Your phone runs Android, your tablet runs Android… your refrigerator runs Android?
The Linux-based, open source operating system that is Android has made itself a household name by competing against the iPhone and gaining a large chunk of the global mobile market. But Android’s open nature has led to another phenomenon: weird devices powered by it.
We’ve previously covered 10 things you didn’t know were powered by Linux, but now it’s time for Android’s turn. Other than phones and tablets, what exactly does this mobile OS power?
Home Security System
Okay, so the entire Xfinity Home Security system isn’t powered by Android, but it is controlled by a Comcast-branded Android Touch Screen Controller. Want to arm or disarm the alarm? It’s done through this device. It also has a limited app selection (no Google Play here) provided by Comcast with apps like Weather, Calculator, and other basics that you probably don’t need to be doing on this weird, clunky, stationery tablet-esque thing.
The device essentially sits in one location, always plugged in and always on. In addition to the other speakers that are installed around your house as a part of the system, the large speaker grille along the bottom plays little chimes when doors open or close and is impressively loud.
It’s pretty slow, running on the now-ancient Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but it gets the job done. The general user interface doesn’t look much like Android given Comcast’s custom skin, but its appearance still lingers in the shaded grey number pads and such.
Yes, Samsung actually built a refrigerator called the RF4289HARS with an 8″ LCD display that runs Android. You can still purchase the $3,499 behemoth at some online retailers and even certain physical stores like Best Buy. You know, in case you want to tweet from your fridge.
Smart appliances are growing in popularity, and this is probably only the beginning of a more connected world. An Internet of Things, if you will.
Android TV Boxes
My fellow nerds, you probably know all about Android TV boxes, but for the majority of the population, learning that Android powers a mini computer that you can plug into your TV is kind of mind-blowing.
We’ve examined what exactly Android TV boxes are in the past, and even reviewed both the Rikomagic MK802 IV and the MK812A RK3188 Android Smart Mini PC, but found that while they can be useful as a media center or Skype-dedicated device, they haven’t quite been primed for the mainstream yet. Android still functions like it’s on a small, personal touchscreen, not a large, more public TV.
Still, more mainstream high-end options have been appearing. The Exoon Power Pro by Android TV runs Android 4.4 KitKat, has 2GB of RAM, a quad-core 1.8Ghz A9 processor, and 16GB of storage for $199. There’s also the SkyStreamX Android TV Box that runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, has 1GB of RAM, a dual-core 1.5Ghz A9 processor, and 8GB of storage for $149.
Android Mini PCs
What if you took a TV box and squished it down into the size of a large USB drive? Enter the Android Mini PCs. These little devices manage to pack the power of TV boxes down into a portion of the size, leading to some confusion as to what differentiates them from devices like the Chromecast. Essentially, while a Chromecast connects to your Android device for content and instructions, these Android Mini PCs run full Android and function as their own device.
The largest problem with the Android Mini PC market is that it’s not taken seriously yet by the big hardware makers. You won’t find any Samsung, LG, Toshiba, or Sony products here. These are all made by no-name brands that have yet to establish a reputation with consumers, making them a very niche product. The most reputable option out there is a Kickstarter project from 2012 that successfully funded: Infinitec’s $70 Pocket TV.
Although essentially a variation on the Android TV box genre, the Lemon KTV is built entirely for Karaoke. We recently reviewed this machine and found it to be a great way to get an authentic karaoke experience.
Because why not?
This one was probably inevitable. Modern phones are already so close to being dedicated cameras; it was only a matter of time before someone slapped Android onto a camera.
However, Samsung, not to be outdone in the competition to put Android on everything, has a couple Android-powered cameras. They started with the point-and-shoot Galaxy Camera but have since replaced it with the Galaxy Camera 2 that retails for about $450. They also have the Galaxy NX, a $1,299 DSLR powered by Android.
Say hello to the Parrot Asteroid. Yes, the name is a breed of bird and an astronomical object. No, I can’t explain that.
This 6.2″ touchscreen device can be installed in cars thanks to its 2-DIN standard size. It has a full range of ports for your speakers, USB ports for storage and phone connections, a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio in, and SD card storage. Strangely, it doesn’t have integrated 3G or 4G, so you’ll have to buy a USB-capable data stick from a wireless provider or use your phone as a WiFi hotspot to use any of the wireless capabilities.
The regular embedded version sells for $599 but can be found for $512 on Amazon, and Parrot Asteroid also sells smaller $399 and $299 models.
Although essentially an Android set-top box, Amazon’s Fire TV gets its own section because they’ve forked Android to the point of it being unrecognizable. Fire TV runs FireOS 3.0 Mojito, Amazon’s heavily altered version of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. It has access to the Amazon App Store, and is equal parts game console and media center thanks to the $39 game controller.
Oh, and the Fire TV only costs $99.
Ah, the infamous Ouya. This open source gaming console began as a Kickstarter project and has since seen a market of Android game consoles spring up around it. The device runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, has 1GB of RAM, an Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip, and 8GB of storage.
All the games have some kind of free-to-play functionality, and there are currently 810 games available. The console can even be rooted without voiding the warranty, as the creators want people to tinker with it. Each Ouya is also a dev kit, allowing people to develop games for Ouya without a license or SDK.
While similar to the Fire TV and other Android set-top boxes, the Ouya distinguishes itself with a unique interface centered around gaming, although it also supports media apps like XBMC. Check out our full review of the Ouya to learn more.
This is a market that is just on the brink of a flood. Starting with the original Galaxy Gear — which has since been updated to Tizen and no longer runs Android — smartwatches are gaining steam along with the whole wearables shift in technology.
This summer, LG and Motorola are both expected to launch smartwatches based on Android Wear, Google’s version of Android built specifically for wearables. With an operating system designed for smartwatches and major hardware manufacturers stepping into the game, you can expect a lot more smartwatches based on Android to come.
And That’s Not All
There are a lot more devices out there running Android, and this is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. Any other interesting devices out there running Android that you know of? Let us know in the comments.