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Still only using your Android as a phone?

Techmog is a liquid network of engineers, programmers, designers and entrepreneurs in and around London who report on the industry we work in, from an insider's view. We're always looking for Londoners with something interesting to say. Send an email to info@techmog.com if you would like to contribute to the website.

Peter Bailey

Freelance Wordpress Developer in London (peabay.xyz) @peabay
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Check out: 10p Android Apps!

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Check out: Make a Lazy Lamp

You might’ve looked at Android’s cheap plastic, ugly interface and headed straight for the Apple store. But do you really know what Android can do? Google hasn’t done a great job at showing people. Actually they’ve done a terrible job. But the reality is that Android has given birth to a new kind of computer.

The fact that Android is open source and made to work on anything means that hundreds of devices have been able to use the power of the OS. From mobile phones to printers to toys, remotes and robotics.

Android as a games console

I’m not talking about Angry Birds. Tweaking your Android and installing a few apps you can transform your Android into a fully blown games console with a Play Station 3 controller and connected to your HD TV.

I won’t go into depth on how to do it because there are dozens of how-to’s, but in short – root your phone, install the Sixaxis Controller app and you’re ready to go! There are a couple of games which work with the PS3 controller out-of-box, such as Grand Theft Auto. Others, like Mini Motor Racing, require some adjusting to allow the controller to mimic a screen touch, but it took me a less than a minute to set up.

But those games are boring in comparison to SNES games! Yep, you can play Super Mario World on your TV via your Android with a PS3 controller. This technically isn’t legal, so don’t do this! Seriously though, you need to do this..

There are two parts to running SNES games on your Android – the SNES emulator, which is a bit like a virtual console, and the ROM, which is like a virtual cartridge. The best thing about emulation (apart from running SNES games on your phone) is the ability to save wherever you are in the game, rewind and fast forward. I’m using the SNESDroid emulator and some ROMs I downloaded off the internet (just search for “<game> rom”). You can try this out without any fuss. You don’t even need root. But I would advise you not to dismiss it until you’ve connected a PS3 controller, because the touch-buttons ruin gameplay.

To connect your Android to your TV you need a special Micro USB to HDMI Mobile High Definition Link cable.

Android as a desktop computer

If you really wanted you could connect a mouse to your Android and your Android to a monitor, but there is something much much cooler on it’s way – Ubuntu.

Now that Android phones are getting more powerful, with multiple CPU cores and masses of RAM, using Android for more strenuous tasks is now possible. In the near future we’ll be able to check emails from our phones on the train, plug our phones into a monitor at work, load up Ubuntu and continue working from the same device. Now whatever Steve said, this isn’t the pre-PC age. This isn’t actually going to happen, but what is likely are micro-servers, emergency computers, extreme-budget computers.

Android as a megatron

That is to say, Android as a multiple application controller. In this article I explain how to control normal appliances with your Android. Not just with on/ off buttons, but full automation. Every night I come home, put my phone down to have my lamp automatically turn on. When I go to bed I put my phone on my bed-side table and it turns into a night clock while turning off my lamp and turning on my electric blanket.

Using the Unified Remote app I can control my server, letting me play music from Spotify, control videos and control the mouse and keyboard; almost anything.

I think the reason many tech companies are successful is not because of their product overall, but because they allow the public to extend them. Dropbox, Facebook, iPhone (to an extent). So I won’t be waiting for the next thing Google does with Android, but the next thing we do with it.

Posted 13th May 2012
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Comments

  • Kookas

    “In the near future we’ll be able to check emails from our phones on the train” – Huh? You can do that already. Also, I’m hoping that we won’t have to plug our phones into the monitor to use it as a computer. I love the idea of just putting my phone down on the desk and having Ubuntu pop up straight away afterwards.

    It could be done with WiFi Direct, or Bluetooth 4.0. The idea of it pairing and starting up automatically when I put my phone down on the desk could be triggered by NFC (built into the desk, or just a sticker on the top of it).

  • Peter Bailey
  • peabay

    Screenie