The Amazon Fire Tablet may not be one the best tablets money can buy, but more than a year after its launch, the $50 Amazon Fire is still one of the cheapest tablets that’s actually good enough to consider worth buying.

But there is one big catch: while the tablet runs a customized version of Android, it’s designed to use Amazon’s app launcher, Amazon’s app store, and Amazon’s music, video, eBook, and other experiences, and not Google’s.

The good news is that the tablet has proved to be very hackable.

Update 7/10/2017: This article was written about the 2015 model, which shipped with an earlier version of Fire OS. As of the time of this update, the latest version of the Fire tablet ships with a newer version of Amazon’s Android-based operating system, and hackers haven’t found a way to root the device or install custom ROMs yet. But you *can* install the Google Play Store, even without root access.

Here’s a video showing the process for doing that on the Fire HD 8 with Fire OS 5.4. The steps are virtually identical for the 7 inch Fire tablet with the same OS. 

Keep an eye on the Amazon Fire forum at xda-developers or the Kindle Fire community at reddit for any changes… or if you do find yourself with a Fire tablet running Fire OS 5.3.1 or earlier, check out the tips below for hacks you might be able to perform

fire

Last year we highlighted some of the tricks users had found to root the tablet, install the Google Play Store, and even replace the operating system with a custom ROM.

But Amazon has rolled out a number of software updates, and users have found a number of new ways to bend the tablet to their will. So here’s a roundup of some of the things you can do to change the software experience on Amazon’s most affordable Fire tablet.

Note that everything listed below is confirmed to work with the Fire Tablet running Fire OS 5.3.1, and may work with Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 10 tablets running the same version of Amazon’s Android-based OS.

Root, Install Google Play, and block OTA updates

While you don’t need root access to install the Play Store, change the app launcher, or perform some other functions, root does allow you to run some root-only apps like Titanium Backup.

RootJunky has released a “SuperTool” utility that makes it easy to root the tablet so that you have access to system files and settings, install the Google Play Store, and prevent the tablet from receiving over-the-air-updates from Amazon.

That last piece is important, because if your tablet is set up to automatically install updates, you might end up losing root access and finding that you’re unable to regain it.

The utility also lets you boot into TWRP or CM custom recovery.

supertool

The RootJunky Supertool is available in two versions: one for Windows and the other for Mac and Linux.

Install the Play Store (without root)

Just want to be able to install apps from Google’s Play Store instead of (or in addition to) the Amazon App Store? You don’t need to root your device.

All you need to do is follow this guide to enable apps from unknown sources, install a file manager from Amazon’s store, and then download and run the installers for the Google Account Manager, Google Services Framework, Google Play Services, and Google Play Store.

Then you’ll not only have access to a much wider selection of apps and games, but any apps that you’ve already installed on your phone or other Android devices through Google Play will be available on your Fire Tablet. In some cases, some of your data may even be synchronized.

 

Use LauncherHijack to enable a third-party launcher (without root)

Don’t like Amazon’s home screen and app launcher? Out of the box, Amazon doesn’t let you do it. But hackers have found a few different methods over the past year.

One of the better methods for replacing the launcher comes courtesy of xda-developers forum member parrotgeek1… but while this hack seems to work with Fire OX 5.3.0, I’m not sure if it works on version 5.3.1 or later… which is what any new Fire tablets you purchase will likely ship with.

Running custom ROMs

You know how I mentioned above that Rootjunky’s SuperTool will let you boot a custom recovery? Once you’re there, you can flash a custom ROM onto the tablet… which used to be the recommended way to load a custom ROM that lets you forego Amazon’s customized version of Android for a different OS of your choice.

Now all you need to do is root your tablet with SuperTool, install Chainfire’s FlashFire utility, and then use it do install the ROM of your choice.

Some available options include CynaogenMod, AICP, SlimROM, or another Android Open Source Project (AOSP)-based ROM.

fire-nexus

There’s even a Fire Nexus ROM, which is designed to bring a near stock Android experience to Amazon’s tablet… and which also supports a huge array of customization features through the Xposed Framework.

Other resources

You can find more information about custom ROMs and other flashable firmware updates including custom recoveries and kernels at the xda-developers forum.

And another great resource for all things Amazon Fire hacking-related is the Amazon Fire Index post by sd_shadow.

Or just check out the main index for the Amazon Fire tablet at xda-developers, but I’ve tried to curate some of the most useful links here.

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15 replies on “Playing with Fire: Hacking Amazon’s $50 Fire tablet”

  1. I tried lots of cheap tablets. The Amazon Fire is the only one that still works and hasn’t broken yet. I thought about adding Google Play, but I’m concerned about security and privacy. I’m keeping my Fire tablet the way it is.

  2. Did Lilliput try their recommended hacks of the Fire. I don’t think they work. And I don’t think you can prevent Fire updates. No arguments please I’m done with the Fire.

  3. I don’t think it’s possible to install the Play store apk and framework etc. on the current version of FireOS. I have a Fire 6 HD I picked up for $35 a few weeks ago, and I went through the process, which worked fine, and then installed a handful of things (Netflix, for example). Then an autoupdate broke the Play store, and also prevents re-installing it. At least the apps I installed are all still working, but I may bite the bullet and root it.

  4. i got it last year for $35 and the tablet so far the bes that i ever used beside the shield tablet,my fire tablet i use every single day as remote with droidmote app to control my shield tv and no problem this device is so easy to rooted and other things with flashfire or root junky super tool. this device for a older and the use still strong

  5. I had one sitting collecting dust and decided to give some of this a try. Now I have a decent launcher and full Google Play services/store. It is much more usable now.

    Thanks.

  6. the fire HD 8 for $60 is probably the better deal. i bought one. i installed google play on my fire HD 8 but i would prefer a different launcher. but i like the new Alexa feature and I doubt that will work if I install a different launcher.

  7. We have two of them. One is a Kids Edition, which is the best money we’ve ever spent on anything for our 3-year-old. He finds new books to read every bedtime, has games to play at restaurants, and has an SD card full of movies to watch on road trips. Our second one was for my wife. She used it a bit, but is just as happy with her phone. So we’ve actually repurposed that one into a Logitech Harmony remote for our family room. It’s also a spare in case our 9-year-old wants to have friends over for Minecraft parties. I might experiment with Cyanogen on that one.

    They’re still pretty great for their price. I’m going to get our 9-year-old a Fire 8 for Christmas and get a Freetime subscription for it. It can replace her aging Nook HD (which isn’t bad with Cyanogen, but is getting past its useful life).

  8. Hacking can be fun. But if you gotten old and lazy like me then I’d just spend the extra few bucks on the new Barnes & Noble tablet. It’s basically just an Android tablet and comes with Google Play. Just a couple Barnes & Noble widgets. It’s $50. I think it runs Android 6 if I remember correctly.

    1. Good point. The few comments on B&N nook tablet 7 aren’t praises though.

    2. Wow that Nook looks like a great buy. Unfortunately it doesn’t say whether it supports Bluetooth or not. I will certainly buy one to play some old school emulators with a Bluetooth controller, if it supports Bluetooth

      1. Apparently they have them in B&N stores to look at. I haven’t checked it out yet though. I would think it does have Bluetooth but you never know until you know.

      2. I got one and it does do bluetooth. The processor is notably slower than an actual tablet when it comes to launching apps, but otherwise it’s totes worth the money.

  9. Got 3 of them laying around. $20,$25,and $35. One is still unopened. Probably be giving it away as a gift.
    I tried installing cynangmod on one but couldn’t get it to work.

    1. If you are feeling generous I would be a very grateful recipient of such a gift!

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