Amazon Fire 7 first impressions

My switch to an Android phone has gone so well I wanted to get an Android tablet, too. Only to learn Android tablets are universally considered to suck. OTOH they are also very cheap. So I picked up a brand-new Fire 7 9th generation. For $49. 16GB storage, 1GB RAM, two cameras, a full WiFi multitasking computer with a decent touchscreen display for less than the price of a fancy dinner. We live in an age of wonder. (Note 16GB storage is not enough, but it has a microSD slot. More wonders: 256GB of SD storage for $40.)

So how is the tablet? OK I guess. It seems fine for reading books and watching videos, which is what Amazon sells this for. The screen doesn’t feel quite responsive to my touches all the time but I’m not sure if that’s a hardware or software problem. 1GB of RAM really isn’t enough. CPU may be a bit sluggish. Camera quality is appalling. It comes with a bunch of adware (you can pay $15 to remove it). Did I mention it’s $49? Amazing.

The OS is FireOS, an Android 7.1 / Nougat variant. It’s ugly. It only supports the Amazon Fire store which has an anemic collection of apps. (No Firefox! No Kiwix!) The Amazon versions of apps aren’t great, like apparently the Silk browser is doing some MITM attack to try to save you bandwidth. However the device is unlocked, or at least it’s not hard to install the Google Play store and from there a bunch of normal Google Play apps. (One caveat; be sure to install the Google APKs to internal storage. Don’t format the SD card as an extension of internal storage and let the apps install to it, because then they can’t be updated via the Google Play store.)

So 30 minutes of installing later and I have a good generic Android device. Firefox for the browser. GBoard for the keyboard. Evie for the launcher, (which requires more work to launch via the launch button). Alles bueno.

I can’t find some things via the Google Play store even though they’re there for other devices; Tapet, 1Password, etc. Maybe these apps don’t explicitly mark they’re compatible with the Fire and so are excluded? I’ve been able to sideload these from APKMirror but I’m a little nervous about that, I like my trusted app stores. Particularly 1Password, brrr. All the apps I’ve sideloaded seem to work fine, so I’m not sure why Google Play isn’t giving me the choice to install them.

All in all I’m reasonably impressed. It’s not as nice as an iPad, nor even really as nice as my Pixel 3 phone. But it’s literally $49 and it works pretty well. And now I have an Android device to tinker with.