8 surprising gadgets that run Android
3rd May 2013 | 12:00
It's on so much more than smartphones and tablets
From Froyo and Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich and the latest Jelly Bean, Google's Linux-based Android operating system is most often thought of as smartphone and tablet-fodder.
Completely open source and free from licensing royalties and proprietary software, app developers and product designers from all genres have been quick to embrace Android - and it's a trend that's continuing.
It might come under pressure from rival operating systems in the near future, but for now Android is a mobile operating system that's surprisingly flexible - as proved by its use here in anything from cars and fridges to games consoles and the next generation of wearable smart watches and smart glass headsets.
1. Android fridges
If you're the type of person who likes to note down your shopping list throughout the week using the Evernote app on your smartphone, you truly are the most organised person in Britain. Well done you. Your prize is the upcoming Samsung T9000 (£2,400) four-door fridge.
Equipped with Evernote as a native app within an Android OS (exact version TBC), the T9000's 10-inch touchscreen can also host photos and video apps, calendar schedules and recipes, though downloading apps straight from Google Play gets the cold shoulder.
Will the T9000 sport the latest Android OS or a mod of an ageing version? We know not, but Ice Cream Sandwich, at least, would be, err, cool.
2. Android televisions
If your smartphone and tablet runs Android, a TV that uses the same system is a no-brainer, but such a thing is relatively rare. You could investigate something like LG's Google TVs, but for a pure Android add-on, the Archos TV Connect (£99) is a simple entry-level retrofit idea.
A clip-on device for a TV that pairs over Bluetooth with a joystick-style QWERTY keyboard-cum-gamepad, the TV Connect is fully certified by Google and enables the downloading of any Google Play app within a completely open Android experience akin to that on any smartphone or tablet.
It's largely about getting smartphone games onto a TV, though the accelerometer-equipped gamepad it ships with uses slightly odd analogue joysticks in place of a touchscreen. How quaint.
3. Android cars
An Android-powered retrofit device, the Parrot Asteroid is a first stop on the road to Android-powered in-car entertainment.
As well as toting Bluetooth hands-free calling, voice-controlled track select from an iPhone and an FM radio with web access, it can take a plethora of maps and apps in its Android OS, though an add-on USB wireless 3G dongle is needed to get online.
It's an interesting take on how the connected car future translates to a cheap retrofit device since we expect both built-in on-board communications units, smartphone-linked devices and standalone gadgets like this to have a place.
Other Android-based in-car systems include Ca-fi and Renault's R-Link. The latter is an Android mod that swerves Google Play to offer only a handful of paid apps - though Renault promise to pay the 3G bill forever.
Either way, some think Google - probably via Android - will dominate the connected car landscape for years to come.
4. Android cameras
It was only a matter of time before someone made photo sharing and back-up possible from a proper camera, and it's no surprise that the Samsung Galaxy Camera (£335), a semi-serious compact, sports Android 4.1.
This compact boasts an enormous 4.8-inch touchscreen on its back that hosts any Google Play app, but adds a 21x optical zoom lens with 23mm aperture, a 16.3-megapixel sensor, and GPS location-tagged uploads to Facebook and Twitter.
Expect to see other attempts in super-zoom and D-SLR cameras in the near future; for now, the only challenger is Nikon's Coolpix S800c (£380), which also runs Android and was actually first to the prize.
As well as accessing Google Play, the S800c has a 10x optical zoom, 1.7GB internal memory, and works in an almost identical manner to any Android-based smartphone. Non-Wi-Fi photo sharing is done via tethering with a 'proper' smartphone.
5. Android games consoles
An Android-based games console, anyone? Ouya has been getting a lot of attention of late, but this crowd-funded project - due out this summer - already has OnLive, TuneIn and XBMC integrated into its Android-based OS, so it's not just about games. There are suggestions that its Android OS could also host streaming video apps like Netflix and YouTube on its Android-based OS.
Another wannabe in this realm is the portable palm-sized GameStick from PlayJam, an Android-based console that promises media centre features as well as gaming.
6. Android smartwatches
Poised for greatness in the coming years is wearable tech, with smartwatches predicted to take over from fitness gadgets. This prototype, the Si14 WearIT Sports Watch, marries the two genres within an Android 4.1 user interface that although primarily aimed at athletes, can also host regular smartphone/tablet apps.
As well as alerting the wearer to Facebook updates and playing both music and video, Si14 offers lap timers and GPS mapping, but, crucially, also features ANT+ connectivity for data transfer that lets it connect to blood glucose meters and heart monitors.
The Si14 isn't alone. I'm Watch is also Android based, though this Italian-made smartwatch has its own app shop and runs a completely customised version of Android called i'm Droid 2. If smartwatches do take-off, it could really be a shot in the arm for the Android OS.
7. Android smartglass
Bye-bye smartphone. Out later this year, Google's debut attempt to tempt us with its 'smartglass' concept is Android all over, but it won't be the only one.
Google's Glass Explorer Edition, which will use Bluetooth to link up to Android and iOS devices, features a transparent screen hosting an Android OS to create an augmented reality, while Vuzix will unleash its effort, the M100, which is also Android based.
With HD camera, GPS and accelerometers, the M100 superimposes computer-generated images and information on a tiny screen held just above the left eye, though it's not transparent.
The M100 can connect to the web and has all the usual Android OS facilities, such as apps. It can also link to an Android smartphone and act as a hands-free kit, but can just as easily be used on its own.
8. Android smart home automation
With Google's Android@home department, home automation based around an Android OS should, by rights, already be with us. However, in the two years since we've been aware of Android@home, nothing has happened.
Meanwhile, we've seen the likes of the Nest home thermostat from iPod 'godfather' Tony Fadell, Belkin's WeMo light switches and Lowe's cloud-based Iris smart home automation system for Android and iOS smartphones.
However, Pocket-Lint reports that the system configuration files within the latest 4.2.2 Android update mention Android@home. As the age of the Internet of Things begins, could we soon be asking Google to make itself useful around the house?
Watch the video below for five more unlikely gadgets that run Android: