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It took me 20 minutes to make Amazon’s new Android tablet perfect

The Google Play Store, YouTube, and Google Docs installed on an Amazon Fire Max 11.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I heartily recommended the Amazon Fire Max 11 in my recent review. In fact, I was so impressed by it that I wanted to continue using it during my daily life after my review period was up. The problem was the Amazon App Store — and to a lesser extent, the Fire OS software — as they stopped me from making the absolute most of this great device.

Could I modify the Fire Max 11 so it was useful enough to replace my Apple iPad Pro? Yes, and it was shockingly easy.

Adding Google to the Fire Max 11

The Amazon Kindle Fire Max 11's Home screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

The Fire Max 11 exceeded all my expectations when I reviewed it, and I was surprised to find I could even handle Fire OS, Amazon’s version of Android installed on it, provided all I wanted to do was shop in the Amazon Store, watch videos, and read books. But when it came to doing work and using Google apps, it obviously fell short of an Apple iPad and the Google Pixel Tablet.

This was frustrating because the Fire Max 11 is simply too good to waste. The most obvious solution was to add the Google Play Store, but this isn’t something Amazon or Google officially offer, and it’s definitely in a legal gray area, as the Amazon tablet isn’t a fully licensed Android device.

I decided to give it a try anyway. I changed the Silk Browser settings to accept apps from unknown sources and located the files required to install Google Play. There are four in all (Google Account Manager v7.1.2, Google Services Framework 10-6494331, Google Play Services for Android 11, and the Google Play Store), and I was mindful about where I sourced them, as none are provided by Google or Amazon and using files found online is always a security risk. If you’re curious about what exactly the process looks like, see our guide on how to install the Google Play Store on your Amazon Fire tablet.

It’s a little confusing to make sure that you download the right versions, and then to ensure they’re installed in the correct order, so it needs some concentration. But sourcing, downloading, and installing all four applications only took about 20 minutes. A quick restart and the online guides told me I should be ready to go.

Was this really all there was to it, I wondered.

A complete work machine at last

Google Docs running on an Amazon Fire Max 11 tablet.
Google Docs app Andy Boxall/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

I fired up Google Play, signed in, and downloaded Google Docs. It all worked instantly without any fuss, and the Fire Max 11 was suddenly transformed from being almost suitable for my everyday life to perfectly fitting into my workflow. Pleased, I went for coffee, connected the tablet to my iPhone 14 Pro’s hotspot, and typed the words you’re reading right now on it, all through Google Docs.

What’s more, you don’t actually need the hotspot to work, as unlike using Google Docs online through the Silk Browser, the app does not require an internet connection. You can happily work away without needing to use any data. I’m sure if I paid the $70–per year subscription to use Microsoft Word, it would be the same, but I personally have no need to use Word on any device I own— and I am sure I’m not the only one. I installed Gmail and Google Keep too.

It’s frustrating to have an otherwise excellent device that doesn’t let me work in the way I want to out of the box. But in a very short amount of time, with minimal effort and technical knowledge, the Fire Max 11 suddenly became a lot more useful to me. I understand why the Fire Max 11 doesn’t have Google apps on board out of the box, but seeing how well Docs, Gmail, and other apps work on it once they are installed only made the situation even more unfortunate.

Even more entertainment

YouTube app running on an Amazon Fire Max 11.
YouTube app on the Fire Max 11 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The other apps the Fire Max 11 was missing (for my everyday use) included Autotrader, Discovery+, and — of course — the YouTube app. Using YouTube through the Silk Browser isn’t a fun experience, as it’s a bit slow, discovery is even worse than in the app, and the controls are small and fiddly. If the app works, along with Google Docs, then the Fire Max 11 would be well on the way to being a true alternative to my iPad Pro.

The YouTube app installed without any problem, and it operates just as it does on my iPad. Even the gestures, which are missing from the web version, work — but muscle memory means I try to use them anyway. It really is the final piece of the puzzle, meaning the Fire Max 11 was just a handful of apps away from being a true iPad competitor for me personally, and all for just a fraction of the price.

You do have to compromise elsewhere, though; the 60Hz refresh rate screen that’s annoyingly dim is the biggest problem. However, with an app store that gives me all the extra apps I need on a daily basis, it’s something that could be forgiven when an 11-inch iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard costs $1,098, and the Fire Max 11 with a keyboard costs $330.

Unlocking its potential

The back of the Amazon Fire Max 11 tablet.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

The Amazon Fire Max 11 is shockingly good when you buy it. Forget old Fire tablets you may have used – the Fire Max 11 is genuinely ahead of them in performance and ability, and the keyboard provides a brilliant typing experience. Forget bad Android tablet experiences, too, as the Fire Max 11 isn’t complicated enough to cause many problems. Plus, Amazon’s varied services are all pretty good, and the tablet is a brilliant way to enjoy them.

Not making full use of the Fire Max 11, though, is a crime, and unless you are embedded in Microsoft’s world already, you can’t quite do so without some tweaking. If you’ve already been tempted by the Fire Max 11, but were put off by the Amazon App Store, Fire OS, and the lack of Google Play, don’t be. Messing around with standard, preinstalled software can seem daunting and potentially cause problems too, but on mine so far, it doesn’t seem to have had any adverse effects. Instead, it has unlocked the Fire Max 11’s true potential, all in just a few minutes.

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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