Amazon has published First Kindle Fire tablet in 2011. The original Kindle Fire, a budget device aimed at bringing the emerging tablet form factor and Amazon services to the masses, first viable iPad alternative. Since 2011, Amazon has continued to release numerous devices running Fire OS, from updated Kindle Fire tablets to Fire TV streaming devices. Fire OS is now eleven years old, but confusion about what happened continued. Is Fire OS a version of Android? Can I download Android apps to Fire tablets? Do Google services even work on Amazon’s tablets? These are questions that some have been asking since the inception of Fire OS.
Is Fire OS Android based and will my apps work?
The first question is easy to answer – yes. Fire OS is a forked version of the Android operating system. Although Google makes Android, it is an open source operating system. Any person or company is free to take Android and use it as they wish in various applications. That’s what Amazon did with Fire OS. Amazon takes the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and turns it into its own operating system for tablets, streaming devices, and more.
Can you download Android apps and will your Google services work? This is a more complex question. Fire OS devices run Android apps, but only those downloaded via the Amazon App Store or sideloaded via an APK file. Officially, Google services like Play Store and Gmail are not available. While Google allows companies like Amazon to create a forked version of Android based on AOSP, there are some severe limitations if they do.
What is Android Fork?
An Android fork is based on AOSP but not provided by Google. When it comes to Fire OS, Amazon has created a new Android project that it has maintained and tweaked to its liking. The company regularly upgrades Fire OS with the latest AOSP changes, so it hasn’t been completely removed from Google’s development cycle. You can think of Fire OS as a custom ROM like Lineage OS, but as a company working on it rather than volunteers.
How is this different from an Android skin like Samsung’s One UI? In many ways, they are the same. Samsung takes Android and adds its design and features. The difference is that no changes break the APIs that developers trust, and an Android skin must be approved by Google to ensure that all Google’s apps and features work properly.
Google does not allow the use of Google Mobile Services (GMS) because Google has not verified that Android forks work with its APIs and features. This is why Fire OS devices do not have official access to Play Store, Gmail or even YouTube.
Amazon chose this route with Fire OS for one simple reason: money and control. When manufacturers include Google’s GMS package, there are many terms and conditions they must agree to. Certain Google apps should come pre-installed and Google Search should be the device default. In addition to giving up this level of control, many users prefer to use the Play Store as an alternative to Amazon, and Amazon does not make any money from it.
By disabling Google and making its own Fork of Android, Amazon can take full control of the operating system and the devices it runs on, and enjoy all the profits from the Amazon App Store without sharing it with anyone.
There is a way to run Google Mobile Services on Fire OS devices, but it’s not official and can easily break if Amazon or Google change something. If it’s something you want to try, you can check out our guide. Installing the Google Play Store on every Amazon Fire tablet.
Should I take a Fever Tablet?
Fire OS is a successful product for Amazon. It’s a well-optimized operating system that works well on slower hardware, allowing the company to ship inexpensive devices that perform well despite their modest specs.
However, there are caveats that customers should be aware of before purchasing a Fire Tablet. Despite Amazon’s best efforts, the number of apps available in the Amazon App Store is insufficient compared to the Google Play Store. You’ll find big named apps like Facebook and Twitter, but all Google apps are missing, including YouTube. Installing Google Services is possible with sideloading, but it’s far from a flashy experience.
If you can live with these limitations, an Amazon tablet may be right for you, especially if: tweak it a bit after you have it. However, if you trust Google apps and services and don’t want to set them aside, a tablet running a Google-certified version of Android will better suit your needs.
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