What’s different about the Kindle Fire HD operating system?

by Andy Brock on September 12, 2012

Kindle Fire HD

When Amazon first released their first generation Kindle Fire, the tech world seemed to be very curious as to why they would use their own customized flavor of the Android platform.

Straying from the norm of other tablet manufacturers, Amazon felt that it was best to develop and maintain a slightly different version that is specific to their ecosystem.

The first version of the Kindle Fire operating system used a customized Android 2.3 Gingerbread as the base. Amazon felt that there were some user specific issues that they wanted to address. Specifically, they wanted users to user their version of an app store and not the Android app store which is today known as Google Play.
I guess this makes sense from Amazon’s perspective in that as an Amazon user, my purchasing decisions can be more tightly funneled to Amazon’s services.
The newest version of the operating system used on the now brand new Kindle Fire HD uses Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich as it base. In terms of competition, this is where the Kindle Fire HD may lose an edge to the Google Nexus 7 because it is running the very latest OS called Jelly Bean and for tech enthusiasts this can be a show stopper.
So, what is really different?
At the core level, nothing really. Amazon uses the Android OS to do the work as it was originally designed. No big deal I suppose.
The user interface, however, is where most of the changes have occurred. Amazon’s Android flavor doesn’t use Google’s interface or even the standard apps. Rather, it uses its own UI with it own app store by which users can more easily consume online media content.
In fact, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said when he introduced the Fire HD that “The Kindle Fire is a service.” This gives us a little insight as to the direction that Amazon sees the Fire going forward – a pathway to all that Amazon has to offer.
What about speed?
The new Fire HD is faster than its predecessor. However, is it faster than the Google Nexus 7 which by all accounts is its stiffest competition due to price and physical size?
Wired performed a comparison and concluded that the Nexus 7 was faster “in terms of pure speed” and felt that it was probably due to the fact that the Fire HD version has been customized while the Nexus 7 version is “native”.
Food for thought.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

geek September 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I remember when the auto industry introduced automatic transmission and the arguments that performance was not as good but drivers no longer had to deal with a clutch and switching gears.

All but the most die hard geeks could care less what OS or version of an OS is being used and there are studies to support that.

Amazon has removed the burden of the OS and by the way the support required by the masses who are still not savvy. I don’t find Amazon’s UI clunky or unresponsive and have zero issues with a couple of extra taps and swipes.


Brad Harris September 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Not 100% true. It is not so much that I prefer the Android OS natively, but rather that I hate the Kindle Fire OS with a passion. It has thee worst UI I have ever seen. I was so shocked and disappointed when I got it. However apparently you can easily put Android 4.1 on both the new and old Kindle Fires, and it’s getting tons of good reviews.


noyb February 25, 2013 at 11:51 am

Thanks for that info. I received a kindle fire as a gift and eventually landed here and a few other sites after some googling as to why I couldn’t get some simple tasks done.

I’m finding the kindle fire OS to be overly restrictive and cumbersome to use at every turn. I’m glad that all tablets are not like this, as I was about to simply swear them off for good. Also glad there’s a path to make the kindle fire a more useful device. I’ll have to give that a try.


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