Amazon's Kindle Fire is a pretty decent tablet, though it's limited in a few key areas--not the least of which is its reliance on the Amazon Appstore.
That store has a good selection, but nowhere near the volume of apps and media you'll find on Google Play (the default store for most Android tablets). What's more, I find the Fire's interface a little awkward: it's hard to organize things to your liking, and that scrolling carousel can be more nuisance than convenience.
The thing is, the Kindle Fires already run a specialized version of the Android operating system. Wouldn't it be great if you could replace it with the real thing, with Android proper? Then you'd have access to Google Play and gain more control over the tablet's interface: custom wallpapers, multi-page app organization, and so on.
Thanks to a new service called N2Aos, you can indeed transform your Kindle Fire into a full-blown Android tablet.
It's a turnkey solution that replaces the Amazon OS with Android 4.2, also known as Jelly Bean. And it works with the original Kindle Fire and the newer Kindle Fire HD and HD 8.9.
I've tried N2Aos with both a 2nd-generation Fire and a current-gen Fire HD. After connecting the tablet to my computer and running N2A's compatibility-checker program, I downloaded the installer and watched it run. After about 10 minutes, my Fire had turned into a Jelly Bean-powered tablet. It really was just that simple.
N2Aos gives you the full Android experience, including Google Play access and all the features offered by Android 4.2. I ran a variety of test apps, including Flipboard, Netflix, and USA Today, and all of them worked perfectly.
There are, of course, a few caveats here, the biggest being that N2Aos will wipe whatever books and apps are stored on your Kindle. Thankfully, you can easily restore your books via the Kindle app and your Amazon Appstore purchases via the eponymous app, which is included with N2Aos. But there's definitely a bit of hoop-jumping involved, like having to re-sign into any app-oriented accounts and perhaps re-retrieve any associated data.
What's more, if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, you'll have to leverage the Web browser if you want access to Prime streaming movies and TV shows. It works, but it's a less elegant, less integrated experience than you get with Amazon's OS.
All that being said, N2Aos offers a great Kindle Fire upgrade for a reasonable price: $19.99. If you're not comfortable doing the installation yourself, you can pay $7.99 for a month of N2A's Pro service, which includes remote installation. It's also possible to reverse the entire process if you decide you don't like it.
My advice: If you're not using your Kindle Fire as much as you thought you would, or you're simply not happy with the Amazon interface, this is well worth the money. In a way, it's like getting a brand new Android tablet for $20.Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC
World and Wired.
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