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There are Androids everywhere

Android is no longer just an operating system for smartphones and tablets, it can be found in your TV, in your car, on single board computers and in robots.
October 16, 2014
One of the lasting thoughts that I took away from ARM TechCon was that Android isn’t really just about smartphones any more. The first versions of Android were designed for phones, then came tablets, and then Android wear (for smartwatches and potentially other wearable devices).

But Android’s reach doesn’t stop just there. Android Auto is another Android variant that has received a lot of attention recently. It is a version of Android designed to be used in cars. Not to control the car’s engine or other systems, but for use in-car with an intuitive interface, integrated steering wheel controls, and voice actions.


Another variant of Android which Google is pushing is Android TV. It was officially launched yesterday with the release of the Nexus Player. Android TV is essentially Android optimized for the big screen. It is based on Android Lollipop and comes with the updated look and feel of Google’s new Material Design. Android TV is designed to allow users to get easy access to their media, including videos bought on Google Play, or streamed from services like YouTube, Netflix, etc. It will also allow users to play Android games on their TV sets via a gamepad.


Smartphones & Tablets, Wear, TV and Auto are all versions of Android which are officially released by Google. But thanks to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) there are lots of other ways Android is being used.

There are a large number of Single Board Computers (SBC) that run not only Linux, but Android as well. For example, the BeagleBone Black can run Android. The board is a low-cost, ARM Cortex-A8 based development platform for developers and hobbyists. The BBBAndroid project is a port of AOSP Android KitKat 4.4.4 that uses BeagleBone Black’s custom Linux 3.8 kernel. It is ideal for hobbyists, students, and professionals that wish to experiment with hardware interfacing under Android.

Then there is the range of ODROID devices from Hardkernel. The ODROID-U3 uses a 1.7GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 based processor from Samsung and comes with 2GB of RAM. It costs just $65. There is a stable release of Android 4.4.2 for the ODROID-U3 and Android 4.4.4 has been released as an alpha.  If you want more power then the ODROID-XU3 uses a Samsung Exynos 5422 processor. The 5422 uses ARM’s big.LITTLE technology and contains four Cortex-A15 cores and four Cortex-A7 cores. This board also runs Android, as well as Linux.

At ARM TechCon, Hardkernel had a demo of Linux running on the XU3 with Android running in a window under KVM virtualization, the best of both worlds!


Talking of ARM TechCon, at the InForce stand there was a demo of a 3D printed micro rover from Qualcomm. The designs for the robots have been published by Qualcomm Research and can used as the starting point to build a flying or rolling robot. The brains of the robot is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor and boards are available from InForce that fit neatly into the Robot Reference Designs.


Besides SBCs and robots, Android is also making its presence felt in a whole range of other industries including home automation and medical. The bottom line is that the once smartphone bound Android has grown and matured. From your smartwatch to your TV, from your car to your home, Android is able to handle it all.