UPDATE: Amazon’s most recent Fire OS update, 5.6.0, has broken the install button for third-party applications. Fortunately, there are a number of simple workarounds, including locking and unlocking your device or switching to the Amazon app store and back, to make that grayed-out install button clickable. If you’re able to do that, the instructions given in the rest of this post should still work just fine. Hopefully Amazon will correct this issue in subsequent updates.
With the new $150 Fire HD 10 tablet finally shipping, the first reviews of it are starting to pop up all over the place—and almost without exception, every review says that it’s a great tablet, but will unfortunately only let you install apps from Amazon’s store.
It makes me wonder just how much research any of those review writers ever bothered to do, given that restriction hasn’t actually been in effect for months now. As I noted in a previous post, it’s not only possible but easy to install the Play Store and Google’s applications to any tablet running a modern version of the Fire operating system. You don’t have to root it, you don’t have to hack it in any way. You have to change just one setting, then download some packages through the web browser. Update, Nov. 21, 2017: In addition, you need to bypass Amazon’s new witting or unwitting barrier against sideloaded apps—instructions here. One user, upon seeing the Install button grayed out, just tapped the home button and returned to the app installer screen. Try this quick method first.
Granted, the Fire doesn’t come from Amazon with the Google stuff pre-installed, but you would have thought that these reviewers could have spared a sentence or two to note that it can be added afterward with the greatest of ease. That could make a considerable difference in whether or not someone decides to buy the thing, after all.
Allow Apps from Unknown Sources
The first step is to go into “Settings,” either by using the “Settings” icon on the Fire’s home screen, or by swiping down from the top and tapping on “Settings” there. In “Settings,” scroll down and tap on “Security.” When this screen opens up, switch the “Apps from Unknown Sources” to “on,” as shown here. This will cause a warning message to pop up, which you can safely disregard (as long as you limit your non-Amazon downloads to the generally-trustworthy Play Store, at least).
Install the Google Packages
Now, open the Silk browser, and navigate to this article. Click the following links to download and install the following four software packages in this order:
If the page says there’s a newer version of the package available, don’t worry too much about it. If the newer version is compatible with your Fire, then your Fire will update to it on its own once you get the Play Store’s automatic update function going. If you want to check the newer versions anyway and see if one of them is compatible, scroll down to the list of packages at the bottom of the download page. But bear in mind, you need to make sure that the version you download is listed as being compatible with Android 5.1 Lollipop or earlier. Otherwise, it won’t work.
David Rothman, TeleRead’s owner, found that he had to stick to the older versions of the package—the one featured—to get the Google apps working.
Restart and Launch Google Play
Now all you need to do is power your Fire off, wait for a few seconds after it shuts down, and then restart it. Once it finishes booting up, launch the Google Play Store and follow the instructions there for logging into your Google account.
Not every app will be available in a Fire compatible version, and of those that are, not all of them will run properly (most notably, Gmail and Inbox don’t work right). But a surprising number of Android-only apps that aren’t available from Amazon will launch and run just fine.
And this makes any size of Fire a lot more than just a storefront on Amazon limited to only those apps Amazon wants to give you. You may still have to put up with the lock-screen ads (unless you pay Amazon or ask Amazon support to remove them), and won’t have access to some of the cool features from later versions of Amazon like screen splitting, but you’ll have an inexpensive tablet that is useful out of all proportion to its price for watching media, reading books, and doing other general Internet tasks.