Like Google Assistant, Alexa is a cloud-based voice assistant that allows you to interact with your device using natural language recognition. It is the assistant that powers Amazon devices from the Echo series, Fire TV, and Fire Tablets among a handful of other devices. If you purchase an Amazon Fire device, you may be aware that the operating system is actually based on Android, which means that you can run regular Android apps on it. Because of this, it is actually possible to disable Amazon Alexa and replace it with the Google Assistant—well, at least the “Ok Google” detection part!
Amazon devices run FireOS which is a heavily modified version of Android, initially based on Lollipop 5.1.1. Some newer Amazon Fire devices may run a FireOS version which is also is a heavily modified version of Android, but based on Nougat 7.0. Older devices, such as the Kindle 8.9, 2nd Generation, runs a heavily modified version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0. Any Amazon device with 5.1.1 will only be able to experience Google Assistant at the ‘Ok Google’ level. That is a restriction placed by Google and not Amazon.
Currently the full Google assistant only supports some devices running Marshmallow 6.0, but is available on most devices running Nougat 7.0 and above. Google is expected to roll out it’s full Assistant Application to Lollipop devices sometime this year.
For this to work, you will need to at least have the Google App installed and be able to plug your device into a computer and run commands through ADB. This guide works for the Amazon Fire 7, HD 8, and HD 10 tablets. If your device running Fire OS 126.96.36.199, you can gain root access by following this guide. If you’re lucky enough to own a Kindle Fire HD 8.9, you won’t be able to install the required Play Store APKs, but you can gain root access, install TWRP, and flash a custom ROM. Follow my guide here to get started.
It is important to follow the guides specific to your device, step by step. Below are individual links to the Google APKs you’ll need to install the Play Store:
- Google Account Manager
- Google Services Framework
- Google Play Services (If you own the HD 8 or HD 10, 2017 edition, you need this APK.)
- Google Play Store
You don’t need to install a custom launcher on any of these devices for this guide to be successful.
There is a certain permission, which when placed in an application’s manifest file, allows an application to alter three categories of settings in the Android platform. This permission, called
WRITE_SECURE_SETTINGS, allows an application “to read or write the secure system settings.” These settings can also be edited and modified through the Android Debug Bridge (ADB). Modifying these settings does not require root access.
Below is a detailed guide to enable the “Ok Google” support on your Amazon Fire device. If you prefer a more manual approach, please see ‘Manually set assistant application using ADB’ below the general guide.
How to Enable “Ok Google” on the Amazon Fire 7, HD 8, and HD 10
1. Once you’ve setup the Google APKs and installed the Google App, download and install ‘Settings Database Editor’ from the Play Store.
2. Plug your device into your PC and open a terminal or command prompt window. Type the following command below. If successful, you won’t see any text:
adb shell pm grant by4a.setedit22 android.permission.WRITE_SECURE_SETTINGS
3. Now open ‘Settings Database Editor’ and tap on the ‘secure’ tab. In that tab, locate the following line of code:
The value to the right of that line should read:
4. Now we are going to add a couple more lines of code. In ‘Settings Database Editor’, scroll all the way to the top in the ‘secure’ tab. At the top, tap on ‘Add new setting.’
5. In the first box type:
6. In the second box type:
7. Now locate this line of code:
The value to the right of that line should say ‘1’. Tap on the setting and replace the 1 with a 0, then tap save. This will disable Alexa. Reference: 0 = disabled, 1 = enabled, 2 = toggle (though a toggle is not likely to appear in your settings menu. This is because your provider and or manufacturer block out the use of toggles they don’t add themselves).
8. Staying in the ‘secure’ tab, scroll down near the bottom. Look for the line of code:
The value to the right of it should be empty. Tap on the setting and add the following line of text (no spaces) and tap save:
9. Making sure you logged into Google, open the Google app. If you are on the latest version, tap the three bars at the bottom right of the screen. Tap settings then tap voice. On the right, tap on ‘Ok Google detection.’ Train your voice if it allows you to. You may need to download other Google apps such as Gmail or Maps in order to get all voice options available.
10. Once you’ve done all that, go back to your home screen. If activated, just say ‘Ok Google.’ If the search bar comes to life, simply speak your search query. Your assistant is now active!
Disable the Amazon App Store
To get your device ready to accept the full Google Assistant when it rolls out to Lollipop devices, you can join the Google Play Services and Google App beta programs. However in order to do so, you must disable the Amazon App Store and OTA updates, but that’s only possible on FireOS versions 188.8.131.52 and lower. The steps below will guide you in disabling the Amazon App Store, but be warned, you will not be able to re-enable it unless you do a factory reset.
To disable the Amazon App Store, plug your device into your PC and open a terminal or command prompt window. Type the command below. If successful, you will see ‘successful’ after the command:
adb shell pm uninstall -k --user 0 com.amazon.venezia
To disable OTA updates, run the following commands:
adb shell pm uninstall -k --user 0 com.amazon.device.software.ota adb shell pm uninstall -k --user 0 com.amazon.kindle.otter.oobe.forced.ota
Now wait a few minutes and open the Play Store. Go to the Google App page and see if you’re a beta tester. If you’re signed up to the program, you may need to update the Google App, but only do so once you’re successfully a beta tester.
Alternatively, you can use ADB to add and modify these settings, along with any others you see in the three tabs in the Settings Database Editor app. Be warned, you can brick your device if you change any settings in which you have no idea what they do. It is advised to use the above method to achieve this goal. For a more manual approach, follow the steps below. Only use the manual approach if you are comfortable with using ADB.
Manually set Assistant Application using ADB
With your device plugged into your PC, open a command prompt/terminal window and type the following commands below, pressing enter after each one. If successful, you won’t see any text when the command prompt returns:
adb shell settings put secure assistant com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox/com.google.android.voiceinteraction.GsaVoiceInteractionService adb shell settings put secure voice_interaction_service com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox/com.google.android.voiceinteraction.GsaVoiceInteractionService adb shell settings put secure voice_recognition_service com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox/com.google.android.voicesearch.serviceapi.GoogleRecognitionService adb shell settings put secure alexa_enabled 0
With these settings in play, your device is now setup to receive the full Google Assistant once it’s rolled out to Lollipop devices. Until then, you can have just as much fun with ‘Ok Google’ voice commands.
Rojenx is a leading concept artist who work appears in games and publications
Check out his personal gallery here