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Fettling an Amazon Fire HD 8

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My trusty Tesco Hudl 2 died a little while ago. It was a bargain when I bought it and was an excellent 8" Android tablet. So I was left looking around for another and, as it happened, Amazon chose that week to launch the 2017 edition of the Amazon Fire HD 8.

Amazon Fire HD 2017

It costs only £79.99 for the 16GB version "with special offers" (which I'll return to in a moment. There's also a 32GB version for an extra £20 but I had a 32GB micro SDHC card in the Hudl so I could just move it over.

Now there is a catch to all the Amazon Fire tablets and that is that they run Amazon's fork of Android which they call Fire OS. The version they're currently shipping 5.4.0.0 is a fork of Android 5.0 (API level 22) which is pretty much where I was with the Hudl so I could live with that.

But that's just the start: they also use a very clunky launcher (it looks worse than the photo above), they have their own app store which is rather empty compared to Google's, and (assuming you don't pay them an extra £10) the lock screen shows you special offers from Amazon.

So, with grateful thanks to the folks on the /r/kindlefire sub on reddit, here's a quick summary of how to turn your Amazon Fire HD 8 into a generic Android tablet. You don't need to root it (indeed as far as I'm aware no one has yet succeeded in rooting an Amazon Fire tablet).

  1. Follow these instructions to get the Google Play Store onto your tablet.
  2. Once you've done that then this article explains how to use a different home screen launcher (I strongly recommend Nova Launcher). You will find that the app the article suggests LauncherHijack, has been superseded by Launcher Hijack V2.

    Neither of the hijackers are perfect, sometimes when you press home you're taken to the task switcher rather than the home page, but it seems to be the best that can be managed at the moment.

    The other problem is that widgets don't work ... but see 4. below.

  3. If you want to get rid of the special offers then here's how to do that on Windows but also see the follow up post on how to do it from Linux.
  4. If you do step 3 then you now have adb installed on your PC and this means you can also enable widgets by following these instructions (assuming you've chosen Nova Launcher then <PACKAGE.name.of.your.launcher> will be com.teslacoilsw.launcher (or com.teslacoilsw.launcher.prime is, like me you have the paid for "Prime" version).

So there you have it, I've got an Android tablet, with Alexa on, for a penny under £80. Result.

Tags: Android, toys Written 22/07/17

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