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Three Reasons Why the Kindle Fires Should Be Considered Android Tablets [Opinion]

Ever since the original Kindle Fire was released last year there has been some controversy about whether or not to consider Amazon’s tablets to be Android tablets. While Amazon has always admitted that the products run a forked version of Android and Android apps, the Android community was quick to distance themselves from the product despite its record sales. While Amazon likes to talk about Fire apps and doesn’t talk about the version of Android running underneath the Fire interface in any of their official documentation, I believe the Kindle Fire should be considered an Android tablet.

The first reason the Kindle Fires should be considered Android tablets is that they run Android. This may seem a bit obvious, but hear me out. Many Android enthusiasts want to discount the Fire because the interface it runs is so wildly different than stock Android. Since the interface on HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola, and Sony products are also very different from stock Android, should we not consider them Android? Did anyone ever accuse the Nook of not being an Android tablet? Yes, the Fires run a forked version of Android, but it is still Android.

The second reason that the Kindle Fires should be considered Android tablets is that they run Android apps. While the Kindle Fire lacks access to the Play Store, every Fire that has been released has been rooted and therefore able to install the Play Store. Even if a Fire isn’t rooted, every app that is available in Amazon’s Appstore is an Android app.

The argument might be made that Linux can run Windows applications with Wine, but no one would call Linux Windows. While that is true, no one would say that the applications that come preloaded with Ubuntu, a more popular Linux distribution, are Windows applications. Perhaps most importantly, applications designed for Linux don’t run on Windows machines without a virtual machine to run Linux on top of Windows. Applications that run on the Kindle Fire will run on other Android tablets and vice versa. The Linux/Windows comparison is clever, but ultimately inaccurate.

The third, and certainly most meta reason, to consider the Kindle Fires to be Android tablets is that Amazon is to date the most successful Android tablet manufacturer. As of the time of this writing Google has not released sales or activation numbers for the Nexus 7. While I hope it has out-performed the Fires, at this point the only numbers we have are that the Fire has 22% of the tablet market. That is a huge chunk of the market when you remember that Apple has 68%. About 1 out of every 5 tablet owners have a Kindle Fire based on the latest numbers we have. As difficult as it may be to admit, the Kindle Fire did what no other Android tablet maker was able to do: gain significant market share in the market.

I think a lot of Android enthusiasts’ antagonism towards the Kindle Fire stems from two issues: Amazon has changed the way that Android looks and works on the Fire, and Amazon was successful. It didn’t bother anyone to call the Nook Color and Nook Tablet Android tablets because they came before Honeycomb was released (and shortly after the original Galaxy Tab was released). When Amazon was successful with a forked version of Android while other tablets like the Xoom and Galaxy Tab failed in the market, I think many Android enthusiasts turned against Amazon. We know how powerful and useful Android is, but the only products that have been successful in the market have been Amazon’s forked version. That is not the Android we want to see succeed, so we want to discount the Fire.

I really want Google to succeed in the tablet space, but I have to admit that Amazon got there first. Hopefully Google has been able to play catch up with the Nexus 7 and will be able to compete with the Fire HDs, iPad, and Surface with the rumored Nexus 10. Even though I want Google to do better than Amazon, however, I have to admit that Amazon beat Google to the punch and was successful in the market with an Android tablet before anyone else. We may not like what Amazon is doing with Android, but that doesn’t mean the Fires aren’t Android tablets.

  • Big_Support_Chicky

    Maybe when (if?) the Fire ever starts having the features, speed, power of so many other commonly available Android tablets.

    Not sure why anyone in their right mind would “settle” for a Fire when you have have 20 other competing choices. All of them can easily “read Kindle books” if that’s all you want. But why not buy something that can do SO much more with the 600,000 apps out there.

  • CJ Williams

    Another tablet manufacturer is emerging with performance-value Android tablets with some great features – Ainol Electronics — with one model introduced last month, the Novo 7 Flame – priced at $189 at a site called TabletSprint – a 7″ 16GB tablet with a lot more quality features than Nexus 7 including a 1280×800 high resolution screen, MicroSD, HDMI, 2 quality cameras and more… Next month Ainol also launches the “World’s 1st” $99 Dual Core “Performance” tablet — If you’re not familar with Ainol Electronics – they won runner-up in CNET/Consumer Electronics Show 2012 “Best Tablet of the Year” Award – - And AInol will also have two new Hi-Resolution 10 Inch tablets coming out, one which is a Dual Core priced at $220 and Quad Core with a 1920×1200 Liquid Crystal display (like Apple’s Retina screen) for around $27 –Impressive– one of the first sites that seems offering these models is TabletSprint –

  • JazzoRenee

    I’ve always considered them as such.

