Amazon’s Fire tablets run a modified version of Android called Fire OS. It has a custom user interface designed to emphasize Amazon’s apps and services. And it also tends to receive major operating system updates infrequently.
Google is preparing to release Android 11 this fall, but Amazon’s latest Fire tablets ship with Fire OS 7, which is based on Android 9.
That could change next week soon.
Update 8/21/2020: Better late than never. Amazon has released Fire OS 7 for its 2018 and 2019 tablets. You can download it from the Fire Tablet Software Update page if you don’t want to wait around for an over-the-air update.
According to a note on Amazon’s Fire Tablet developer page, the company plans to “uplevel” those two tablets from Fire OS 6 to Fire OS 7
on July 28, 2020.
Among other things, that means that:
- Apps have to ask users to grant permission for each different app, giving users a better idea of the privacy and security implications of running each app.
- Apps have tighter limits on how they can use background services.
- Apps have restricted access to WiFi.
- All notifications have to be assigned to a channel.
For the most part, these changes affect developers more than end users. The Fire OS user interface hasn’t changed much, and some Android features such as support for split-screen views, adaptive icons, and notification dots are not supported in Fire OS 7.
But it’s good to see Amazon bringing its fork of Google’s mobile operating system a little closer to feature parity with recent versions of Android, which means that if you decide to sideload Android apps that aren’t available in Amazon’s app store, there’s a better chance that recent apps will behave as expected.
Incidentally, the 2018 Fire HD 8 has been discontinued and replaced with a newer, faster model. But the 2019 Fire 7 tablet is still available — and it’s currently on sale for $35 and up. That’s about 30-percent off the usual price.
This article was originally published July 20, 2020 and last updated August 21, 2020.