Using a Kindle Fire outside the US

I recently succumbed to temptation and bought myself a Kindle Fire so I thought I’d share my experiences of getting it to work in the UK.

Getting your Fire

Although Amazon will only ship the Fire to a US address you are able to use a UK card and billing address when ordering it. I ordered mine on and had it delivered to a friend in the US who then shipped it on to me. There are companies which offer a similar service but you will probably pay a premium for this.

Shipping to the UK was $19.45  with USPS First Class Mail International and took 10 working days from door to door. The value of the Fire falls just outside the range where import duty is payable but you will still be liable for VAT at 20% on the total value of the Fire and the shipping costs.

Amazon Appstore

In order to download anything from the Amazon Appstore (even the free apps) you need to enable 1-Click settings on your Amazon account and set a US credit card and billing address. Provided you only want to download free apps you can use any valid US address and a test credit card number.

If you want paid apps you can either get a real US credit card or load your Amazon account with a gift card. Any purchases should then use the gift card balance instead of trying to charge the non-working US credit card.

If you don’t want to use this workaround then GetJar is a good alternative to the Amazon Appstore and can be installed on the Fire without rooting. You can also use Google’s Android Market but you will need to root your Fire first.

Amazon Instant Video

The Kindle Fire comes with a free month of Amazon Prime ($79 per year thereafter). As well as free 2 day shipping (not much use outside the US!) Prime membership also gives you access to a lot of Amazon’s streaming film and TV content for free, as well as one free book per month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

As well as requiring a US credit card and billing address as mentioned above, Amazon Video has two more hoops you have to jump through; it won’t work on a rooted device and it will only work if you connect from a US based IP address.

If you have a rooted Fire you can download OTA Rootkeeper from the Android Market and use that to temporarily unroot your device when you want to watch videos. After unrooting you may also need to force stop and restart the video service as it checks for root when it starts.

Solving the IP issue is a little trickier as the Fire has no built in support for using a proxy or a VPN. However you should be able to use TUN.ko Installer to enable VPN support and then use a regular VPN client to connect to a US based server.

An alternative to a VPN or proxy are websites like UnblockUs or UnoTelly. These are designed specifically to avoid geo-restrictions on streaming services and cost around $5 a month to use. The advantage these services have over a VPN or proxy is that they work using a custom DNS server which can be configured as part of the regular Fire settings without any additional software or rooting required. They should also be faster as only the traffic necessary to establish your location is routed via their proxy with the rest of your internet traffic being routed normally. This does mean however that you will only see a benefit for the specific sites that the service supports.

The option I use is the World Wide Kindle Fire app. This temporarily unroots your Fire and connects to a proxy service giving you an all-in-one solution for streaming video to your Fire outside the US. I’ve emailed the developer a couple of times and had responses the same day (much faster than I ever reply to emails!) and I think it’s well worth the $0.99 price.

Kindle Books

I encountered a strange situation with my Fire where the Store buttons for Newsstand and Books were redirecting me to the website rather than using the Fire specific storefronts. My Fire was registered to my .com account and I could access the amazon app store and videos just fine but I couldn’t get the US book store, even through a US based proxy. It turned out that my Kindle account was associated with my account rather than and this was causing the country specific redirect.

You can solve this by migrating your Kindle between and .com accounts from the “Manage Your Kindle” section of the Amazon website.

UK Release?

Hopefully it won’t be too long before the Fire is released in the UK and I can stop having to use these workarounds to access content.

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