Over the last five years, Android has grown into a pretty versatile operating system. Because of its versatility (and the fact that it’s free, open source), developers have created a lot of nifty features to the OS. But even if you’ve seen it all, Android always holds a few surprises. We’ve found five really cool things we bet you never knew your Android device could do before. Check ’em out.
Anyone who’s been an avid PC gamer for some time remembers Starcraft. With the help of an emulator you too can enjoy this classic game on your Android phone or tablet.
Winulator allows you to run certain Windows games, including Starcraft and Caesar III. It uses some innovative emulation technology to run older DirectX Windows games, and if you own a Bluetooth mouse & keyboard you can pretty much get the full 1998 real-time strategy experience. The process used to be difficult and included a lot of file converting, but these days you can just copy DRM-free versions of the games onto your memory card and download the appropriate profile to use with it. From there, run Winulator and you’re all set!
Winulator may not be in active development but it continues to get updates every few months for stability, and is available as a free beta with a watermark, or you can shell out $8 for the full version.
Run a weather station
Ready to be your own meteorologist? If you have a new enough Android phone or tablet, you can monitor the elements experts use to predict the weather, such as air temperature, barometric pressure, and even relative humidity.
Weather Station will let you do this. It’s an app that’s compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Moto X, Nexus 10, and many other phones and tablets. A full list of compatible devices is on the app’s Google Play page. These devices are compatible because they’re built with special sensors that detect things like the air pressure, humidity, and temperature of the environment around you. So far only the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 can monitor temperature and humidity, but many other devices can monitor barometric pressure, which is the most important part of Weather Station.
By monitoring the rising and lowering barometric pressure of your area, you can predict future inclement weather as barometric pressure rapidly drops, and vice versa. Feel free to read all about how barometric pressure works here. Also, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, Weather Station can also monitor readings from other sensors on your phone, such as magnetic strength. Weather Station is free, but you can also snag a PRO version for just $1.50
Run Mac OS 7
It may be only for the sake of nostalgia, but it’s fun to run Mac OS on an Android device. Thanks again to the help of emulators, a cross-platform program called Mini vMac has been ported to Android. Mini vMac emulates Motorola processors from the 1980s that were capable of running the popular Mac OS operating system, including Mac OS 7.
Mini vMac for Android is capable of emulating the Mac OS operating system, and also applications within the Mac OS experience, meaning you can create virtual hard drives that store your Mac OS 7 computer as well as fun games and applications, including Photoshop. Feel free to download Mini vMac as well as learn more about how the disk image system for Mini vMac works so you too can run Mac OS 7 on your Android device .
Start mining bitcoins
If you’ve got a spare Android device lying around doing nothing, you may want to try and mine some Bitcoin, the most famous digital currency.
Bitcoins and Litecoins are two “cryptocurrencies” or virtual currency, with a value exchanged against tangible currency like US Dollars. Any computer can mine bitcoins or litecoins, including Android devices. It won’t generate much, but if you run it in a shared pool along with your home computers, you may eventually get some virtual money.
There are a number of apps you can utilize to take advantage of cryptocurrencies on your Android device. Mining apps like DroidMiner for Bitcoins and AndLTC for Litecoins are great. Once you collect some, download yourself a bitcoin wallet.
Augment your reality
One last great piece of technology emerging for smartphone owners everywhere (but especially Android smartphone owners) is the ability to augment reality, or incorporate virtual images into the real world by viewing it through your phone’s camera. Augmented reality has allowed for all kinds of cool games and applications that all users to interact with their environment to find better routes, receive information, translate signs, and even play games.
If you’re looking for games and fun little augmented reality apps, two such interesting apps are Augment and Ingress (by Google). Augment is a sort of “proof of concept” augmented reality app that lets you spawn virtual objects into your environment, allowing you to hold things like video game models. Ingress is a sort of augmented MMO, allowing those who play the game to interact not just with their environment, but their entire town or city to solve puzzles, answer clues, and win the game.
If you’re looking for a more productive, but equally augmented experience, two other useful apps include iOnRoad and Word Lens. iOnRoad is an augmented GPS app; it allows you to virtually view your GPS directions as if you’re in a video game with a green line leading you along the road. Word Lens meanwhile translates signs in real time from one language to another, allowing you to turn an informational sign from Spanish to English without typing or speaking a word to your translator. Both of these apps will run you $5.
These unique apps are just a few of the ways you can take your Android experience to the next level. If you know of any other really cool things you can do with your Android device, then feel free to let us know!