On March 28, 2012, Chris notified me that Amazon released the latest version (version 6.3) of its Kindle Fire. At that time, he included a list of the newest features and performance upgrades that Amazon has added or changed from the previous version. Since this is a device that I have written about in the past, I told Chris that I would install the update and check out these new features and write a review on my findings. In preparing to write the article, I also decided to include a section on some of the new tips and tricks that I have discovered while investigating what the Amazon Kindle Fire brings to the plate for our folks here at LockerGnome who own their own Amazon Kindle Fires.
Of course, all articles begin with testing or researching your topic; so, after receiving the email from Chris, I immediately updated my system. To follow along with me, you can update your system and confirm you have the latest bells and whistles by clicking on the cog wheel located at the top right of the screen. Doing this allows you to then select the Sync icon, which in turn then allows the update to be downloaded and installed onto your system. If you still have questions, you can then confirm that you have the latest update by clicking on the More icon, then Settings followed by choosing the Device option. Once on this screen, look under the System Version to confirm that you do, in fact, have version 6.3. You can read about all of the new features at the Amazon Kindle Fire update site.
So what makes this latest update worthwhile? It comes down to the following sentence taken from Amazon’s website:
‘This update will also bring some of the features customers have requested, including faster re-connect of Wi-Fi after Kindle Fire has been asleep, and general performance enhancements.’
After reading this sentence, I knew that, for me, it was a must-have update. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that all of the enhancements being offered will benefit most users, but a faster re-connect of Wi-Fi is one of my pet peeves and here is why. I have set my Gmail account to automatically be checked any time I crank up my Fire. However, due to the slow Wi-Fi connection, I usually end up with nothing more than a message stating that the program has failed.
Did the update work? Yes! My email now magically appears as soon as I start my Fire.
While this was particularly satisfying to me, there are several other new toys worth mentioning. I even believe that some of these new toys will ultimately change the user’s experience. Fortunately, these innovative changes don’t even require your Fire to be ‘rooted’ before you can enjoy them.
One such change was my ability to change, for free, the look of my tablet’s screen to the appearance of the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Below is a picture of that change.
So let’s get started in transforming your standard carousel, bookshelf, and ho-hum desktop environment into what looks and works like Ice Cream Sandwich. Don’t worry. If you don’t like the changes, you can revert back to the standard desktop at the click of an icon or you can uninstall everything and return your Fire back to its original appearance.
The first step in making this change is to enable the installation of third-party applications. To do this, click on the cog wheel, followed by More, then Settings, then click on Device. After this, scroll down until you are able to click on the Yes button where you will find the option to Allow Installation of Applications from Unknown Sources.
Next, we need to create a file manager so that we can locate some of the files that we will be downloading. I have found a good file manager that is called ES File Explorer. This program can be downloaded, for free, from the Amazon App Store. However, to use it, you may want to take advantage of another free program offered at Amazon’s App Store called Easy Installer. This program makes installation of other non-Amazon approved applications a cinch.
For those of you who have tried installing apps from Google Android Market (aka Google Play) onto the Fire, you have found that these apps are blocked by Amazon and will not install directly. If you find that this is your problem, go to the developer’s website, find the programs we will be using, and download them to your Amazon Kindle Fire (or onto a computer, then transfer the files over to the Fire). Either way will work.
The application we next need to download and install is called Go Launcher EX. Once again you have the option of downloading it directly to the Fire or onto a computer. If you choose the latter, the file must be transferred from your computer over to the Fire via a USB cable. Once Go Launcher EX is on your Fire, go to Easy Installer, select Go Launcher EX, and it will be installed for you. For some of you, this may be as far as you wish to go since Go Launcher EX comes with different themes and changes to enhance the desktop of your Fire.
The great thing about using Go Launcher EX is that you can set your system to boot into the new desktop or the old. In addition, a Launcher icon will be incorporated into your new theme so that you can continue to access the carousel bookshelf.
However, if you want to install the Ice Cream Sandwich theme from Kovdev, you will need to download the .apk file to an Android phone or other device that has access to Google Play. Unfortunately, I am unaware of any reputable sites on the Internet from which one can download the file directly. However, once the file is transferred over to your Amazon Kindle Fire, Easy Installer can be used to install the Ice Cream Sandwich theme. Then, once it is installed, you can launch the theme through Go Launcher EX. Once it is installed, you can use ES File Explorer to clean up any downloads or other .apk files that are no longer needed.
Note: I discovered that I personally preferred booting into the standard desktop first, then launching Go Launcher EX after the standard boot. Why? For the most part I enjoy using the standard Amazon Kindle Fire desktop carousel shelving experience. However, I also like the Ice Cream Sandwich interface. Here is what you need to do to reverse the order of which GUI boots first. After installing Go Launcher EX, you will be asked which launcher you wish to use. If you select Launcher as the default, you will first boot into the standard desktop GUI. If you choose Go Launcher EX, the default will be booting into Go Launcher EX or Ice Cream Sandwich if you choose the ICS theme.
Either way, you will enjoy a new and unique experience.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by IntelFreePress