Current Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets gain hands-free Alexa with latest software update

A new software update is rolling out to Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets that adds hands-free Alexa capabilities. These tablets launched with Alexa onboard, but you had to press and hold the tablet’s home button before speaking to Alexa. Now, if the tablet is plugged into power or if the screen is on, you can simply speak to Alexa without needing to touch anything. Hands-free Alexa was previously only available on the Fire HD 10, but with this latest update, it’s now available on Amazon’s entire current tablet lineup. Only the latest 7th generation Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets, that were released in 2017, are receving hands-free Alexa capabilities.

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30 comments
  1. Charlie says:

    Interesting. I’m thinking about adding something small to my carry out when work at night to use when I have down time. I’m not a huge fan of tablets, but this is interesting. I’m thinking used Chromebook or mini Windows machine. A 7 inch fire tablet with stand/folio might be more fun to use than my phone.

    • Brett says:

      Go with an 8″. The l” difference is huge without adding much to the bulk.

    • tech3475 says:

      I’d wait now before buying, these devices regularly go on sale and there will probably be one in the next few months.

      I personally own a 7 for very occasional use and it’s ok for what I want, but the 8 wasn’t an option at the time.

      Also, be aware that Google is cracking down on sideloaded Google Services/Play store, there is a workaround however.

  2. itzme says:

    How can we tell if our old tablets have gotten this update?

  3. Ulises A. Rodriguez, Ph.D. says:

    Has anyone received this update in the previous Amazon Fire 8 HD 5th and 6th Generations?

  4. Tampa8 says:

    Works perfectly and has a couple of options. If you turn it off you are reminded in the notifications. Great update.

  5. JFC says:

    So is it correct that this latest update only applies to 2017 edition, so-called 7th generation Fire tablets, and not any of the prior year models?

    I’ve got a 2015 Fire 7 inch tablet labeled as 5th generation. It had been sitting in a drawer for the past several months. After seeing this article, last night I got it out, ran system update thru several OS updates and many component updates.

    My 5th gen tablet now has the Fire OS 5.6.1.0, and in the release notes for that on my tablet, the notes say the hands free Alexa update is only for 7th gen devices. So it would seem, for now, my 2015 Fire tablet is out of Alexa luck.

    The release notes for 5.6.1.0 on my tablet says it added Alexa hands free for “7th Generation Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 devices.” “To enable or disable Alexa hands-free, swipe down from the top of your tablet’s Home screen, then tap the Alexa Hand-Free icon.”

    When I swipe down on my fully updated device, there’s no Alexa hands free icon.

  6. JFC says:

    Elias, I think the current post version here is a bit confusing on the current vs older devices issue. The headline uses the term “current,” suggesting but not specifically saying 7th gen devices, and that 7th gen term isn’t used anywhere in the post.

    And then later at the end of the post, you use the phrase “but with this latest update, it’s now available on Amazon’s entire tablet lineup.” Which kind of suggests that older devices might be included.

    I think it would have been much clearer to have simply said the hands free update is coming to current version, 7th generation Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets, but not older models, at least for the time being.

  7. itzme says:

    No hard feelings but that was a waste of time updating and searching for the new feature on my old gen 5 Fire tablet, which prior to this article has a thick layer of dust and was buried in a stack of junk. I was hopeful you had given it a reason to exist.

    • JFC says:

      Well, that’s not to say that Amazon might not, at some future point, expand the Alexa hands free capability to older generation Fire devices, 5th, 6th, etc.

      I don’t know for sure, of course, but I’m guessing if they could do it via a firmware update on the 7th gen devices, the 5th and 6th gen devices probably aren’t very different.

      On the other hand, I noticed today Amazon is advertising an exchange program for older Fire tablets — about a $15 gift card for a good working device combined with 25% off any tablet purchase from the current generation line.

      I’d really like to have hands-free Alexa on my Fire tablet. But then of course, I’d also like to have hands free Alexa on my 2nd gen Fire TV devices. And I don’t see any sign of that coming soon, leaving them a poor stepchild to the Echo devices in terms of Alexa functionality.

      Interestingly, when I looked at Amazon’s webpages today for the Fire 7 and 8 HD models, their descriptions still talk only about push button Alexa, and no mention at all of the latest hands free upgrade.

    • AR says:

      try the ultimate alexa app , it works hands free

      • Itzme says:

        I look foward to trying the ultimate Alexa app on my gen 5 tablet. I’ll look for it in the store.

        • JFC says:

          Re the 3rd party “Ultimate Alexa” app in the Google Play store:

          Music Playback: Due to restrictions imposed by Amazon, music playback through voice commands is limited to 3rd party skills that support music. Voice commands cannot be used to play music from Amazon and popular services such as Pandora and Spotify.

      • itzme says:

        its not in the Amazon store and Im not sure how to side load it from the google play store.

  8. Kevin W says:

    I have an 8″ HD tablet with FireOS 5.6.0.1 which is the latest shown on Amazon’s website. Is this update reveal itself in a different version number? I always hate waiting on this to update sometime in the future. I don’t see the difference Elias points out by swiping down.

    • JFC says:

      If yours is a 7th generation, 2017 edition Fire tablet, you should get the hands free update.

      If it’s a pre-2017 tablet, you’ll get the 5.6.0.1 update, but it won’t include Alexa hands free — at least, not in the current update.

      • Kevin W says:

        It is the 7th generation. Just hasn’t updated I guess.

      • Kevin W says:

        Still waiting for the update. The manual update on the site doesn’t work. I find the help desk completely unhelpful. Sitting here with the 5.6.0.1 version and not the 5.6.1.0 version and no hands free Alexa. No big deal but I hate Amazon’s response about waiting for a push update. I should be able to download the update and install it via USB. Almost ten days after the announcement. Do they release in alphabetical order?

        • Courtney Cooper says:

          I am having the same issue, just waiting for the update, my kids have older kindles, Fire 7, and both of theirs already got the update, but my Fire HD 8, 7th gen, is still waiting… Manual update doesn’t work, and the search for updates feature gives me nothing except 5.6.0.1…

        • Kevin W says:

          Finally! April 17th, the device updated. Now to play around with the new feature. I could see this becoming a wall mounted information and control system in my kitchen.

  9. itzme says:

    Has anyone figured out how to get hands free Alexa on a Gen 5? Or is there an easy way to get the Ultimate Alexa app onto a Gen 5 tablet?

    • JFC says:

      I’ve got a 5th gen tablet, and I haven’t seen any solution on that.

      As for Ultimate Alexa, the app info says it won’t work for online streaming of music, which is what I mainly use Alexa hands free for.

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