The Amazon Fire tablets, running Amazon’s Fire OS take on Android, are perfectly fine budget tablets for doing the basics: Emailing, streaming, posting to your social media channels, and so on. They’re designed with simplicity in mind, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some useful tweaks and features to be found if you dig a little deeper.
The Amazon Fire tablets come with a built-in filter that you can use to reduce the blue light emitted by their screens late at night—which should mean less eye strain for you (or your kids) in the hours before bedtime. Swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers, then tap on the Blue Shade icon to turn it on, adjusting the brightness slider as needed. To configure the blue light feature further (and to have to enable itself automatically based on the time of day), open up Settings then tap Display and Blue Shade for the options.
Your Amazon Fire does a good impression of an Echo Show: Say “Alexa, switch to Show Mode” or drag down from the top of the screen and tap Show Mode to get started—you can still use the same Alexa voice commands, but they’ll show up with associated graphics (like weather icons and calendar entries) just like they do on the Echo Show. You can customize the mode further from the Show Mode menu in Settings, and for best results use something like this $40 stand from Amazon to keep your tablet constantly charged.
If space starts to run out on your tablet, there’s a feature called 1-Tap Archive that might come in handy, and you can find it in the Storage section of Settings. This deletes local copies of digital content you’ve bought from Amazon, like movies and music—it’ll start with the oldest stuff first, that you haven’t touched in a while, and it’ll only delete files that can be restored from the cloud again if needed. Tap Archive now if you’re happy to go ahead with the operation or View contents to select individual files for archiving instead.
The Amazon Fire tablets are hardly the most overpowered gadgets, and to help prevent lag, you can tell the Fire tablet to limit the number of apps that can be running at once. First, tap seven times on Serial Number in Device Options, About Fire Tablet in Settings), which will let you choose Developer options then Background process limit in Device Options. Like a lot of the developer settings, it might cause certain apps to misbehave, so increase the limit or go back to Standard limit if you start to experience problems.
Amazon Fire tablets are great for kids and adults alike, and having multiple profiles set up will help you keep your files, emails and Amazon Prime recommendations separate from the rest of the family. Go to Profiles & Family Library from Settings to add new profiles—if you add profiles that are designated as child profiles, you can easily put restrictions on what your kids are able to access and look at, and set screen time limits. If you’ve previously set up child profiles on other Amazon devices, they should appear as options.
The Amazon App Store isn’t as well-stocked as the Google Play Store, but you can sideload apps instead. First, enable sideloading by opening Settings and choosing Security & Privacy, then Apps from Unknown Sources, then giving the web browser of your choice permission to install apps. Second, send this now-approved web browser to a trustworthy repository of APK app files—such as the excellent APKMirror, for example—to find apps. Note, though, that not all the apps you install might be fully optimized to run on Fire OS.
Just about every device you sign into nowadays will want to report certain bits of data back to base, and the Amazon Fire tablets are no different. To put limits on exactly what your device can report to Amazon, open up Settings and go to Security & Privacy—the Device Usage Data and Collect App Usage Data options are the ones to switch off if you want to limit how you’re tracked. In addition, the Advertising ID option can be used to disable apps’ ability to use your device’s ID to target you, or to reset the ID entirely.
Keeping a lid on the wealth of incoming notifications is an issue for any phone or tablet, including the Amazon Fire. From Settings, head to Apps & Notifications then Notifications to set these options for individual apps—you’ll often find that you can turn off some categories of alert for an app and not others. The Do Not Disturb mode is available on the same screen. Also on the Apps & Notifications menu is a Collapse notifications option that will keep your notifications tidier and more compact on screen.
There are various ways in which you can eke out more battery life from your Amazon Fire tablet, and they’re collected together in the Battery section of Settings. Of particular note is the Smart Suspend feature, which turns off wireless connectivity, and the Low Power feature, which optimizes the display brightness and auto-lock time to conserve power. Both these features can be set to work automatically when your Fire is idle or at a low battery level, but you can also turn them on manually or based on a timed schedule.
There are various ways you can customize the home screen of Fire OS, including putting app shortcuts into folders: Just tap and drag on an app then move it on top of another one to create a folder (you’ll be asked to name it right away). More apps can then be dragged and dropped into it as required. Meanwhile, if you don’t like what’s showing up by default on the Home carousel and some of the other carousels you can swipe between (including Games & Apps), long press on a shortcut and choose Remove from Home screen.