Android is the world’s most popular smartphone platform, powering millions of handsets around the globe. From leading high-enders like the Samsung Galaxy S4 to cut-price devices such as the Galaxy Fame and recently-released Moto G, the OS graces many of the most successful mobile devices of recent years.
But the open source nature of Google’s mobile platform means that it has been turned to several other uses outside of the smartphone world. The fact that Android can be downloaded and altered for free means it has becomes the go-to software platform for a whole range of tech manufacturers, both large and small.
This has led to a new era of smart devices which are easily able to communicate with other hardware and connect to the internet. We take a look at some of the more unusual uses to which Android’s source code has been turned.
NVIDIA’s Shield is a halfway point between smartphones and games consoles, using Android to create a portable gaming system. The gadget, which consists simply of a handheld controller that has its own display, evokes memories of the old Gameboys and Game Gears of times past.
Car stereo manufacturer Clarion has moved its products into the smart age with the AX1, an in-car entertainment system that uses Android as its base. The software has been adapted for the device by a US company called Wind River, although the gadget’s interface does still look very much like that which can be seen on many Android devices.
The Google TV emerges from Android’s makers, and it’s an interesting slant on what the platform can do. Looking much like a regular, flat screen television, the difference is in Google TV’s interface, which gives access to YouTube, the Chrome Browser and Google Play. Google has also recently introduced the Chromecast, a dongle which allows content to be streamed from smartphones and laptops to a television, using the firm’s other software platform, Chrome OS.
Samsung gained quite a bit of publicity with the launch of its Galaxy Camera at the end of 2012, an innovative device which added a large touchscreen and the Android OS to a compact camera. Nikon weighed in at roughly the same time with its CoolPix s800c, with both devices giving users the ability to edit photos on the camera they were taking them with before sharing them online.
Lastly, US space agency NASA has recently adopted the Android platform to create the PhoneSat. These ‘nanosatellites’ are actually built from smartphones themselves, specifically the Nexus range of devices, along with other, readily-available consumer electronics. Launching into a low orbit, the satellites transmit photos back to earth, before burning up in the planet’s atmosphere.