Kindle Fire HDX Software and Interface
It’s hard to say why Amazon waited for its third iteration to finally give Fire OS an official name. Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement that even casual users are savvy enough to pay attention to operating systems these days, or maybe the company feels that the software is finally mature enough to be spoken about in the same breath as iOS and Android. It’s perhaps slightly disingenuous to refer to Fire OS as an operating system, of course — scrape back enough layers and you’d find Jelly Bean underneath.
That said, this is much more than a TouchWiz-like skin. In fact, Amazon’s done so much to the Android base so as to render it unrecognizable. And while the software is, as ever, a reflection of the company’s laser-like focus on content delivery, a number of upgrades have helped the Fire continue to stand out in a seemingly endless parade of Android slates.
At first glance, Fire OS 3.0 (codenamed Mojito, in keeping with the sugary goodness of Jelly Bean) bears a striking resemblance to earlier versions. Understandably so. After all, if the goal here was to provide a user-friendly experience for casual users, a full refresh would be pretty counterproductive. The centerpiece is, as ever, the content carousel, a swipeable river that offers up movies, albums, apps, books and the like, in order of the last time you opened them. At the top is a toolbar featuring a search icon and links to specific content categories.
Users familiar with past iterations of Fire OS will notice a key difference on this home page. Peeking out just below the carousel are the tops of six icons. Swipe up and you’ll find a grid of apps. Yep, Amazon caved responded to user feedback, adding a more familiar mobile OS app layout directly to the front page. A swipe from off the right side of the screen while open to one of the media types, meanwhile, will bring up Quick Switch, a scrollable river of content that lets you quickly move between recently used media.
As ever, there’s no Play Store access here. Amazon’s unquestionably got enough to offer in the way of movies, music and (especially) books. But while the app store is certainly growing (and will no doubt continue to do so as long as the Fire comprises a third of the Android tablet market), it still pales in comparison to the selection you’ll find on Android and iOS. Still, the company is talking up support for HTML5 apps and the ease with which developers can port titles over from Android. Amazon does offer up a number of high-profile apps already though, which may prove more than sufficient for many casual users.