"Mini PC" dongles running Android 4.2 can be bought via online resellers such as Alibaba.com.
The unofficial Android accessories, which typically run version 4.2 of the operating system and include access to the Google Play store, were highlighted by Philip Elmer-Dewitt of Apple 2.0 in a report on Monday. The diminutive devices can be found online marketed as "mini PCs," and feature connectivity options such as USB, HDMI and Bluetooth.
But their greatest use may be for pirated video content in Asia, according to "jnaina," a Singapore-based user on the Investor Village AAPL Sanity forum. According to the user, Android-based sticks can be purchased for around $100 U.S. and will come preloaded with bootleg digital copies of 20 or more movies. Additional movies can reportedly be bought from these street vendors for about $2.
According to the forum poster, the dongles are usually running Android 4.2, also known as Jelly Bean. During the activation process, the devices reportedly register as an Android tablet, though they can only be used as media players, and not for surfing the Web, checking email, or running typical tablet applications.
This Android "Mini PC" is listed in the Alibaba.com "Tablet PC" section.
While there's no hard data on just how many Android TV sticks are in the wild, the fact that they are activated as tablets could help explain recent data that suggests Android tablets are beginning to overtake Apple's iPad in terms of marketshare. Despite those figures, actual tablet usage data paints a very different picture, with Apple continuing to control the lion's share of active tablet users.
For example, Web tracking data from Chitika published in July found that the iPad accounted for a whopping 84.3 percent of all tablet traffic data. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook cited that data earlier this year, when he questioned claims of newfound success for Android tablets.
"If there are lots of other tablets selling, I don't know what they're being used for," Cook said. "Because that's a pretty basic function, is Web browsing."
In July, AppleInsider described the curious statistics being used cited in global tablet market share numbers, citing analyst Benedict Evans as drawing a potential connection between such TV sticks and Android tablet activations.