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Fire OS guide: Everything you need to know

< type="image/webp"/>Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus on coffee table

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Although it can be difficult to tell, all Amazon Fire tablets run on Android. Amazon covers the operating system so excessively that it doesn’t look much like Android anymore, but it’s there! The software that ships with Amazon Fire tablets is known as Fire OS.

See also: The Best Amazon Devices You Can Buy Right Now

Next, we will provide you with all the information you need about Fire OS. We will tell you how to update it, how to know what version you are running, Android skin history, and much more! Note that, technically, Fire OS also comes in Fire TV products, as well as Echo smart speakers. However, in this article we will focus on the tablet version.

Editor’s note: This article is current as of December 2021. We will add / remove content as Amazon reveals more information about Fire OS.

Amazon Fire OS at a glance

< type="image/webp"/>Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus showing the store

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The most important thing to know about Fire OS is that it is a non-certified version of Android. That means it does not include any Google services. That includes the Google Play Store itself, as well as any Google-owned property, like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, and more.

However, under the hood, everything works with Android. With the Amazon App Store pre-installed, many of the Android apps you know and love are available on Fire tablets, but some major players will be missing.

See also: What is Android?

Amazon also revamps the Android look with Fire OS to focus more on media consumption and (obviously) shopping on Amazon. When you first turn on a Fire tablet, you can immediately tell how different it is from any of your other phones or other Android devices.

Finally, Amazon is very liberal with advertising on Fire OS. That is one of the reasons why their tablets are so cheap compared to the competition. There are ways to remove the ads, but they usually involve paying Amazon extra money or technical know-how.

The latest version of Fire OS

< type="image/webp"/>Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus on the street

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Amazon doesn’t keep Fire OS up-to-date with Android versions. Even today’s most advanced Amazon tablets still have Android 9 Pie, even though that version is already three generations old. Amazon probably doesn’t feel like keeping things up to date is important because the target market for Fire tablets doesn’t prioritize software updates.

However, this is important to know, because if there are Android apps that you use that need a later version of Android, they will not work properly with Fire OS.

The latest stable version of Fire OS is based on Android 9 Pie.

Finally, Amazon will update Fire OS to a newer version of Android. However, it is not known when that could happen. It is also not known which of its existing tablets would see that update.

We have steps on how to check your version number in the next section.

How to see your Fire OS version and check for updates

< type="image/webp"/>Rear panel of Amazon Fire 8 HD Plus on a blue background

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

If you don’t know what version of Fire OS is on your Amazon tablet, you can easily check. These are the steps:

  1. Go to Android Settings Finding the shortcut on the home screen or in the notification tone.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the list and touch the Device options section.
  3. Now, touch System updates.
  4. At the top of the page, you will see what version of Fire OS you are running.

If you are running an older version of Fire OS, an update may be waiting for you in this section. If there is, it will install in the background and then ask you to reboot. Depending on how late you are on updates, you may need to repeat these steps several times.

If your software is up to date but you don’t have the latest version of Fire OS, that means your tablet hasn’t received the update yet. It is also possible that your device is too old to receive new updates. Fortunately, Amazon’s Fire Tablet Software Updates page has all the information you need on the latest versions of your software.

A brief history of Fire OS

< type="image/webp"/>Fire OS as it first appeared on a Fire 7 tablet

The first devices to land with Fire OS are technically the third generation Fire HD tablets released in 2015. From 2011 to 2015, Amazon tablets did not come with an officially named operating system. All Amazon would say is that the software was “Android-based.”

Today, Amazon calls the software Fire OS and says it is “compatible with Android.” However, the operating system hasn’t changed much from the start.

See also: A look at the main Android skins

Fire OS has never had access to the Google Play Store (at least not officially). Amazon develops and maintains Fire OS through the Android open project, which gives you full control over how the operating system looks and works.

In 2014, Amazon launched the Fire Phone, its first (and only) smartphone. The phone was a critical and commercial failure. Since then, Fire OS has only existed on tablets, Fire TV streamers, and Echo smart speakers.

Since 2016, Fire OS tablets have had access to Amazon Alexa, their popular digital assistant. In 2017, hands-free support for Alexa arrived.

What Fire OS Looks Like

< type="image/webp"/>Amazon Fire HD 8 Devide Dashboard 2

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Here’s a gallery of screenshots that should give you an idea of ​​what to expect from Fire OS.

Best Unique Features of Fire OS

< type="image/webp"/>2020 Amazon Fire HD 8 showing books

Each Android skin puts its own stamp on the software. Here are some things that Fire OS can do that most other skins cannot.

Single launcher

As mentioned above, Fire OS looks drastically different from most other Android-based skins. The launcher itself lacks one of Android’s most defining features: the app drawer. Instead, your home screen houses all of your apps. There is also a horizontal scrolling feature that allows you to jump to multiple selected sections. For example, swiping right takes you to the Library section, where you can view your Prime Video e-books, apps, games, and tips. This unique design gives the Fire tablet series an interesting atmosphere compared to other Android devices.

Device control panel

At the bottom left of the navigation bar on an Amazon tablet, you will see a small home icon. This takes you to the device panel. This single area of ​​Fire OS connects you to all of your Alexa-powered devices. Think of it as Amazon’s version of the Google Home app. Its prominent location in the navigation bar only serves to show the importance Amazon places on its ecosystem of Alexa-powered smart home products.

Amazon App Store

We have mentioned a few times that Amazon tablets do not come with the Google Play Store. While this may seem like a major downside at first, the Amazon app store has some cool things going for it. For example, prices are not always one-to-one with the Play Store. In other words, some apps are cheaper on the Appstore (although some are more expensive). Additionally, the Appstore will be integrated into Windows 11, making it even more ubiquitous. The thing is, Appstore is a different kind of store and it might end up being better for you in some way than Play Store.

Show mode

If you have an Amazon tablet that is fairly recent and larger than seven inches, you have access to Show mode. This mode essentially turns your tablet into an always-on smart display, complete with hands-free access to Alexa. To activate it within Fire OS, simply slide down the notification shade and tap the Show Mode button. Instead, you can say “Alexa, switch to Show mode.” There are also wireless charging stands that make show mode easy.

That’s everything you need to know about Amazon’s Fire OS! Make sure to bookmark this page as we will update it as Amazon changes the Android skin.

Above article first published by . We curated and re-published.

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