The best thing about the Amazon Fire 7 tablet is its $49 price. The worst thing is that its Android-based Fire OS 6 software lacks most of what makes Android, well, Android. It (like Amazon’s other Fire tablets) lacks any of the standard Google apps, like Google Maps, Google Photos, or Google Drive. What’s worse is that the built-in Amazon Appstore is a stand-in for Google’s Play Store, and most of the apps you know and love aren’t available.
However, there is hope if you don’t mind tinkering a bit. Amazon allows the installation of apps from outside sources on all of its Fire tablets, which means you can install the Google Play Store. Once you enable this feature, you’ll be able to sideload Android packages (APKs) — in other words, manually force apps onto your device that otherwise wouldn’t be supported.
In this how-to, we’re going to show you how to sideload the Google Play Store and the requisite apps that are required in order to get it running on an Amazon tablet. It’s not the most straightforward process, but it’s worth the effort.
Luckily, this doesn’t require rooting your Amazon Fire tablet, so there’s no immediate risk of voiding your warranty. However, Amazon doesn’t offer troubleshooting support for issues that you may encounter. So proceed with caution and know that certain APKs may not work as intended. And if you’re considering sideloading APKs that usually cost money, show your support by buying them via the Google Play Store on your browser.
How to enable sideloading
The first step is to enable installations from unknown sources (essentially, any source that isn’t Amazon).
- Click on the “Settings” app in the app drawer (find it by swiping up on the home screen)
- Tap “Security & Privacy,” which should be about halfway down the page
- Toggle on “Apps from Unknown Sources”
How to install Google Play Services
Next comes the fun part: manually downloading and installing Google Play Services. It’s fairly simple to do, but it requires just a bit of background knowledge before you get started.
First, you’ll need to find out the software version of your Amazon Fire tablet so you can download the correct APK. The latest Amazon Fire 7 tablet runs Fire OS 6, which is based on the Android 7.1 Nougat operating system. (Yep, it’s confusing!) Fire OS 5 is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop, which is a little easier to remember.
To find your tablet’s OS version:
- Open the “Settings” app
- Scroll down to “Device Options” near the bottom of the screen
- Select “System Updates” to see the system version
With that information, you can now download and install the four APKs necessary to get the Google Play Store working correctly: Google Account Manager, Google Services Framework, Google Play Services, and Google Play Store.
You don’t need to worry about matching the Google Play Services and Google Play Store APKs with your Android version number. The latest APKs listed work for devices that have at least Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and this includes all Fire tablets.
- First, open the Fire tablet’s Silk Browser app (which is where you want to be doing your downloading). You’re going to be getting the APKs from APKmirror.com. (I trust this site and have used it to load APKs onto an Amazon Fire 7 as well as personal devices in the past without issue. But again, proceed at your own risk.)
- You’ll need to make sure that you’re downloading the right APK file. To do this, when you go to the download page for each app (see below), try to match your tablet’s Android version (remember: Fire OS 6 = Android 7.1 Nougat and Fire OS 5 = Android 5.1 Lollipop) with the number listed at the end of the APK file in the listing.
- Download then install Google Account Manager, Google Services Framework, Google Play Services, Google Play Store in the order listed. Per TechJunkie, installing them out of order will result in the Google Play Store not working, and I can confirm this.
How to access locally stored files on the Fire tablet
If you navigate away from the APKs you’ve downloaded and need to find them again, Amazon’s preinstalled “Docs” app on the Fire tablet is also, strangely, a file manager. To access your downloaded files, open the app, click the menu button near the top left of the display, then tap “Download” under “Local Storage.” Just keep in mind that the APK file names will be long and difficult to understand, but if you downloaded them in the order listed above, the time stamp on the file should help you figure out which file to install first, second, third, then fourth.
- If you installed these APKs correctly, you’ll be able to launch the Google Play Store app and sign into your Google account. From there, you can download any app or game that’s available.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.