How to Install Android on Raspberry Pi

Things you can do with a Raspberry Pi running Android OS

If you'd like to install Android on the Raspberry Pi, you can do it thanks to the Pi developer community. You'll be able to use Android on your TV and sideload apps from your computer to test them out.

This tutorial uses an unofficial version of Android 9 called LineageOS, but there are other Android clones compatible with Raspberry Pi.

How to Install Android on Raspberry Pi

You'll need a couple of different files to start the process of putting Android on your Raspberry Pi. Here's how to get started.

  1. Downloading Etcher. It’s a free disk writing tool that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

    Download on the Etcher download page
  2. Next, download the latest Android build for the Raspberry Pi. Head over to the LineageOS release page and follow the link to the latest build to download the Zip file.

    Android for Raspberry Pi download link
  3. Extract the ZIP file and move the Lineage .img file to your computer.

    Android Raspberry Pi image file
  4. Insert a microSD card into your computer.

  5. Open Etcher. There’s no need to install it; you can run it in place from the folder.

  6. Choose Select image and locate your Android image file.

    Select image in Etcher running on Ubuntu
  7. If your microSD isn’t already listed in the middle column, choose Select Target and locate it.

    Select tagert in Etcher
  8. Verify everything that you’ve set up in Etcher. The program will overwrite everything on the drive you selected, so be careful. When you’re absolutely certain, select Flash in the final column.

  9. Allow Etcher to finish writing the Android image to your microSD card. When it’s done, you can remove the card from your computer.

  10. Assemble your Raspberry Pi and insert the microSD card. Connect the keyboard and monitor to the appropriate ports on the device. When everything else is in place, plug in the Pi to give it power.

  11. The Raspberry Pi will start booting up. It will walk through some initial Android setup in the background before rebooting into the graphical new device configuration.

  12. Go through the LineageOS set up procedure. If you’ve ever set up a new Android phone, the process is nearly identical. You’ll just need to answer a couple of questions about your device and connect to your Wi-Fi. After you’re done, you’ll arrive on your Android home screen. You can control everything normally with a mouse and keyboard.

Installing Apps on Android for Raspberry Pi

Once you're connected to your network, you can enable the developer tools on your new Android Raspberry Pi and start sideloading apps. In order to sideload apps, you'll need to install the Android SDK or just the ADB (Android Debug Bridge). From there, you can enable the developer options on the Pi, and enable debugging both over USB and W-iFi. Then, you can download Android APK app files on your computer and send them over to the Pi.

What Can You Do With Android Running on Raspberry Pi?

There really isn't a limit to what you can do with a Pi running Android, except for your own technical skills. When you first install Android on the Pi, it doesn't come with much. You'll only have the most basic Android apps from the Android Open Source Project. That means you won't have the Play Store or any of the related Google tools and utilities.

You can get the Play Store running on the Pi, but the process is fairly involved, and the result usually isn't worth the effort. On the Pi, the Play Store tends to be slow and buggy at best. Fortunately, sideloading Android apps from your computer to the Pi is a fairly simple process, and you can use the ADB to control just about anything from your computer over your local network.

If you're an app developer, the sky's the limit. If you aren't, but you are willing to experiment, you can get a ton of apps working on the Pi and even customize the interface for larger screens, meaning it has real potential as a media center.

Why Isn't Everyone Running Android on the Pi?

Android on the Raspberry Pi can be unstable. Expect the occasional bug when getting set up. Android isn't optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware, which means the performance you see won't be nearly as good as other operating systems on the Pi.

The Play Store doesn't work well on the Raspberry Pi, if at all. Installing apps requires some technical knowledge and experience working in the command line. The Play Store and Google Play Services are at the core of some apps and are needed for them to function properly. These apps will not function normally, if at all, on the Pi.

The versions of Android for the Raspberry Pi are not official, and they aren't actively maintained. Most are hobby projects from developers looking to experiment with the Android operating system on the Pi. This software isn't polished, and it's not meant to be reliably used on a regular basis. It's purely there for other developers and tech enthusiasts to experiment with and build on.

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