UPDATE 12/15/17: This link describes a simpler method for installing the Google Play store on the lastest Amazon Fire tablets. I’ve tested this on a new Fire HD and it does work. I’m leaving the description below for reference.
Nowadays a variety of applications are available for iOS or Android tablets which are useful for the gigging musician. For example:
- If you use the MailChimp service for your email list, MailChimp provides mobile apps which let list subscribers type in their information at a show – a vast improvement over trying to decipher email addresses scribbled on the traditional paper signup sheet.
- If you use one of the Behringer XR-Air series mixers as part of your sound system you need a tablet to control the mixer
But, you may not want to risk taking your expensive iPad or $250 Samsung tablet to a gig and risk having it dropped, or worse having someone walk off with it.
What if there were a good quality tablet which was inexpensive enough that you didn’t have to worry about taking it a gig? It turns out there is: the 7″ Amazon Kindle Fire can be purchased for as little as $49 – less if you buy multiples. And it turns out that the Fire Tablet is quite fast, with an excellent quality display and s responsive touch screen; fully capable of running this sort of app. If you need a larger tablet there are versions with an 8 inch or 10 inch display, still less than the price of a comparable Samsung.
The only issue with the Fire Tablet, and the reason it is so cheap, is that Amazon wants to lock you into using their apps, and the ones you want are probably not available on the Amazon app store. But, for musicians with a bit of a technical bent, it turns out that it is possible to install the Google Play store on a Fire Tablet, which then allows you to install any app which is available for Android.
Unfortunately it’s not a completely straightforward process, but it can be done in less than an hour, and after you’re done you will have a $50 “disposable” table that you can take to a gig without worries.
The following information is collected from various sites on the web. Much of this is from the “Method 2” described here.
First, you will need to have the following hardware available:
- A Windows PC (unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a procedure that works on a Mac) running Windows 8 or 10. There’s a pretty good chance this would also work with a Windows 7 PC, but I haven’t researched how to turn off device driver signing under W7, see below.
- A fairly new Kindle Fire Tablet
- A USB A->mini cable to connect the PC to the Fire Tablet. One of these will come with the Fire Tablet if you buy it new.
Next, you will need to do the following steps to enable the “ADB Debugger” on the Fire Tablet, which will allow the PC to download new software to the Fire.
- From the Home screen on the Fire, scroll down and tap the Settings app (the icon that looks like a Gear).
- Tap Device Options.
- Tap Serial Number seven times. A pop-up notification should say “You are now a developer!”
- A new menu option named Developer Options should appear beneath Serial Number. Tap it.
- Tap the toggle that reads “Enable ADB.”
Next, on the PC, you will have to temporarily disable device driver signing. If you do not do this then step 7 below will fail. Warning: this is the most techy step. If your PC is running Windows 8 or 8.1 follow the instructions here.If it is running Windows 10 follow the instructions for “Solution 1” here.If you are running Windows 7 there may be an equivalent procedure, but I haven’t researched it yet.
Next, you need to download a utility package to the PC to install Google Play on the Fire – click here to download.
Next, run the tool to install Google Play by performing the following steps:
- Connect your Fire tablet to your PC with the micro USB cable.
- Extract the contents of Amazon-Fire-5th-Gen-Install-Play-Store.zip file to their own folder.
- Launch the batch file named 1-Install-Play-Store in the folder.
- When the program finishes loading, you’ll see a menu like following.
- Type 1 for “ADB driver install” and press Enter.
- On the next screen again type 1 for“ADB driver install” and press Enter. This will bring up the PC device manager screen: right click on the “Fire” device, that should be in the device list, and select “Update Driver Software…”.
- Select the “Browse for drivers on my computer” option, Browse to the folder ‘usb_driver’ in the extracted .zip folder, and complete the installation.
- Once you’re finished, you will be returned to the main menu as above. Type 2 for “Install Google Play store and remove ads from lock screen.”
- At this point you should see a Confirm Dialog on the Fire Tablet, asking if you want to allow the PC to access the debugger. Say ‘Ok’.
- After the installation is finished, you should be back at the main menu of the PC tool.
- (Optional) Type 3 for “block OTA updates from Amazon.” This will prevent an automatic update from breaking your apps.
- Once you’re finished, restart your Fire immediately.
After this, you should find a new “Google Play” app on the main screen of your Fire. Run that, log in with your Google account, and then download whatever apps you need.
And you’re done! Here’s a Fire Tablet running the MailChimp “Subscribe” app: