Turn Your Kindle Fire Into A 'Real' Tablet

If you root the Kindle Fire and put a real Android operating system and real Android apps on it, can you turn this neutered e-reader from Amazon into an Android tablet you can be proud of? The answer is yes, sort of.
Populating the home screen with apps and folders

I was nearly done. I like to organize all my apps and bookmarks within folders, which makes it quicker and easier to perform a desired function without having to page through numerous home screens. So, my next step was to install and configure the highly flexible Android Folder Organizer app.

I then installed about 150 of my favorite Android apps and utilities and organized them into 14 folders on the home screen. Two additional folders contained "all apps" and "all bookmarks." Incidentally, I always use all-upper-case names for folders and mixed-case names for app or bookmark links, to make it easy to quickly spot folders on the home screen.

Here's how my Kindle Fire's home screens looked at this point:

Kindle Fire's finished home screen (portrait and landscape views).
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The screenshots below show the contents of each of my Kindle Fire home screen folders.

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Putting the Kindle Fire to work

To check out the modified Kindle Fire's ability to be more than a consumer entertainment platform, I installed some Office-style apps. The free aCalendar app (below) syncs well with Google's calendar service and provides convenient day, week, and month views.

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Google's free Google Docs app reads, edits, and creates Microsoft Office-compatible text, spreadsheet, and presentation documents. It automatically syncs these files with your desktop and mobile devices.

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MobileSystems' $15 Office Suite Professional 6 app is capable of reading, editing, and creating Microsoft Office-compatible documents. A free 7-day trial is available.

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LogMeIn's $29 LogMeIn Ignition app lets you access a remote Windows desktop, and even run Windows software remotely. The screenshots below show the Kindle Fire graphing a few data points on a remote Windows 7 desktop.

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Verdict: Cheap, no-frills business tablet

Clearly, with a bit of effort it's possible to transform the Kindle Fire into a general-purpose Android tablet that can be used for performing many work-related tasks. Now that's not to say that it doesn't have a few significant limitations. You can see a side-by-side comparison of my tweaked Kindle Fire and several competing 7-inch Android tablets on my site.

In conclusion, the Kindle Fire, as modified in this article, is certainly quite usable for tasks such as Web browsing, email, instant messaging, calendar and ToDo-list access, and reading or editing MS Office-compatible documents--in addition to reading ebooks and enjoying multimedia content. But unless you've got tiny fingers (or a great deal of dexterity), it suffers from a problem that plagues all 7-inch tablets: it's hard to type on small onscreen keyboards, and with the Kindle Fire you can't remedy that problem with a Bluetooth keyboard.

With a slightly bigger budget, you might do better with Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, which is expected to ship next month, priced at $250. But still, with $170 refurbs currently available from Amazon, the Kindle Fire's got some serious potential.

Name: Kindle Fire

It's possible to transform the Kindle Fire into a general-purpose Android tablet that can be used to perform many work-related tasks. But clearly, it still has a few significant limitations: It has no 3G/4G or Bluetooth support, no microSD or other memory expansion slots, no camera, and no GPS capabilities. No wonder it's so inexpensive. But if you can work within these limits the Kindle is a business tablet bargain.

Price: $199, with refurbs for as little as $169.

  • Inexpensive for a tablet.
  • Bright, crisp, high-resolution (1024 x 600) capacitive touchscreen.
  • Compact and light, though not the thinnest or lightest.
  • Easy USB data transfer without requiring special apps.
  • Apps can be purchased from either Google's or Amazon's app markets.
  • No built-in mic or line input, so you can't make Skype voice calls or record voice memos.
  • Lacks a built-in camera, so you can't take photos or scan documents.
  • No Bluetooth wireless, so you can't use an external BT keyboard.
  • Lacks the convenience of a physical volume control.
  • No microSD expansion slot.
  • No 3G/4G options.