Amazon's Fire tablets rarely receive major OS updates, mostly because they are sold as simple media consumption devices, and Netflix or TikTok doesn't need Android 10 to function. However, the company has now surpassed everyone's low expectations by delivering Android 9 Pie to two of its older tablets.
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Amazon's Fire tablets are popular for one, simple reason: they're really, really cheap. But what happens when you make a slightly-less-cheap Fire tablet? That's the question Amazon sought to answer with the Fire HD 8 Plus, a very-slightly-better version of the new Amazon Fire HD 8 last month, which was already a decent upgrade from previous Fire tablets in both hardware and software.
With the HD 8 Plus, Amazon attempts to bring some quality of life improvements like more RAM and wireless charging—a rarity in any tablet—to the table. Combined with the wireless charging stand that essentially turns the HD 8 Plus into a detachable Echo Show, Amazon has what to date is probably the best version of a combination tablet smart display (even if it's not amazing as either).
I think it's fair to say that Amazon's lineup of Fire tablets don't have the best reputation, particularly in the tech community. Fire tablets have historically paired bottom-of-the-barrel hardware with outdated versions of Android, and Amazon's extensive changes to the operating system aren't widely loved. The tablets also don't ship with the Google Play Store, though that at least is a quick fix.
Amazon has been selling the same Fire HD 8 since 2018, but the company finally released a new model last month. It brings most of the improvements from last year's Fire HD 10 to the 8-inch lineup, including USB Type-C and faster performance, and I think it's a pretty great buy for $90.
Amazon's Fire tablets have been commoditized to the point where the average consumer can buy six-packs of them at a bulk discount... and that was 4 years ago. They get the job done and they're very cheap — both are good things — but they could be even cheaper. Best Buy is proving that point today with a one-day sale on the Fire HD 10.
If your TV is tragically not smart enough—or otherwise lacks a way to play Amazon Prime Video—Amazon has been heavily pushing their line of Fire TV devices since 2014. While the 3rd generation Fire TV started shipping last month, Amazon just announced the new Fire TV Stick Basic Edition. Problem is, there's absolutely nothing new about this at all.
Amazon's fork of Android is known as Fire OS, and it ships on all of the company's tablets and TV devices. The current version, Fire OS 5, is getting a bit long in the tooth; it's based on either Lollipop or Marshmallow, depending on the device. Amazon revealed quite a few new products recently, but one announcement flew under the radar - Fire OS 6.0.
Back in 2010, Android 2.1 Eclair added voice dictation when the keyboard is open to let you use speech instead of hunting and pecking on your 3" display to type a few letters and characters. That function apparently never made it into Amazon's Fire OS Android fork on TVs (it's available on Fire tablets as far as I can tell). But that's changing now that Amazon is all about voice.
Fire OS 5.2.6 has been rolling to TV devices since September 13, but the official changelog was just posted and Amazon and says you can hold the voice button on the Alexa Voice Remote or the Fire TV Remote App (on your phone) when the keyboard is open to dictate text instead of typing one letter at a time.
Now the company is following up with a new model, named the Fire 7. The Fire HD 8 is also getting a minor refresh, in case you need something a little bigger. The 7-inch tablet still starts at $50 with lock-screen ads, and $64.99 without. The Fire HD 8 starts at $79.99 with lock-screen ads, and $94.99 without.
You might have heard that Amazon disabled the option for software encryption in the latest version of its Android-based Fire OS for the Kindle Fire series of tablets. (This isn't new - Fire OS 5 has been rolling out to various tablets since last year.) And if you read news that isn't Android Police, you probably also know that it's not the biggest story involving encryption right now. After consumer backlash following the Apple-FBI encryption case, Engadget reports that Amazon says it will return software encryption in the next major update.
Customers might have had something to say about the loss of encryption capabilities even without the highly public spat between Apple and the FBI over the San Bernardino iPhone case.