Although Amazon goes out of its way to hide all traces of vanilla Android from its new Kindle Fire tablet, it turns out tech-savvy users can still install select third-party Android applications outside the auspices of the Amazon Appstore. These apps include Amazon competitors, like Barnes & Noble’s Nook app for Android.
Perusing through the settings of our Kindle Fire review unit, I came across an interesting line item. Under the settings section labeled “Device,” there is an option that says “Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources.” Now, this is a common setting on most Android devices, but Amazon was clear with me at the launch event that the device would not support Google’s Android Market. I assumed that meant that no third-party app downloads would be supported.
It turns out, some third party apps and third-party app stores are accessible from the Kindle Fire. After enabling installation from unknown sources, I headed to my favorite non-corporate Android app store, GetJar.
GetJar doesn’t list the Kindle Fire in its device listing, so I chose another Android 2.3 device and then followed the instructions to download the GetJar.apk from GetJar’s mobile site. Once downloaded, I installed the app.
The app appears in the app shelf alongside the standard Amazon Appstore apps.
Welcome to the Amazon Nook
After installing the GetJar app, I went on my merry way installing various third-party apps. Some apps would simply redirect to an entry in the Amazon Appstore. Other would refuse to download.
Still, a number of apps installed without any problem — including the Barnes & Noble Nook app for Android. The awesomeness of running the Nook app on the Kindle is partially a novelty, sure, but it actually adds quite a bit of value to the device.
Third-party apps via GetJar are still hit or miss on the Kindle Fire, so your mileage may vary. Still, this development indicates that perhaps Amazon hasn’t locked down the ecosystem quite as much as we previously expected.