Ever since its debut back in 2017, the Nintendo Switch hybrid console/portable gaming system has become one of the best videogame devices ever. It has become a hit for parties with its multiplayer capabilities (Joy-Cons), customizable gameplay experiences (Labo), and a healthily growing library of game titles. Already Nintendo has started bringing out variants like a pure-handheld Switch Lite and a new version with a longer battery life. But other quarters are interested in making the basic Switch do more than just play games. Due to an access loophole in the device’s Tegra X1 internal chip, hackers have developed a ROM for the Switch that enables it to run Android.
The Verge reports that XDA-developers have helped created an unofficial port of LineageOS 15.1, the operating system used on Nvidia’s set-top box the Shield TV. That device enabled users to use and play Android apps and games through their TV, much like when Nvidia created the Shield portable Android gaming platform. These devices were powered by Nvidia’s Tegra series of system-on-a-chip (SoC) which includes CPU, GPU, memory and other functions in one chip, allowing for computing power in small packages like the Nintendo Switch and its Tegra X1, making an Android mobile OS port possible.
From a demonstration by XDA-developers, the Android LineageOS 15.1 ROM port enables any Nintendo Switch it is installed in to access Android apps for YouTube, Spotify, Netflix and other streaming platforms. Game apps like the Nvidia-exclusive “Half-Life 2” and “Portal” titles can also be accessed, and the Android platform even enables the Switch to connect Bluetooth headsets for player use. The XDA-developers mobile software dev community members have not only kept in touch with the project, they even pitched input. But just because it can do a lot of things already, does not mean the launch package is already perfect.
There are limitations to running Android on a Nintendo Switch. While the Joy-Cons can be used to control operation and play games, the joystick parts are not uniformly recognized with some Android game apps not responding to them. Furthermore, the Joy-Cons are defaulted to Bluetooth connections even when docked to the main Switch unit. Furthermore, the Bluetooth headset support is only for older models. Streaming Netflix for example does not allow for HD. Android camera and imaging apps do not work because the Switch has no cam. The game unit’s USB only supports peripheral controls and not external storage. Finally, the Switch cannot go into sleep mode and Wi-Fi issues also tend to pop up.
And most importantly, this is not an entirely legal mod and Nintendo might take action by cutting online service access. Worse, an improper installation of the Android port can cause the despair-inducing “device brick.” Still, the fact that a new potential for the Switch’s internals has been found can only make one wonder what else Nintendo’s wonder system could accomplish.
Image courtesy of Engadget