Run Android On An iPhone? It Can Be Done

Corellium, a mobile device virtualisation company, has done the unthinkable, running Android on an iPhone. Learn more about their wild experiment.  

Running Android on iphone

In a Frankenstein-like experiment that sounds like something an evil villain in a James Bond novel or a shadowy government intelligence agency would attempt, a team of security researchers and developers are collectively known as ‘Project Sandcastle’ have succeeded in hacking an iPhone to enable it to run Android apps and software.

The dubious breakthrough was achieved by an outfit called Corellium, a mobile virtualization company. Their website claims that they are “first and only platform to offer mobile virtualisation on ARM”, referring to the widely used computer processing architecture that is used by Apple and many other smartphone manufacturers for their processor chips.

It’s not an unprecedented feat though. One of the cofounders of Correlium, David Wang, said he managed to install Android on a 1st generation iPhone more than a decade ago. But doing it with today’s Apple mobile devices is much more difficult. As Wang said in an interview with Forbes magazine, “The big challenge was that the Apple hardware is both undocumented and non-standard. Our team knows more about it than most outside Apple, but we still had to put in a considerable amount of work to build drivers for it.”

The Apple iOS uses an enclosed sandbox type of architecture, a fact which inspired the name ‘Project Sandcastle’. As Correlium’s project website states,“Where sandboxes set limits and boundaries, sandcastles provide an opportunity to create something new from the limitless bounds of your imagination. Project Sandcastle is about building something new on the silicon of your hardware. The iPhone restricts users to operate inside a sandbox. But when you buy an iPhone, you own the iPhone hardware. Android for the iPhone gives you the freedom to run a different operating system on that hardware. Android for the iPhone has many exciting practical applications, from forensics research to dual-booting ephemeral devices to combatting e-waste. Our goal has always been to push mobile research forward, and we’re excited to see what the developer community builds from this foundation.”

Apple, though, was not impressed with the company’s achievement as they consider it to be an act of ‘jailbreaking’ a practice they’ve long been trying to discourage. ‘Jailbreaking’ is the term for a commonly performed user hack on Apple mobile devices that allows for the use of competing services and software that the company has restricted. On an Android device it’s called ‘rooting’. The hack lets a user download apps from places other than the official Apple or Google Play stores, which of course costs the company money. They argue that the restrictions protect users from installing harmful apps, but device owners say they own the product and have a right to do what they want to with it.

Apple has decided to make its point with Corellium and Project Sandcastle by filing a lawsuit under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in an attempt to make them cease and desist.

Corellium is planning to fight back. CEO Amanda Gorton stated, “Apple is using this case as a trial balloon in a new angle to crack down on jailbreaking. Apple has made it clear that it does not intend to limit this attack to Corellium: it is seeking to set a precedent to eliminate public jailbreaks.”

It should be a compelling case to watch. In the meantime, if for some reason you’d like to try hacking an iPhone to run Android yourself, be advised that it won’t have all the features and you won’t be able to install an app from the Google Play Store, or even use the camera, so it’s usefulness will be limited to say the least. Unless you can figure out a better way to do it than Project Sandcastle, and don’t mind risking being added to the lawsuit.

And if you need any assistance with your project or require any type of IT support services, don’t hesitate to contact us at Sydney Technology Solutions to discuss your specific needs.