$35 Amazon Fire – An affordable tablet for your classroom?

My students build mobile apps for Android devices, and I’ve been exploring options to get more devices for them to use while developing, testing and demonstrating their apps.

I’ve been playing around with the Amazon Fire tablet the past few days, and it’s passing my tests, so I wanted to post this information.

Fire Basics

It’s a simple, basic, 7″ tablet with lesser display and camera specs. It runs FireOS, which is a version of Android that Amazon split off a few years ago.  (More on that below.)

It has WiFi, Bluetooth, front and back cameras, an accelerometer, accepts SD cards, and more.  You can get the full specs on the Fire home page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TSUGXKE/

Can I run Android Apps?

Yes.  The FireOS is Amazon’s “fork” of the AndroidOS, and it includes elements to make it easy (i.e., more likely) that you buy stuff from Amazon.  It doesn’t include the Google Play Store or other commonly used Google Apps (Maps, Chrome, Gmail, etc.)

But that’s not a problem.   The web is full of instructions on how to modify your Fire to install those Google apps.   After some time searching and experimenting, I found the best instructions at http://www.howtogeek.com/232726/how-to-install-the-google-play-store-on-your-amazon-fire-tablet/?tag=823814-20 ; they’re simple, easy to follow, and effective in getting those Google Apps on my Fire.

Can I install my own Android apps?

Definitely.  My main use for the Fire will be for students to load and test their apps.  I’ve downloaded and installed apps made with both
MIT AppInventor and Adobe PhoneGap  , and they work.






I’ve also installed the MIT AI2 Companion app and the PhoneGap Developer app.

So what’s the downside?

It doesn’t vibrate, so you can’t test that functionality on the Fire;  I’m handling that by having just a couple of higher-end tablets available (see below.)

The screen is not HD, the cameras are not the best, the sound isn’t the best, and it’s heavier and thicker than higher end tablets.  But it’s going to be a great tablet for my classroom;  students can access the web, take pics and videos, load and run their apps, etc.

And the price is unbeatable for a name-brand tablet.

It’s $35????

The regular price is $49.99, with a “buy 5, get the 6th free” offer;  so in bulk, it’s on $42/tablet anyway.     But on Black Friday, it’s going to be $35 at Amazon and Best Buy.





As mentioned above…

The Fire won’t serve all the development and testing needs in my classroom, so I’m trying to get a few higher-end Samsung tablets.  And I have a DonorsChoose project up for those right now.   The project receives a 50% match from Infosys, and if you make a contribution using the checkout code SPARK before November 28, your contribution up to $100 will be matched.   In effect, your contribution is quadrupled.

So if you appreciate the info in this article and/or you want to help out (and only if your financial circumstances allow), please contribute $5 or $10 dollars to the cause.

Don’t forget to enter the checkout code SPARK to have your contribution matched.



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