USB debugging request, then select option 2.
When this has completed, you’ll be prompted to reboot your Fire tablet, so do this, then unplug from your PC. After rebooting, you’ll find the Google Play Store icon (along with Google Settings) sitting beside your other apps. Tap this to sign into Google Play (or create an account) and start browsing the store. Most apps should work on the Amazon Fire tablet without any issues.
Remember to disable the Enable ADB option when you’re done.
Time for an Android-Style Launcher
With the Play Store installed, you’ll be able to browse through the various alternative launchers available there. Nova Launcher is popular, as is ZenUI from ASUS, and the Android 7.0 Nougat-inspired Nougat Launcher.
Initially, these launchers won’t work. To fix this, you’ll need to run the LauncherHijack APK, which you can find a current link to at XDA Developers. Either download it to your PC and copy across, or download it directly through the Amazon Fire’s Silk browser, and install it. You’ll need to open Settings > Security and enable the switch for Apps from Unknown Sources.
Once installed, open Settings > Accessibility and enable Detect Home Button Press. Press Home to enable the chosen launcher, and begin to enjoy an Android experience on your Amazon Fire!
If you like the Amazon Fire launcher, you can always tidy it up a bit. Open Settings > Apps & Games > Amazon Application Settings > Home Screen Settings to view the items you might want to disable. We recommend disabling Home Recommendations and Show New Items on the Home Page.
Meanwhile, you might enable Change Home Page Navigation for a more Android-y feel.
Kill the Amazon Ads
The cheapest versions of the Fire tablets will come with ads enabled. Fortunately, you can disable them.
You have a couple of options here. The first is to gain access to the Google Play Store using the method detailed above, as that automatically removes the ads from your lock screen. You’ll see an option that removes adverts from the lock screen.
Unfortunately, the removal of ads from the lock screen is hit and miss, and, like rooting, depends on whether Amazon has fixed a particular software exploit.
The second option is a bit more expensive. On your desktop, open a browser and head to Amazon’s Manage Your Content and Devices page, which you’ll also find under Your Account. Select Your Devices, highlight the tablet, then find Special Offers: Subscribed and click Edit.
To unsubscribe from special offers and ads (referred to as “Sponsored Screensavers”), click Unsubscribe now with 1-Click. This will set you back $15 (£10 in the U.K.), so you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of leaving the ads in place or removing them against your budget.
More Amazon Features You Can Disable
Amazon’s Fire OS has a few annoying “features” that you’ll want to remove for a more authentic Android experience. Head to Settings > Apps & Games > Amazon Application Settings, where you’ll find a collection of options that you can disable.
Reader Settings > Push Notifications Sent to This Device — Here you can disable notifications you don’t want.
Special Offers Settings — Use this to disable Personalized Recommendations if you have left the lock screen ads intact.
Amazon Video Settings > On Deck — Disable this to prevent Amazon from downloading recommended movies and spamming you with notifications.
Manage Notifications on the Amazon Fire
Another tweak you can make is to make notifications less irritating. Special offer notifications tend to pop up daily, telling you about promotions that Amazon thinks you should sign up for, but these can be quickly and effortlessly disabled.
When one appears in the notification area, long tap on it until you see an i icon, then select Block from the subsequent menu. Some pre-installed notification area-spamming apps can be uninstalled, of course, which may be a preferable option.
That’s five things you can do to make your Amazon Fire tablet feel more like stock Android. Did you try any of these? Perhaps you installed a custom Android ROM on your Amazon Fire instead? Tell us about it in the comments.