Fire 7 Tablet Purchase

We recently purchased a Fire 7 tablet from Amazon. This review discusses the pros and cons of the tablet, who it is good for, and some ideas on setting it up, to make it more like a typical Android tablet.

The Fire 7 was chosen as a gift. The main reason for getting it, was that it’s quite cheap, at about $70 Canadian. Amazon sells it that cheap, because it comes setup to encourage people to buy stuff from Amazon, and is somewhat harder to access other vendor’s apps and services than a typical Android tablet. But, there are workarounds for this.

Amazon versus Google

The Fire 7 is a seven inch “Androidish” tablet made by Amazon. By “Androidish”, I mean it uses “Fire OS”, which is a forked version of Android produced by Amazon. Even though it shares a great deal of code with Google’s official Android, it differs in major ways. Most importantly, it excludes “Google Services”, which means by default there’s no GMail, Chrome, Google Play Store, or any other Google app. Amazon has it’s own App Store, which doesn’t have Google apps, and has radically fewer apps than Google.

That’s a crippling problem. But, fortunately, you can get around this. You need to install Google Play services by “side loading” certain app files. You can find resources, like Android Police’s guide to explain the process. Essentially, you’re going to go into settings, give yourself permission to download untrusted sources of apps, then install some application files. It’s fairly straightforward, and doesn’t require “rooting” the tablet (which would let you install an entirely different version of Android). After getting Google services going, you’re still using Fire OS, but with Google apps. There’s no guarantee Google and Amazon will always allow this, but they do for now, and have for some time.

Fire 7 home screen
After “side-loading” Google services, there’s a mix of apps from Google’s App Store and the Amazon App Store.

Loading Files

I wanted to transfer some files from my Windows PC to the tablet. Normally, that’s a quick and easy thing, as you just connect with a USB cable, the tablet appears as a “drive” in Windows Explorer, and you copy files like normal. Unfortunately, all that did was show an folder in Windows Explorer, with no ability to transfer files. The solution was quite simple, but not instantly obvious, as shown below.

Fire 7 pull down with usb
First, it’s necessary to pull down from the status bar on the top of the screen on the Fire 7, after connecting by USB to the computer. It shows “System/Charging this device via USB”, which I tap to expand. It then shows “Tap for other USB options”, and I tap that.
Fire 7 USB Choices
I am now presented a screen with options of what to do with the USB connection. Naturally, I choose “File transfer”. That’s it, the connection works, and I can see files on Windows Explorer and copy as I wish.

Another issue with the Fire 7 is file storage. It comes with very little storage. So, it’s best to buy a separate MicrosSD card and add it in. One issue to think about in advance, is you will be asked if you want the MicroSD card to be “Portable Storage” or “Adopted Storage”. The “Portable” option means you use the card like an old-school floppy disk. You can add it, remove, and share files physically with the tablet and computers. That’s convenient, but you can’t install many apps, and certain data on the card. The “adopted” option means you have to keep the SD card permanently in the tablet. Removing it, may mean screwing things up, as critical system files are stored there. You can switch back and forth in theory, but once you designate it as “Adopted” it’s highly impractical to switch back, as you have to manually go to every single app on the tablet, and change it to use internal storage. If you don’t, the app will be uninstalled. That’s bad, since critical apps may be on the Adopted SD card. I suggest, just leave it as “Portable Storage” unless you know you are committed to the Adopted Storage option. The Adopted Storage isn’t as seamless and simple as one would expect. You have to specifically opt to move data files and apps to it (separate options). After doing that, when you connect to the PC, it seems to treat all of the storage (internal and external) as “internal”. But, if you don’t have apps and files moved to external, you can run out of space on “internal” when moving files to the Fire tablet (when connected to a PC), even though the SD card isn’t shown as a separate place to add files in Windows Explorer.

Final thoughts

Overall, it’s a good purchase, if you know what you’re getting. If you’ve got a budget for more than $70, you’ll want something much better. The low price makes this a good option, if the user is in an environment, where theft, or loss is a significant risk. For example, in a nursing home, where people lack privacy.

If you wish to buy a Fire 7, you can click on a link below. I receive a small commission on purchases made.