The Kindle Fire has been a device that’s quietly discussed in the tech world. Amazon sold the Kindle Fire at a loss and bet on its ecosystem to make up for it, a plan analysts expect to continue to pay off handsomely. I like the form factor — I know it’s a controversial thing to say, but I’m sticking to it. The Amazon Kindle Fire is potentially a decent tablet for more than just eBook fans. If you root it and install Android 4.1 Jellybean instead.
And that’s what I set out to do.
Image credit: Ant Pruitt for aNewDomain.net
Most geeks I know look at the Amazon Kindle Fire, released late last year, as an imperfect tablet with potential.
Seven-inch form factor, open sourced (but modified) Android OS and decent processing under the hood — all there. But when you spend real time with the Kindle Fire, that minimal praise turns toward Disappointment Avenue.
What’s up with that? I know. It’s because the hardware is there for the tablet to be a decent Android option, but the skinned Amazon Android UI it employs is really slow. It’s designed to be fast enough for reading eBooks and it is.
I also find the Amazon Kindle Fire slowish. I don’t like the cover flow-like interface. I had a hard time with the previous apps screen — it is too easy to over-flick through the app list and miss the one I wanted. Navigating for your app felt like thumbing pages to me — and not as effective as an actual book page, either.
Fortunately, the open-sourced community bands together to combat poorly coded user interfaces on mobile devices. I had read on XDA Developer Forums that a custom Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) ROM was available to run on the Kindle Fire. So I decided I would take my newly donated Kindle Fire and attempt to root and flash it with Jelly Bean. Having rooted and flashed my DroidX several times, I felt quite comfortable doing this. This should be a breeze, right?
Unfortunately, my Kindle Fire rooting experience had a rocky start. Being an Ubuntu user, I love the idea of rooting a Linux-based Android device by way of a Linux computer. There were a few shell scripts available in the developer forums to make this a seamless process. Just plug in the device and enter your commands in the terminal. As you can see in my screen shot, my device was now rooted. Or was it?
The final confirmation leads me to assume my device is rooted, but I really wasn’t. Fortunately my inquisitive nature was curious about what the script actually does. Unable to change permissions on a directory or unable to push the actual SuperUser .apk file is not a good thing. Further attempts of me trying to root my device lead to trying a Windows XP machine instead. This was an even worse experience.
I could not get the USB drivers to properly install so the Kindle Fire would be recognized while plugged in. I even have the Android SDK installed on my XP machine and it still failed to recognize it. Finally, I booted into my home computer’s Windows 7 partition and was off and running. Downloading the Kindle Fire Utility package which includes the USB drivers as well as the rooting batch file was a simple five minute process. This batch file also included the boot recovery tool Team Win Recovery Project for booting the device into recovery mode. In recovery mode, custom ROMs or stock ROMs can be installed prior to boot posting. I used a ROM developed by “Hashcode” on the XDA forums to have Jelly Bean installed.
Image credit: Ant Pruitt for aNewDomain.net
Success! This tablet is so much better now. Current Kindle Fire owners I know have seen my device and it truly upsets them. The Jelly Bean OS is much smoother and faster than the version 2.3-based skinned Amazon version of Android. I haven’t found many flaws. Only two come to my mind. First, the keyboard lags just ever so slightly on input.
Finally, the Kindle Fire doesn’t have a physical volume control. Volume was controlled within the UI originally. So finding optimal volume for gaming and YouTube videos can be a hassle. Fortunately, apps such as Netflix have a volume slider in its UI.
This is a better solution.
If you’re interested in rooting your Amazon Kindle Fire, do so at your own risk as rooting this device voids any warranty Amazon may offer. If you want to live on the wild side, the Kindle Fire Utility package is the way to go for rooting and ROMing your Kindle Fire. I recorded a video of the UI for those interested in seeing more of Jelly Bean.
I’m Ant Pruitt and this is aNewDomain.net.