How to Install the Silk Browser on Any Android Device

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One of the coolest features of the Kindle Fire is Amazon's proprietary Silk browser, an application designed to leverage Amazon's massive server resources by precaching Web pages and delivering them to you faster--in theory--than any other browser. It works by preloading all the content (including music, images, and video) on popular websites to Amazon's remote servers first, and then delivering the entire package to your mobile device in a single stream of data. Amazon calls it a "cloud-accelerated" browser, and it's the first of it's kind.

Sounds cool, right? Cool enough to try hacking the Silk browser onto your Android device? If you think so, read on, and we’ll show you how to do it. Before we dive in, a word of warning: You need a PC running Windows and a compatible rooted Android device for this hack. The creator of Amazon Silk Port maintains a device compatability list that you should check first to ensure that the hack will work with your device. Remember, even if your device is supported, the hack is not guaranteed to work, and you run the risk of damaging or destroying your device.

How To Install The Silk Browser On Any Android Device
Browsing the Amazon website on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus via the Silk browser.

Prep Your Device

First, you'll need to download the latest version of the SilkPort file package from a third-party hosting service. Scan the package for viruses and unpack it into a directory on your desktop.

Next, put your Android phone or tablet into Recovery mode. The method for doing this differs depending on what device you're hacking (for testing purposes, we successfully hacked a Galaxy Nexus), and especially on whether your device sports a physical QWERTY keyboard. If it does, you’ll probably need to press the “up” button on the D-pad (toward the screen) and hold it while pressing the Power button until the device boots into Recovery mode. You may also be able to access Recovery mode by pressing and holding the camera button while simultaneously pressing and holding Volume Down, and then pressing the Power button.

Touchscreen-only phones are much easier. In most cases, you can just hold the Volume Down button, and then press the Power button. On the Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich, you press and hold both Volume buttons, and then press Power.

Sideload SilkPort

Once you get your device into Recovery mode, you can install the Silk browser. To do so, you'll first need to transfer the SilkPort files to your device, either by connecting your rooted Android device to your PC via USB or by loading the SilkPort files directly onto a memory card and loading the card into your device.

Next, use an Android file manager app like Root Explorer to copy all the files in the /lib directory of the Silkport file pack you downloaded to the /system/lib directory. Once they've been copied to your device, you’ll need to set their permissions to match the other files in the system/lib directory.

Install the Silk Browser

The final step is to install the Silk browser app itself. The SilkPort file package contains multiple .apk files, and you'll need to install them all on your device. You should be able to do this by tapping them in your Android file management app; just make sure that you have Install From Unknown Sources enabled in your device's Security settings.

Finally, copy the from the /data/app directory to /system/app. Reboot your device, and you should be ready to rock with the Silk browser.

How To Install The Silk Browser
Correctly installing the will allow you to use the Silk browser as your default browser on any rooted Android device.

So, how well does Silk work on a hacked Android device? We ran performance tests with a Nexus S running Silk, not running Silk, and then running Silk with Amazon’s AWS Accelerated Page Loading, but the results were not impressive. The Nexus S served pages like PCWorld in about 7 seconds on the standard browser and an average of 6 with Silk; however, it took an average of about 9 seconds to deliver the same page when we turned on Accelerated Page Loading. The larger or more content-intensive the site, the slower the loading. In our tests on the rooted Nexus S, we saw no discernible performance difference using the Silk browser on Wi-Fi, as opposed to 3G, either.

If that seems odd, bear in mind that Amazon has claimed that the Silk browser cloud caching service must operate for a while in order to learn (and thus anticipate) popular browsing habits. Ideally the app should become speedier over time as it figures out what content to load first. That means more people need to start using Silk as their primary browser--so if you have a rooted Android device, this hack should provide an opportunity to put the Silk browser through its paces. Good luck!

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