Skip to main content

Modders Bring Android to the Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It was always just a matter of time before modders found a way to install custom software on the Nintendo Switch. The console relies on Nintendo's proprietary software, which is fine if Switch owners are content to limit themselves to officially approved entertainment. But anyone looking to unlock the console's full potential would have to look elsewhere. That's where the first publicly available Android ROM for the Nintendo Switch comes in.

A bit of background: Android became popular because Google let manufacturers change the open source operating system as much as they liked. Modders quickly took advantage of the platform's open nature, too, with many releasing custom Android ROMs on the XDA-Developers forum. These builds made it relatively easy for Android device owners to install variants of the operating system with different user interfaces, features and more.

XDA-Developers forum member "langer hans"  released the custom Android ROM for the Switch on July 24. The ROM was dubbed LineageOS 15.1 and, according to the post announcing its release, "brings a smooth and powerful Android experience to your Switch in both handheld and docked mode." The post also explained that LineageOS 15.1 is at least partly based on the version of Android that Nvidia uses in the Shield TV set-top box.

Here's a video from XDA-Developers showing LineageOS 15.1 in action:

LineageOS 15.1's repurposing of the Shield TV's software is kind of poetic. The build can only be installed on the Switch because of a problem with the Nvidia Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip (SoC) found in the Shield TV and Switch alike. Nvidia indirectly gave modders everything they needed to start porting Android to the Switch--a fact we doubt Nintendo is particularly happy about because of its desire to keep custom software off its devices.

Not that Nintendo is necessarily wrong for wanting to keep the Switch locked down. Custom software is often used to enable piracy, and the vulnerabilities it relies on can be used for more nefarious purposes, too. Some people will probably install LineageOS on their Switch because they're curious about what the console would be capable of if it ran Android; many are likely to use the custom software to illegally emulate classic games

That doesn't make the prospect of running Android on the Switch any less interesting, though, if only to explore the Switch's potential as a full-fledged entertainment device. There are some apps for the platform, but the Switch's official software makes it clear that it's a gaming platform instead of an entertainment center, like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. LineageOS helps show that doesn't necessarily have to be the case.

  • MrN1ce9uy
    I've always thought the Switch needed a web browser and other apps, and the ability to lock them down for parental controls. Not sure this is the best solution, but it is a cool alternative.
    Reply
  • 80-watt Hamster
    MrN1ce9uy said:
    I've always thought the Switch needed a web browser and other apps, and the ability to lock them down for parental controls. Not sure this is the best solution, but it is a cool alternative.

    When the Switch was announced, I was hoping for a semi-general-computing-capable device to supplant my 2013 Nexus 7, and found myself a bit bummed that it didn't happen. Now I feel it's probably for the best. A more tightly-focused purpose with fewer bells, whistles and hooks makes the OS easier to maintain, with the side benefit of preventing the Switch from becoming a lurking Web and social media black hole. Still has YouTube, though...
    Reply
  • MrN1ce9uy
    80-watt Hamster said:
    When the Switch was announced, I was hoping for a semi-general-computing-capable device to supplant my 2013 Nexus 7, and found myself a bit bummed that it didn't happen. Now I feel it's probably for the best. A more tightly-focused purpose with fewer bells, whistles and hooks makes the OS easier to maintain, with the side benefit of preventing the Switch from becoming a lurking Web and social media black hole. Still has YouTube, though...
    Now that you mention it, loading screens are surprisingly slow as it is. I'd hate to see it with Android running multiple apps in the background.
    Reply