You know what you’re getting with the Amazon Fire HD tablets: inexpensive, simple, robust devices that are perfect for watching movies, browsing the web, and a bit of light gaming.
What you might not know are some of the more advanced tips and tricks you can do with these devices—giving you more ways to use them and more reasons to pick one up.
1. Turn your tablet into an Echo Show
Alexa comes built into the Fire HD tablets, as you would expect from an Amazon device, but you can turn on a special Show Mode that turns your tablet into something more like an Echo Show.
If you’ve not seen the Echo Show smart displays, they’re smart speakers with screens attached. Alexa can use these screens to show weather forecasts, news reports, the feeds from your Ring security cameras, and everything in between.
To get this full-screen, Alexa-powered experience on your Fire HD, swipe down from the top and tap the Show Mode toggle switch, or say “Alexa, switch to Show Mode.”
2. Sideload Android apps
The Fire HD tablets run on Fire OS, which is based on Android but isn’t quite Android. This means you don’t get access to the Google Play Store, so there aren’t as many apps and games to pick from.
Sideloading—the process of installing apps that aren’t available in the Amazon App Store—will get just about any Android app on your device. Be warned, though: they might not all work perfectly, as they were designed for Android rather than Fire OS.
[Related: How to sideload Android apps and why you would want to]
To enable sideloading, tap Settings from the home screen, then choose Security & Privacy and Apps from Unknown Sources. Tap Silk Browser (or any other browser you’ve installed), then turn on the Allow from this source toggle switch.
When sideloading apps, you have to be careful to only install APKs (app package files) from safe sources. APKMirror is one well-known and reputable repository, so open up the site in your browser, find the app you want, and download the APK file to install it.
3. Access Gmail and YouTube
Even with sideloading, you might still experience problems with Google apps that rely on certain bits of Android code that Fire OS doesn’t have. Gmail and YouTube are perhaps two of the biggest misses on Fire HD tablets, but there are workarounds.
You can open YouTube and Gmail in the Silk Browser, or any other browser you’ve installed. The experience isn’t quite as good as it is with a native app, but you can sign in to get at all your videos and emails, and you can save these sites as bookmarks to access them more easily (tap the three dots, top right, then Bookmarks in the Silk Browser).
The Email app built into Fire OS gives you another way of getting at your Gmail messages (without the Gmail interface). You can add Gmail as one of your email accounts in the app using the settings here.
4. Run apps side by side
If you’ve gone for one of the biggest and most recent Amazon tablets—by which we mean the 11th-gen Fire HD 10 and the Fire HD 10 Plus launched in 2021—then you can run two apps alongside each other. This is handy for when you want to take notes while reading something on the web, for example.
To go split screen, tap the task switcher button on the navigation bar at the bottom—it’s the square one on the right of the home button. Your most recently used app appears first, and if you tap the app icon at the top, followed by Split screen, you can choose another app to go alongside it.
5. Send documents to your Fire HD tablet
There are lots of ways to send documents to your Fire HD tablet, but you might not know that the device supports the same Send-to-Kindle feature as Amazon’s e-readers. It’s one of the easiest ways to get files to your tablet.
You’ve got several options when it comes to using Send-to-Kindle, outlined here, including a browser extension and a desktop app. We like the email address route—find your personal Kindle email address via this page, and any documents sent to that address will show up on your Fire HD tablet.
[Related: Your e-reader can display more than books]
Whichever Send-to-Kindle method you use, use your tablet to tap through Utilities, Files, Docs, and Send-to-Kindle to see everything that’s been beamed over.
6. Make your tablet child-safe
Amazon makes Fire HD tablets specifically for kids, with big, colorful cases and a year’s subscription to the Amazon Kids Plus service, but you can still let your youngsters use your regular Amazon tablet without having to worry about what they’re getting up to.
Choose Settings from the home screen, then tap Parental Controls. From there, you will have control over the apps that can be run, the times of day that the tablet can be used, and whether or not new apps can be installed.
Tweaking these simple on-off settings might be all you need if you’re just giving the tablet to your kids for a few minutes, but you can add a child profile to the tablet for a more comprehensive setup. This will allow you to set age filters for content and block specific websites—tap Household Profiles under Parental Controls to do this.
7. Rest your eyes
You don’t want your eyes overly strained from staring at your Fire HD tablet, and the device gives you numerous ways to guard against this. If you open Settings from the home screen, then tap Display, you can turn on Adaptive brightness so that the brightness of the screen changes depending on the ambient light.
On the same Display page, you can tap Blue Shade—this feature lets you reduce the amount of blue light from the screen, reducing the harshness of the glare. You can make manual adjustments or set the changes to happen on a daily schedule.
Also under Display, you’ll find Font size. If you’re struggling to read what’s on the screen, increase the size of the text so it’s easier to see (the changes you make here will be applied across all of the apps on your tablet).
8. Get more storage
Don’t neglect the microSD card slot that comes built into every Fire HD tablet. If you’ve got a lot of apps, movies, music, and photos to store, adding a memory card can give you much more storage space to work with—search Amazon for “fire tablet storage cards” to find compatible models.
Open up the Settings app from the home screen, tap Storage, then Internal Storage to see what’s taking up a lot of room on your tablet. If you tap Apps & Games and then a specific app, you’ll get an option to move it to the microSD card.
[Related: How to choose the right memory card]
There’s also the Files app on the home screen, which you can use to move files (like documents or videos) to and from the memory card slotted into your tablet.
9. Take screenshots on your Fire HD tablet
Need to show off one of your high scores? Trying to grab a picture from the internet? Guiding a relative through a troubleshooting procedure? Screenshots can be useful for these and many other scenarios, and they’re not difficult to take on these tablets: Press and hold Volume Down and Power until the screen flashes. There’s a dedicated Screenshots folder inside the Images folder on your tablet.