Amazon’s Fire tablets offer a lot of bang for the buck. They’re cheaper than any iPad, and more affordable than most Samsung tablets, but they tend to have decent displays, good battery life, and acceptable performance (considering the low price tag).
They also ship with Amazon’s Android-based Fire OS, which is probably fine if you’re looking for a simple device for web surfing, watching videos, and maybe playing some light games.
But Fire OS doesn’t ship with the Google Play Store and Amazon doesn’t make it easy to change your keyboard, lock screen wallpaper, or many other settings. That’s where the unofficial Fire Toolbox app comes in. This week developer Datastream33 released version 10.0 of Fire Toolbox, just in time for folks who may have ordered a discounted Amazon Fire tablet during Amazon’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Fire Toolbox is a Windows application that combines a bunch of command-line tools that folks have been using to hack Amazon’s tablets for years, and the latest version supports pretty much every Amazon Fire tablet released since 2014, including the latest Fire HD 10, Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus, and entry-level Fire 7 inch tablets.
In order to use Fire Toolbox on a recent Amazon tablet, you need to:
- Download and install the latest version of Fire Toolbox on a Windows PC.
- Enable USB debugging on your Fire tablet by following these steps:
- Open the Settings app on your Fire tablet.
- Scroll down until you find Device Options and tap it.
- Tap the serial number 7 times until a message pops up saying that you’re now a developer.
- Tap the back button to return to the previous screen.
- Tap the new item that says “Developer Options.”
- Slide the toggle to enable Developer Options.
- Scroll down until you find “USB Debugging” and slide the toggle so that it’s enabled.
- Plug your tablet into the Windows PC using a USB cable.
- Run the Fire Toolbox app on your PC.
- A box should appear on the tablet. Click OK.”
Now you can just follow the on-screen instructions, or explore. Here are some of the things you can use Fire Toolbox to do:
- Install the Google Play Store and Google services.
- Change the default launcher app (you can use something like Nova launcher to make Fire OS look more like stock Android).
- Change your screen density options (to make text and graphics look larger or smaller).
- Uninstall some or all of Amazon’s pre-installed apps (I suggest using the manual option and just checking the apps you know you don’t want or need).
- Enable or disable automatic updates, over-the-air updates, or change other system settings.
- Sideload apps (install applications downloaded to your PC from trusted sites like APK Mirror if they aren’t available in the Amazon Appstore and/or you don’t want to install Google Play).
- Backup all data on your tablet to your PC, or restore from a previous backup.
- Move files to and from your tablet.
- Record a video or save a screenshot.
Some of the changes and new features in version 10 include improvements for restoration from backups, improvements for sideloading apps, a new tool for installing custom keyboard, and an updated method for removing lock screen ads from Fire tablets — plus warning messages to make it clear that the official way to do that is to pay Amazon $15, but you know, if you bought a used tablet on eBay or something and didn’t know that there were “special offers” on the lock screen, maybe it’s not entirely illegal to remove them yourself? Maybe?
The new method also disables OTA updates, which means that you won’t receive security or feature updates from Amazon. So I’d proceed with caution if using that particular option.
You can find the latest version of Fire Toolbox at the xda-developers forum.