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Nintendo Switch rival reportedly coming — and it runs Android

Nintendo Switch Qualcomm competitor
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Nintendo Switch is such a good idea, it’s actually somewhat surprising that more companies haven’t tried to iterate on Nintendo’s formula. Sure, you can stream Xbox games to your phone, or PS5 games to your computer, but it’s not quite the same thing as seamlessly transforming a handheld console into a TV accessory.

That could all change, however, thanks to a new handheld game console from Qualcomm — one that looks like the Switch, but runs on Android.

Information comes from Android Police, a reputable news and reviews site dedicated to Google’s ubiquitous OS. David Ruddock, the site’s editor-in-chief, cites a “source familiar with [Qualcomm’s] company strategy.”

While the site’s pedigree doesn’t absolutely guarantee the report’s veracity, it does help lend credence to the idea — as does the specificity with which Ruddock discusses the handheld’s potential features.

First and foremost, Qualcomm’s handheld system will run on the company’s powerful Snapdragon processor. In fact, because the console will be around the size of a Switch, the company is free to use larger, more powerful components, relative to smartphones. The device will also sport a 6,000 mAh battery, although its exact battery life will likely depend on games played, settings employed and a variety of other factors. The system will also have removable controllers, much like the Switch’s Joy-Cons. Supposedly, the whole device would cost about $300.

More importantly, Qualcomm’s handheld system will be able to output a signal to HDTVs, just like a Switch can. It’s unclear whether this will happen through a dock, or a cable, or either one. The connection in question could be either miniHDMI, or a USB-C pulling double duty for charging and display.

The major way that Qualcomm’s console will differ from the Switch, of course, is that it will run on the Android OS rather than Nintendo’s more restrictive interface. Unless Qualcomm plans to implement a specialized UI (which is possible, but doesn’t seem likely), users will be able to use the device as a gaming console, a streaming media player, a web browser and even a productivity accessory. In theory, this makes it a lot more versatile than a Switch.

On the other hand, it also means that the game library may not be quite be what Nintendo fans are used to. By and large, Android games aren’t long, involved experiences, and few have a storied developer like Nintendo behind them. You can admittedly stream a variety of excellent PC games through services like Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming (beta), but they’re reliant on strong Internet connections, which limits utility on the go.

Still, there’s always the possibility that bespoke gaming hardware will bring out more dedicated games on Android. Furthermore, according to the Android Police report, Qualcomm doesn’t seem to want to unseat the Switch. Rather, it’s a way to see how gamers might embrace a device that lives somewhere between “smartphone” and “dedicated console.”

Assuming that the device completes development, it should be out in early 2022. And by then, who knows what else Nintendo might have announced in its own roster?

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is an editor for Tom's Guide, covering gaming hardware, security and streaming video. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.