Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets (just Fire tablets these days) are some of the best-value Android tablets you can buy, available from just £49.99, buy they don’t run Google apps out of the box, which can make getting your favourite apps on them tricky. As always, there is a workaround, and if you’re running Fire OS 126.96.36.199 or above then it’s actually pretty simple, and anyone can do it.
To install apps from outside the Amazon Appstore you have two options: 'sideload' an APK file that you download from the internet (more risky); or install Google Services (the recommended, safer option).
Now, as you'll discover, even that latter option involves installing Google Play and Google Services by downloading APK files from the web, but thereafter you can download apps directly from the relatively safe confines of the Google Play Store.
We’ll explain how to do both in this article.
How to sideload Android apps on Amazon Fire tablets
Before you can install any apps on your Kindle Fire you must give it permission to install software from outside the Kindle Store. You can do this by launching the Settings app and choosing Security & Privacy, then enabling the toggle beside Apps from unknown sources. A warning message will pop up - click Ok to continue.
From here you can launch the Silk Browser, then search for ‘[App name] APK’ using the URL bar. As an example here we’re using ‘Words With Friends 2 APK’. You should see several options in the results, but we’d advise looking for a proper app directory such as APKPure.
Click the listing in the search results, then scroll down the page to find a ‘Download APK’ button. You’ll be prompted to afford the Silk Browser permission to access your storage in order to download files, so click Continue in this pop-up, then Allow when it asks to access photos, media and files on your device.
Look to the bottom of the screen for a new window that in essence asks if you really want to download this file, warning you that this type of file can harm your device. If you’re certain that it has come from a legit source click Ok.
Once the file has downloaded you’ll again see a pop-up at the bottom of the screen prompting you to Open the file. If you miss this notification you can also tap on the three lines icon at the top left of the Silk Browser and choose Downloads, and you’ll be able to open the file from this list.
Click Install to begin installing the APK file, and when it has finished either click Done or Open. You will then find the app shortcut on the home screen as if it were installed through the Kindle Store. It will be at the bottom of the list, but you can tap, hold and drag apps to reorder them.
How to install Google Play and Google Services on Amazon Fire tablets
The app in our example above, Words With Friends 2, works fine when sideloaded to a Kindle Fire tablet. However, some apps will not work unless you also install Google Play. The Ring Doorbell app is one such example, which seems crazy when Amazon owns both the Fire tablets and Ring, so you might expect to be able to operate one from the other. The only workaround here is to install Google Services.
In order to get Google Play and Google Services running on your Kindle Fire you will need to follow the process we’ve outlined above to sideload the necessary APKs on your device.
You will need to download and install the following APKs in exactly this order:
Once you have installed all four, tap the Google Play Store icon that has been added to your home screen. You will be prompted to sign into your Google account, and thereafter can use your Kindle Fire as you would any other Android tablet.
Google’s apps are updated all the time, which means you may see warnings that a newer version is available when you go to download the APK files above. However, once you are signed into Google it’s easy enough to keep all your apps updated through the Play Store.
Pull down from the top of the screen and you may see an notification prompting you to Update Google Play services. Tap this notification and it will bring up the necessary page on the Play Store, then you can simply click Update. You should now find you can install and use any Android app on your Kindle Fire.