My frustration with apps for the Amazon Kindle Fire continues. In my first impressions write-up,
I wrote that a huge drawback for me was the absence of critical apps in the Amazon app marketplace. I use Dropbox daily, and it isn’t present on the Amazon AppStore. I wound up installing it via an unsupported method, and was eager to try out “sideloading” on my next important app: Spotify.
Here’s how I did it, and some new problems with the Amazon Fire user interface.
I knew from my experience sideloading Dropbox that I would have to get the Android binary, or .apk file, on my own and install it on the Kindle Fire. I also knew that I couldn’t just download the .apk and transfer it via USB. I had to download the .apk from the Fire via its Web browser (or a third-party browser, like Opera. I verified that these steps work using both).
- Make sure you have already enabled the ability to install applications outside of the Amazon AppStore, also called “sideloading.” You can adjust this setting by going to:
Settings > More > Device > Allow Installation of Applications (From Unknown Sources): On
- Open a Web browser on your Kindle Fire and go to http://m.spotify.com/int/?group=android.
- Chances are Spotify won’t detect the Fire as a supported device. If it doesn’t, you’ll see this screen; just tap the manually select your device link if you do:
- Select Android 1.6+ from this pulldown:
- Tap the manually download the application link to download the .apk. The first link will try to find the app on the Amazon AppStore and won’t work.
- Tap the Spotify .apk once it has finished downloading. You may need to pull down the Kindle Fire’s notification bar to do this.
- Follow the installation prompts and disclaimers as normal.
- Sign into Spotify. If you’re reading this article, chances are you know that streaming via Spotify mobile is only available to Premium customers.
- Get frustrated.
Wait, what’s that last step?
I found more reasons to dislike the Amazon Kindle Fire: it’s non-standard user interface and lack of hardware volume control buttons makes the Spotify application unusable.
The standard Amazon music app has software controls, like a volume slider, play/pause button, and forward/next buttons. This means it doesn’t have hardware equivalents.
For some reason, the Spotify app’s controls don’t display on the Kindle Fire. I run the app on my HTC Droid Incredible and my rooted Barnes & Noble Nook Color, so it’s not Spotify’s fault. I wonder if the Amazon UI preempts Spotify’s controls, or if it implements something in a non-standard way from the usual Android conventions. Whatever the case, I doubt Amazon is particularly interested in fixing a problem in a user’s experience in using a competing product.
You can turn the volume up and down during playback by tapping on the Settings cog, but there’s no way to stop/start or traverse tracks. The only way to stop music from playing is to quit Spotify altogether.
Hardware / WiFi problem
If that weren’t enough, for some reason the Fire goes to sleep every few minutes and shuts off the WiFi. This, of course, pauses Spotify. I’m not sure why this happens, as the native Amazon music app doesn’t sleep as long as a track is playing. I looked for a fix on the Amazon support forums, but it appears that other people are having connectivity problems with their Fires. I am patched up to the latest OS version, but maybe a future revision will remedy my issue.
I really want to like the Kindle Fire, but the more I use it the more I chafe at being forced to use the device the way Amazon wants me to use it. If I wanted someone to dictate my choices I’d go back to my iPad2, which has a far more cohesive, intelligent user experience.