Amazon's new Kindle Fire HDX tablets certainly have some top-of-the-line hardware, but what good is the hardware without software to make use of it? Amazon is again forking Android to create Fire OS 3.0, codenamed Mojito. This software will be recognizable to users of previous Fire tablets, but it's been cleaned up a bit and looks more modern. There are also a few interesting new features exclusive to Amazon's tablets.

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The underlying version of Android this time around is 4.2.2, but none of the Google services are included. In their place is a host of Amazon apps and services, some of which have gotten substantial updates in Fire OS 3.0. The new software adds support for Bluetooth gamepads and joysticks as Human Interface Devices (HID). However, the Amazon Appstore is still a little lacking in good games to use them with. Fire OS 3.0 includes multiuser mode, which is fully compatible with Amazon's Free Time usage limiting functionality for kids.

More technical users will be happy to see that Amazon has finally added proper multitasking in the form of fast app switching (called Quick Switch) to this version of Fire OS. Amazon's solution is unique because it treats every book and album as an individual item in the multitasking history – much faster to jump between multiple reference volumes or textbooks. Apps and content can be brought up in grid view like a regular app drawer too, so you don't have to use that carousel thing as much. The Fire HDX and updated HD 7 tablets will also be more work-friendly thanks to the addition of enterprise features like native VPN, SCEP, and the ability to connect to secure enterprise Wi-Fi networks.

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Amazon is leveraging its extensive content ecosystem with improvements to X-Ray, a feature that provides contextual information about your media. X-Ray is now fully integrated with Amazon Video and Music in Fire OS 3.0. X-Ray also figures into Second Screen (coming soon), a way to send video content from the Fire to a TV. This ties into Amazon's streaming apps for Samsung TVs and the PS3/4. The X-Ray content stays with the video feed on the TV, so the tablet can be used for other tasks. Managing all that content is easier too – with one tap you can archive things online to save space.

Perhaps the most notable new feature of Fire OS 3.0 is the Mayday Button. Right in the settings dropdown is what amounts to a panic button. If you're lost, just tap that and a real live human being will appear in a video chat window on top of what you're doing and help you out. The remote technician can see the Fire's screen and even take control to complete tasks for you. The service will be available 24/7 and it's free. Technically, you could probably activate the Mayday Button and ask the tech to skip to the next song for you, but that would be mean.

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You don't have the Google services we've come to rely on with most Android devices, but Amazon is doing some compelling things. If Mayday works the way it's supposed to, it could be huge for novice users. Fire OS 3.0 comes on the Fire HDX tablets, but also with the updated 7-inch Fire HD.

[Amazon, Kindle Fire HDX 7 , Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, Kindle Fire HD 7]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • mgamerz

    Not bad... But I am too addicted to having the Google services framework.

  • TheWhiteLotus

    Contrary to what many may believe, I think this is the best thing that could possibly happen for Android.

    • MindFever

      OK,but can you elaborate on that? I don't see this thing to be a good alternative to the Nexus 7... Also,the UI is just horrendous

  • aNYthing6

    No Google services will always deter any interest I have in Kindle tablets.

    • MindFever


  • ProductFRED

    I wouldn't be able to use a Kindle Fire because I need the Play Store, and for various reasons. For one, desktop browsing is much better on Google Play. I still don't understand why Amazon uses their regular interface, for apps. It just looks weird. Secondly, I don't want to have to manage two separate ecosystems; it's like using an iPhone and a Nexus 7 (nothing wrong with that if you don't mind being out of sync). If I was an average-Joe type person, or wasn't so invested in the Google ecosystem, then sure, the Kindle Fire would probably be my go-to device. But I'm too geeky to enjoy it. However, the Mayday button is f*cking awesome.

    I don't understand why they put a Snapdragon 800 processor in it either. Sure, it can play games, but clearly it's meant to be a media-consumption/casual gaming device (judging by my personal observations). Yes, the option is always there to fire up Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or Dead Trigger 2, but most Kindle Fire users aren't going to be doing that.

    • ari_free

      64 GB even for the 7" tablet. That's the customization that I'm talking about. If Amazoners are getting that, why are the Android power users stuck with tiny amounts of storage?

      • MindFever

        Because we are more efficient,bitch! (J/K,J/K...not to be taken seriously)

  • ari_free

    I just don't know about this Amy/mayday feature. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bored and lonely pervs out there looking for an easy girlfriend. I did notice she said she couldn't see anyone.

    • wbarahona

      lol like... *push mayday* heeeey! yeah check this video out... pops brazzers on screen haahahahahaha

      • Shaggy

        Mayday will last as long as Kindle NowNow did, if we're lucky. It might last longer if there was some text-based diagnostic screening going on prior to meeting face-to-face with Smiling Suzy, thus minimizing the inevitable trolling.

        • wbarahona

          no fun man... argh

    • MindFever

      For some reason it reminds me of the Friend Code (Nintendo)...god what an awful way to implement multiplayer,it still makes me go nuts when I think about it. Because Nintendo didn't want pervs harassing players...fair enough but come on ,friend codes suck

  • Doug

    I picture this Mayday service getting abused big time. There will be people hitting it for everything from clogged toilets to "I'm stoned and I want a pizza" to "My husband's having a heart attack".

    I wonder how well they thought this out?

    • Cael

      Plus, the reps can control your Kindle Fire. They'll see all the porn on that thing.

  • Geddoff Myazz

    I can hear gales of raucous laughter from China right now...... No rear camera on the 7 inch? Really? And still no microSD?

    • androidoubter

      can android even use an sd card yet? I thought it was hardcoded to only use internal storage?

  • androidoubter

    so ... any Android app works on this? like, maybe a phone app to use my Verizon unlimited data?