Amazon’s $50 Fire Tablet may be one of the best deals in tech—especially when it occasionally goes on sale for $35. It may feel limited, but with a few tweaks—no rooting necessary—you can turn it (and its larger, slightly more expensive brethren) into an almost-stock Android tablet perfect for reading, watching, and even light gaming.
Don’t get us wrong: Amazon’s 7″ tablet is hardly the best tablet on the market. Its display is pretty low resolution, it isn’t very powerful, and it only has 8GB of storage (though you can add a 64GB microSD card very cheaply). But for $50—$35 if you’re patient—it’s an absolutely killer deal, especially if you’re just using it for media consumption. In fact, it’s such a great deal, I feel guilty for having spent hundreds of dollars on an iPad when the Fire does most of what I need pretty well.
The biggest downside of the Fire tablet is Fire OS, Amazon’s modified version of Android. Amazon’s Appstore may have its advantages, but it doesn’t have near the selection of Google Play. And Fire OS is so loaded with ads and “special deals” notifications that most people would rather have something with true Android.
Not you, though. You are an intrepid tweaker, and you’re willing to hack your way to a stock-like Android experience on the Fire. And thankfully, it’s really easy to do—you don’t even need to root your device. This guide was written with the 7″ Fire Tablet in mind, but some will also work on the Fire HD 8 and other Amazon tablets.
Install the Google Play Store for More Apps
First things first: let’s get a real app store on this thing. Amazon’s Appstore is pretty weak, so if you want all the apps you’re used to on Android, you’ll need the full Google Play Store.
Check out our full guide for step-by-step instructions, but it’s quite simple: just download a few APK files, install them on your tablet, and you’re off to the races. You’ll have a full version of Google Play running on your Fire, complete with all the apps Amazon doesn’t have—including Chrome, Gmail and all your other favorite apps and games.
Get a More Traditional Home Screen Launcher
I actually like Amazon’s home screen, but if you prefer something more akin to stock Android—with the side-scrolling home screens, pop-up app drawer, and widgets—you can get that on your Fire Tablet with a little hack-y workaround.
Just download your launcher of choice—we recommend Nova Launcher—and grab the LauncherHijack APK from this page. Once you’ve installed both, head to Settings > Accessibility and enable “Turn On Detect Home Button Press” in Settings > Accessibility. The next time you press the home button, you’ll be greeted with Android’s familiar home screen, ready for you to add and arrange your shortcuts. Once again, check out our full guide for the step-by-step instructions on the whole process.
The best part about Nova Launcher is that you can hide apps from the app drawer—which means you can hide those pre-bundled Amazon apps you never use.
Tame Amazon’s Annoying Notifications
Tired of seeing constant notifications from Amazon’s “Special Offers” and other included apps? There’s a really simple fix, and it’s built right into Android. The next time you see a notification you don’t want, press and hold on it. Then, tap the “i” icon that appears.
You’ll be taken to a screen with a few different options. Pick what you want—I usually just “Block” notifications from that app—and you won’t be annoyed by them ever again.
In some cases—like the bundled Washington Post app—you can just uninstall the app completely, if you don’t use it. You can also check an app’s settings to see if it has options to turn off notifications. But Amazon’s Special Offers app does not offer either of these options, so blocking notifications from the Fire’s settings is really handy.
Get Rid of Amazon’s Ads
You can get the Fire Tablet without “Special Offers”, but it’s cheaper if you get it with Amazon’s ads built in. Apart from the notifications discussed above, Amazon’s ads aren’t too intrusive—you’ll mostly see them on the lock screen, instead of your wallpaper. But if you later decide you don’t want those ads at all, you can get rid of them.
Here’s the catch: you’ll have to pay for it.
Once upon a time, there was a simple way to block Amazon’s ads, but Amazon wised up and closed that loophole. So, if you want to truly block Amazon’s ads on the latest version of Fire OS, you’ll need to pony up the $15 to get rid of them Amazon’s way.
To do so, open a web browser and head to Amazon’s Manage Your Content and Devices page. Click the “Your Devices” tab, click the “…” button next to your device in the list, and under “Special Offers / Offers and Ads”, click “Edit”.
From there, you can unsubscribe from ads on that device for $15.
Turn Off Amazon-Specific Features You Don’t Want
Apart from ads, the Fire also has a few Amazon-specific features that send annoying notifications and, in some cases, even eat up your bandwidth. So let’s go hunting.
Head to Settings > Apps & Games > Amazon Application Settings. Here, you can see all of Amazon’s extra Fire features they’ve added to Android. You can dig through these settings yourself, but I recommend tweaking the following:
- Go to Home Screen Settings and disable Home Recommendations, Show New Items on the Home Page, and whatever other settings you want here. This will de-clutter the home screen a bit (that is, if you didn’t already switch to Nova Launcher.) The Change Home Page Navigation feature is a bit more stock Android-esque, too.
- Go to Reader Settings > Push Notifications Sent to This Device and turn off whatever notifications you don’t want to see.
- Go to Special Offers Settings and, if you haven’t paid to get rid of ads, you can turn off Personalized Recommendations if you find targeted ads creepy.
- Go to Amazon Video Settings and turn off “On Deck”, which automatically downloads movies and shows that Amazon “recommends” without your permission. This will also stop it from sending you notifications about those movies and shows.
Those are the big ones, but feel free to root around these settings. Under Apps & Games, for example, you can also turn off “Collect App Usage Data” if you don’t want Amazon tracking how often and how long you use certain apps.
With all of these tweaks, that $50 tablet feels like it’s worth far more. Even if you pay $15 to get rid of ads and $20 for a 64GB microSD card, you’re still getting a full-fledged tablet—seriously, an actually usable Android tablet-–for well under $100. No matter what your budget is, that’s a pretty unbeatable deal.