The Nintendo Switch has been one of Nintendo’s most popular gaming devices, with nearly 80 million devices shipped by the end of 2020, enough for the hybrid game console to have outsold the Nintendo 3DS.
While the Switch is designed to be a game console that you can use as a handheld device or while docked and plugged into a TV, hackers have been finding other uses for the Switch for the past few years. A bug discovered in 2018 made it possible to turn the Nintendo Switch into a Linux tablet or load Android on it.
Now there’s a new version of that Android software which brings better performance, new user interface options, battery life improvements, and a newer version of Android. The only catch? You’ll need an older Nintendo Switch to install the software.
That’s because the tools that allow you to load custom firmware on the Switch rely on a vulnerability that Nintendo has patched in more recent devices. But if you have a Nintendo that shipped a few years ago (or pick up an older model from eBay), then you can check to see if your device is patched or if it’s hackable.
If your device is supported, here’s what the latest Android software from the Switchroot team of independent developers offers:
- Android 10 (based on LineageOS 17.1)
- Deep Sleep mode (for weeks of battery life while sleeping)
- Speed and responsiveness improvements
- WiFi reliability improvements
- Better support for Bluetooth accessories
- Choice of Android tablet or Android TV builds
The team notes that the latter build has a more limited feature set, but a better user interface for television screens, so if you expect to use your Switch in its docking station more than you use it as a handheld device, the Android TV build may be a better option.
Other features include support for over the air updates, automatic screen rotation, and support for the Switch Joy-Con and Pro game controllers.
The Switchroot team notes there are some known issues. For example, games designed to run on the NVIDIA Shield will not work on the Switch even though the hardware is similar. Some apps may not work well with the Joy-con D-Pad. And there may be some Bluetooth and sleep issues with a small number of devices.
You can find download links and installation instructions at the xda-developers forum. Note that if you already have a Switch running an earlier version of Android, installing the new Android 10 ROM will overwrite your data, so make sure to back up any important files or data before getting started.