  • Elliot Kotis

    Firstly, the new kindles (no offence) seem like utter bullcrap compared to the first ones, they got all the good features and spread them across a few devices instead of having one amazing one.
    Secondly, I don’t hear people called MacOS, Unix I hear them calling it OSX, but it is based upon Unix, the same way Amazon’s OS is based on Android. It is using android base engine.
    Thirdly, Touchwiz, Sense and Blur don’t dump a load of crap to make the OS unrecognisable! It still have Play, and the same basic UI with “improvements” for the not so tech savvy people, same everything apart from some small parts. People would have a kindle probably wouldn’t even know what android is (some/most of them and this is an assumption)
    Kindle is no where near android to be classed as android. And EVERY Kindle is no where near as good as a Nexus 7 or *cough*iPad*cough*.

  • Guest

    The Nexus 7 is amazing, and I am going to put in bluntly, the NEW Kindle Fires SUCK!

  • wm snyder

    Ok first of all the xoom was $799.00 when it came out big mistake! Secondly the fire was around $200.00 thus not a mistake, followed by closed Eco system, followed by cheap hardware and ugly! Android kind of, fully featured definitely not restricted and close down.
    Had the xoom been priced @$399.00 google might have had a jump on the market this was there downfall.

  • Fool

    How sure are you of those numbers? If the Fires were 22% of the market and iPads were 68%, then that only leaves about 10% for all other tablets. I wonder if that Fire share is 22% of Android tablets rather than 22% of the overall market. So if Android tablets had, say, 30% of the market and Fires make up 22% of Android tablets then the Fires would have .3 * .22 = 6.6% of the overall market. That seems more likely to me, but then I own a Verizon Xoom.

  • Kevin Smart

    Okay… I agree it is an Android tablet.

    I have a Fire and a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. I WON’T buy another Kindle Fire. It feels like I am in handcuffs. I don’t care about the skin. I care about the fact that I can’t put Google apps on it (especially G-Mail and Play).
    The advantage for Kindle Fire: price? (not so much any more), whispersync, Kindle Lending Library, Amazon Video.
    In my opinion, the advantages of Kindle with the Amazon marketplace do NOT outweigh the limitations imposed by the handcuffs.

    My next tablet will not be a Kindle Fire (most likely a Nexus), but I don’t regret getting the one I have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/drew.page.12 Drew Page

    Its definitely an Android tablet. Its very media-centric though. If all you do is watch lots of movies, and read books, this device or the new Nook tablets that just came out are a godsend.

  • Michael Salinger

    To debunk all 3 points:

    1) HTC, Sony, Moto, Samsung phones, etc., all pass the Open Handset Alliance’s compatibility tests. The Kindle Fire does not. This to me is the criteria to whether or not something is Android, or a complete fork that uses some (or many) Android components, much in the way OSX is based on BSD but is *NOT* BSD.

    2) Running Android apps doesn’t make the OS Android. The Blackberry Playbook runs Android apps, but it is not Android.

    3) Those numbers are based off of Amazon and Apple’s own numbers. Pew recently released a report showing Android tablets making up 48% market share, with 21% of the tablet market being the Kindle Fire (http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/device_ownership). So not even half of Android tablets are the Kindle Fire (note this is *pre*-Nexus 7, so with the Nexus 7, the Kindle’s numbers are probably even lower. Besides, market share is not an argument for whether something is Android or not.

  • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

    If I buy a car, replace the entire drivetrain, body panels, and remove features and replace them with my own custom ones, is it still the same car? Sorry, a Kindle is a tablet based on Android, but it is not an Android tablet. You would be doing a user a great disservice by telling them that it is.

  • http://twitter.com/fr8cture Eric

    I think you thought too hard about this, when people say its not android
    they really mean its not true android. Yes at the base it is android
    but it look and runs nothing like any other android device.

  • http://twitter.com/dougivks Doug Martin

    if my fire runs jellybean, than is it more of an android tablet than my wife’s tablet, which is still stock?

  • http://www.toysdiva.com Toys Samurai

    Google and Amazon should sit down and talk. They have common enemy and cooperation will only make both of them stronger. How? I don’t know, but Amazon does not have to run a built-from-scratch App Store to sell apps. Google, on the other hand, does not have to negotiate deals with content provider on its own to sell books, movies and music.

