Sunday, November 27, 2011

Installing HBO GO and Other Apps Not Available Through Amazon On the Kindle Fire

UPDATE: The following instructions will probably work for other applications but as of today (12/1/2011), Amazon or HBO has apparently disabled the ability to use HBO GO (see comments for more details). I had been using it fine for a week or so but now when I launch it, I get the error "HBO GO is not supported on this device." Lovely.
I've had my Kindle Fire since the day they came out and it's a fantastic device. I couldn't be happier with it.
OK, maybe I could be just a little happier with it. By default you can only install applications from Amazon's own Android app store and while the selection isn't exactly paltry, there are some key applications that aren't available.
One of these is HBO GO, which I'm used to using on my Droid Bionic as well as on my (now mostly unused thanks to the Fire) iPad 1. Even though it's not available in the Amazon app store you can pretty easily install HBO GO without having to root your Fire, provided you have another Android device on which you can install it.
Here's how I did it.
First, on my Droid Bionic I installed HBO GO from the Android Marketplace. Then I installed Astro File Manager, which is a free application that lets you easily browse the storage on your Android device and has a few other features.
One of the other features available in Astro is the ability to package up installed applications as .apk files, which is the Android package format. You can install .apk files on Android devices directly without going through the Marketplace, which in this case is important since the setup on the Fire routes you to the Amazon app store even if you try to hit Google's app store.
With HBO GO and Astro installed, open Astro and from the main menu click on Application Backup. From the list of your installed applications select HBO GO. This creates an .apk package from the installed application and puts it in /mnt/sdcard/backups.
Next go to the Astro home screen and browse to /mnt/sdcard/backups/apps and you'll see the HBO GO .apk file. Click and hold on the backed up application and then click "Send" in the menu that appears. Send the .apk file to yourself as an email attachment, making sure you send it to an email address you can access from the Fire.
On the Fire, you'll need to first change a setting that lets you install "unapproved" applications, then you'll install a file manager on the Fire, download the .apk attachment you sent yourself, browse to the .apk, and install directly from the file.
Boot your Fire and click on the settings button in the top right corner of the home screen. From there click on "More" and then "Device." Towards the bottom of that screen you'll see a setting for "Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources." Change that setting to "On" and accept the warning that appears (CYA legalese from Amazon).
Go back to the home screen on the Fire and click on "Apps" and then "Store." Search the store for File Expert and install it. This is the app that will allow you to browse the storage on the Fire and install the .apk file you'll download from the email you sent yourself.
Next, go to the email you sent yourself and download the .apk attachment. I did this from my Gmail account I have set up in the Fire's native email application, but adjust accordingly if you're going to access your email a different way on the Fire. However you do it you need to download the .apk attachment to the Fire.
With the .apk file downloaded, open File Expert and then open the Download directory (/mnt/sdcard/Download). You'll see the HBO GO .apk file in this directory. Click on the file and it will take you through the installation process.
That's it! No rooting of the Fire required, you just need another Android device that gives you access to the full Android Marketplace, and of course these same steps will work with any .apk file.
Note that there are some pre-packaged versions of HBO GO and other apps available for download on random web sites, but I felt a lot more comfortable installing directly from the Android Marketplace and packaging myself so I knew I was getting the real thing, not some modified potentially malicious version.

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