Sideloading Google Play apps onto a Kindle Fire

I recently turned 30. My wonderful wife and mother got together and purchased a Kindle Fire tablet for me to go along with the Samsung Captivate Android phone I currently own. While some apps are better on the tablet than the phone, there are some I like to have on both like TinyShark. Sadly, not all apps available in Google Play are available in the Amazon App Store and there’s no easy way to get access to the former from a Kindle without rooting it. So, I did some digging and managed to find an alternate way to sideload them, no rooting required.

Obligatory disclaimer: I’m not responsible for any damage that might occur by following these instructions. Use them at your own risk. Also, be aware that being able to install an app from Google Play onto a Kindle doesn’t mean that the app will work on the Kindle. (An example of this is the app for Google Play itself, which immediately dies when you try to run it.) This is due to any number of differences in hardware, Android implementations, etc.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • An Android device* with access to Google Play, like my Captivate
  • A computer with the Android SDK installed

* It’s possible that an emulator run using the SDK can be used in place of an actual device.

On the Android device, install whatever app you want to sideload onto your Kindle, then go to Settings > Applications > Development and check the USB debugging option. Now hook the Android device to the computer with a micro USB cable.

On the computer, open up a terminal and go to the platform-tools subdirectory within the SDK directory. Run this command (which I got from this post), which uses the adb utility:

adb shell pm list packages -f

Each line of the command’s output will be in this format:

package:[path]=[namespace]

Open up a web browser and go to the page on Google Play for the app you want to sideload. The URL of that page will look like https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=[namespace] where [namespace] will match the [namespace] portion of a line from the command’s output. Note the corresponding [path] portion of this line.

Now go back to the terminal and run this command, substituting the path you found for [path]:

adb pull [path]

This will copy the APK file from the Android device to the computer.

Unplug the micro USB cable from the Android device and plug it into the Kindle. You may need to disconnect and reconnect the computer’s end of the cable to allow it to mount the Kindle as a storage device, which should happen automatically.

On the Kindle, hit the gear icon on the top right, select More > Device, and make sure Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources is turned on. Now hit the Home button at the bottom of the screen, then Apps near the top, then Store on the top right. Search for and install the ES File Explorer app.

From the computer, use a filesystem browser to access the mounted Kindle storage and copy the APK file from the computer to a directory on the Kindle. I used the Documents directory.

Back on the Kindle, open the newly-installed ES File Explorer. It should give you access to the directory on the Kindle where you copied the APK file and allow you to open and install it.

Open your sideloaded app on your Kindle and enjoy it!

Update #1, 3/28/12: This post was linked in the PCWorld article “Get More Out of Your Kindle Fire Tablet: Five Tips.” It’s got some good information and I recommend giving it a read.

Update #2, 9/10/12: Forbes contributing author Adrian Kingsley-Hughes linked this post in his own post “Something Everyone Should Know Before Pre-Ordering a Kindle Fire HD.”

Update #3, 10/3/12: ereaderguides on YouTube published a video guide on installing third-party apps on the Kindle Fire HD and linked to this post in the video description.

Update #4, 10/26/12: Spiegel Online, a German news source, linked to this post from their review of a Kindle Fire HD.

Update #5, 12/26/12: This post got nearly 1,200 hits on 12/25, presumably from those gifted a Kindle Fire for Christmas. Also, Ars Technica posted a nice write-up of getting Google’s stock set of apps onto a Kindle Fire HD.

7 Comments

  1. Ola Hjelm says:

    Instead of installing the SDK you can just use “Appinstaller” to export an APK of any App you would like on your Kindle Fire

  2. Ronald says:

    very cool… but will this work with Google Music app?? or how about the Google Play app itself?
    can’t wait to try this out and see what I can load…. thanks for the info

  3. I mentioned in the blog post that Google Play itself doesn’t seem to work. I haven’t taken time to dig and figure out why. I’d suspect the same will be true of Google Music, though I wouldn’t let that stop you from trying it anyway. The only app I’ve sideloaded thus far is TinyShark. Would be interested to see what you’re able to find out.

  4. nomadd says:

    I use app back in Astro file manager. Copy the app .apk created in backup folder to computer or cloud drive then onto kindle and install. Works fine and have used for dozen of apps my kids want that are not on amazon. Never tried on paid app from play store however.

  5. Shannon says:

    I wanna get the “kindle gps” app installed on the kindle fire to connect with the “wifi gps server” app that’s on my HTC EVO. The app is on google play and it doesn’t make sence why its there but aparently google has now blocked the kindle for its high sales. Any suggestions of a quick fix? I’m not good with programming computers

  6. TLM says:

    I use App backup in ES File Explorer, used my PC as the go-between drive for the first installation of the X-Link app (using ES File Explorer from the Amazon AppStore to copy the APK from my PC to the Kindle). After that first time, I’ve just used X-Link to copy the APKs directly from my phone to the Kindle Fire.

  7. OFDM says:

    I’ve sideloaded Google Books and Google Music as well as other apps purchased from Google Play onto my Kindle without needing to install the Android SDK. You need to root your phone, I used z4root, and then use a program like MyBackup Pro (Astro won’t worked for private-apps) to backup your program to your SD card. From there I copy the saved APK file from my phone and save it to my Kindle. I use ES File Explorer on my Kindle to navigate to and install the program and voila! It may not work on all apps but for some it has.