    • jonny6pak

      You raise a good point. Amazon is clearly successful with Android (regardless of how we classify the version of Android) in a market Google wants Android to win. Google and Amazon supporting each other in the hardware/OS space would benefit them both in terms of adoption. They would just have to figure out how to get beyond the competition of Play and Amazon stores in a way that allows everyone to use the devises to drive their desired revenue streams.

  • jnffarrell1

    Fourth, they are not Apple and not Microsoft operating systems

  • belsonc

    By his logic, if you can carry something in the back of your auto, congrats – you own a pickup.

    • JoshGroff

      More like taking the blueprints of a car and making a truck, yet still calling it a car.

      • belsonc

        I’m just surprised by one thing, though… people thought the Nook was an Android tablet? Sure, it could be made into one, but… they thought it was one? I’ve never heard that on any of the fan sites I’ve read – it’s always been thought of as an ereader that runs Android and can be turned into a relatively nice tablet.

        • JoshGroff

          The argument is the same, to say one runs android while the other doesn’t is just ludicrous.

    • sirmeili

      I think that’s a bad analogy. I think you’d be closer by saying “if you put a car’s body on a pickup’s frame and engine, you own a pickup”. One might say, “No, you own a car because it looks like a car”

      It’s not like the Kindle’s are merely able to run android apps, they can do so because the OS is a version of Android.

  • dm33

    “Kindle Fires should be considered Android tablets is that they run Android”Wow. Who knew?
    Amazingly insightful. So much depth. Must contemplate all I’ve learned…

  • Good ol’ JS

    The only people that don’t want to consider the Fire an Android tablet work for Amazon. And honestly the fact that it runs Android makes it an Android tablet. Really just a matter of fact rather than a point of perspective.

  • itznfb

    The argument could play a role in marketing strategy and observations that these companies would utilize in determining market share and market factors. Whether there needs to be another line on the graph for Amazon in addition to Android, iOS and Windows. As a user, this argument means very little other than interest discussion.

  • sbcadguy

    I have a Kindle fire HD 7″ and really like it. The thing that convinced me to buy it over the other android tablets is the fact it can play amazon instant video (i am a prime member) and the price point versus other tablets.

    • JoshGroff

      That was what made me cancel prime. I hope Amazon releases an app on G-Play for prime users. After all, it’s the service making them money and not the tablets.

      • sirmeili

        I’ve never understood why they don’t release it to the play store. It only makes sense to allow as many people to have access to that content as possible (even for non prime users who purchase content). I hate having to go through my browser to get to it.

  • Michael_NM

    Ron,

    Your opinion pieces have been an awesome addition to this site. I always learn something new or at least reconsider my notions. Keep it up.

  • DavidHollinger

    While it’s a pretty dumb thing to argue about… your assertion that it should be labelled an android tablet because it “runs” android is not a very good argument. By that argument “Android” phone should be called “Linux” (although Linux isn’t an Operating System) because they use a linux kernel. By that argument Fedora should be Red Hat, Ubuntu should be Debian, Linux Mint should be Ubuntu, LibreOffice should be OpenOffice. The argument make no sense.
    Yes it runs android, but it’s as much android as Mac OSX is BSD. It’s forked, customized, and closed sourced (as far as I know Amazon doesn’t release the source code).

    • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

      Amazon released the source code for the original Fire, but nothing for the new Fires so far. Amazon doesn’t just use the same kernel – the Kindle Fire runs Android. It is certainly heavily customized, but it’s still Android.

    • mustbepbs

      This.

      It may be BASED on Android, but calling it an Android tablet puts it in the same category as the Galaxy Tab/Xoom/Nexus 7. The latter are Android based as well, but they don’t adulterate it beyond recognition and are Google Play Store certified (I suppose that’s what you’d call it).

      You can’t mix up the terms here, one category is Android BASED (Fire/Nook), another is Android, pure and simple. And the skins on some tablets don’t count, because it’s Android enough that Google allows their apps and Play Store on it.

      • JoshGroff

        Just because it’s not part of the Open Handset Alliance doesn’t make it any less android. AOKP, CM10, and BB aren’t part of the Open Handset Alliance and therefore cannot have Gapps included (of course you can flash them separately,) does that make them not Android?

        • mustbepbs

          Considering they’re built directly from source and are stock Android? Of course they are. The reason they can’t use Gapps is because they aren’t paying Google to do so.

          • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

            You don’t have to pay Google to use Google’s apps.

          • JoshGroff

            :)

          • Good ol’ JS

            Manufacturers have to license Google apps. This is why AOSP ROMs can’t legally include them . Android is free, GApps aren’t.

