Nintendo’s hybrid games console, the Nintendo Switch, has been a huge success since its launch, bringing a welcome combination of portability and living room-filling power to the palms of players around the world. Even though its portable nature makes having good gadget insurance a must, it remains a hot choice for people of all ages, not just because of its design benefits but also because of the impressive library of high-quality titles that are available for it.
The one issue with the Switch is that its operating system is relatively limited in terms of third-party app support, meaning that users are restricted to relying on the functionality that Nintendo chooses to throw their way, while rivals such as the PS4 and Xbox One have far better integration for extra services across the board.
The good news is that a group of home brew developers have found a way to install and run the latest Android mobile operating system on the switch, giving it complete access to a suite of apps and solutions that are always being expanded.
Clearly, this is not an intended or officially endorsed use for the Switch, but getting it to run Android is a success in its own right for anyone who wants to make even more use of their Nintendo console.
Firstly, Android provides access to a wealth of apps and games that are not natively compatible with the Switch, including the music streaming service Spotify and the game streaming platform Twitch.
Secondly, the version of Android that is being adapted by modders is actually an offshoot of the main OS that chip manufacturer Nvidia developed for its own console, the Shield TV. This means that it has a large number of games available which would not otherwise be accessible on vanilla Android.
Thirdly, the use of Android means that it is not possible to use other Bluetooth accessories with the Switch which are not currently compatible under Nintendo’s own software. This includes items such as wireless headphones, which could prove very useful for anyone who has ditched wired equivalents as 3.5mm jacks become increasingly scarce.
While Android’s arrival on the Switch is theoretically impressive, in practice there are some limitations that are likely to put off a lot of people who might otherwise be interested in trying out this side-loading option.
Firstly, the battery life takes a hit because locking the device’s display does not put it to sleep in the same way as a mobile phone. Secondly, wireless connectivity is somewhat inconsistent at the moment, meaning that drop-outs are likely and a restart is required when these occur.
Finally, the Joy-Con controllers that are featured on the Switch will work with Android but must be hooked up via Bluetooth, rather than working natively when connected directly to the body of the console itself.
All in all, this is an interesting and eye-catching hack that shows that the Switch is capable of a lot more than Nintendo might have users believe.