          • JoshGroff

            “It is FREE for anyone to join the alliance, but in doing so the company must agree to not fork Android and instead strive to avoid fragmentation of the Android platform.”

            Edit: Up voting your own comment, nice. Let’s cancel that out with a down vote.

          • Good ol’ JS

            I didn’t up vote anything. And if you think OHA membership is free, you’re completely fooling yourself. Otherwise, why wouldn’t all those Chinese manufacturers be members?? You know the ones that sell knock off tablets and phones that don’t have access to the market.

          • JoshGroff

            Because there’s a set of guidelines you have to follow to part of it…

          • http://ronoffringa.wordpress.com Ron Offringa

            I’m aware of how Google Apps work – they are free to use for OHA members. I explained how licensing works in this article: http://www.droid-life.com/2012/10/13/understanding-the-difference-between-aosp-and-the-open-handset-alliance-opinion/

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002272627881 Doug Green

            You sir, do not understand the Open Handset Alliance differences from Android Open Source Project. There is an article about it here, http://www.droid-life.com/2012/10/13/understanding-the-difference-between-aosp-and-the-open-handset-alliance-opinion/

          • JoshGroff

            An article he wrote… I think he understands more about it than you do.

          • JoshGroff
      • Good ol’ JS

        And I assume all Mac’s are really BSD now? You assertion that one is based more than the other on stock Android is completely incorrect. Amazon forked Android to specifically meet their need. However it’s still Android under the Amazon UI. Just like it’s still Android under Touchwiz, Sense and Blur. Amazon didn’t want to promote Google over their own app store hence the reason why they forked Android. This is fact vs most of the other “information” which is opinion.

        • New_Guy

          Exaclty! Seriously, any one who has a Fire and doesn’t think it’s an Android device needs to click Settings>About Device and tell me what OS is listed in the details…I guarantee is doesn’t say anything about Amazon there…Forked or not, it’s core operations are Android, its apps are Android, it can be flashed with android ROMs, and about the only thing not Android is the fact that Amazon won’t say it is. It’s a marketing decision, which is actually a good one, but does not negate the facts, none the less.

    • Abhisshek Das

      by that argument Linux should be called Minix and Minix should be called Unix

    • HotRodJohnson

      In the linux world you would call Fedora a RedHat based distribution or Ubuntu a Debian based distribution so it would not be unreasonable to call the Kindle a Android based distribution. Also, the underlining OS is probably not all that changed. The difference in Kindle Fire and Nexus could be the same difference between Gnome and KDE.

      • DavidHollinger

        I suppose I can give you that.

      • New_Guy

        Thank you for bringing reason to the table. I have to admit that using my wife’s fire I don’t feel like I’m using an Android device because the skin is so heavy. But the OS is listed in the About Device details as Android and every app on the device is an Android app. This argument is pretty asinine to say the least.

        • http://roxannemook.myopenid.com/ Roxanne Mook

          @HotRodJohnson:disqus You know the ones that sell knock off tablets and phones that don’t have access to the market. ..Goo.gl/RYvck

    • New_Guy

      You say that Linux is not an operating system yet include it as a comparison. But Android is the operating system and that’s the issue here. Android is the core of the operations. Remove Android and you have a dead device. Root it and remove the skin and i works just fine. I have Ubuntu dual booted on my windows PC. Windows is the core. I can remove the Ubuntu software without a hitch, I remove windows and the damn thing’s a paper-weight…

    • http://www.facebook.com/objection89 Miguel Angel Portela

      Picked up a Kindle Fire when it first came out and I was sorely disappointed. I wanted MX Player and manga reading software etc. Its a great “ready” product. But it didn’t suit my needs for a reader or really anything else. It kinda felt like a floor model. Of course in the end (please don’t hit me) I got an iPad 2 and love it. But I’m still waiting for the IT Android table. It can’t be too far.

  • New_Guy

    I didn’t realize this was an issue. I own one and I own a TF300. The fire might be a lessor form of a true Android tablet than the TF300, but is still runs Android. Open up the settings and click on About Device and it says so right there. It can also be rooted with a custom recovery just like every other android device I have. Not sure what the argument is…

    Nice article, Ron!

  • Jacob Svonavec

    Nice article

  • fierywater

    People actually argue about this?

    • Adam Barrett

      Seriously. Of course it is an Android tablet. The base is Android. Done.

    • New_Guy

      I had no idea…glad Ron brought this to the light. Seems silly that people would think otherwise…

    • http://twitter.com/morpheus282 William

      First world problems, my good man.