updated 04:50 am EST, Fri February 24, 2012
Sony delivers Ice Cream Sandwich beta for Xperia
Sony is working hard to turn around its image as an Android laggard to the leading vendor when it comes rolling out Android updates to its mobile phones. Now known as Sony Mobile Communications, the company has posted a page on its website allowing Xperia users to officially unlock their bootloader and follow the posted instructions on how to install Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) on their handsets. So far, the beta ICS ROM is available for the Xpera arc S, Xperia ray and Xperia neo V and suggests that Sony is on track to make good on its promise to have ICS updates for its 2011 smartphones starting this March.
Users who load the beta ICS ROM will enjoy an updated UI featuring ICS elements, a shortcut to the camera from the lockscreen, an updated email client and a quick dial function. The latest version of the ROM adds support for the GSM moden and FM radio that was missing for alpha ROM testers. However, as the build is not yet complete and certified, it does not include Google's suite of preinstalled apps or the face unlock function yet. A video is embedded below highlighting some of the new features.
Sony had a forgettable year in 2010, releasing Android smartphones running outdated versions of Android and then taking an extended period of time rolling out updates. 2011 saw its fortunes start to turn around as it released much more competitive, feature-laden handsets such as the original Xperia arc that were also shipping with the then current version of Android, 2.3 (Gingerbread). The company pledged to do better and reduced the depth of its Android customizations, replacing signature UI features with signature widgets instead paving the way for faster OS updates.
The move to offer users the ability to officially unlock the bootloader on their Sony smartphone is also an important step by the company. The open developer community has long called for Android manufacturers to allow users to install custom ROMs on their devices if they choose. Sony does warn, however, that installing the official bootloader may result in voiding users warranties as custom ROMs can be unstable. The company also notes that its bootloader will not give users root access to their device - this is only possible if the user installs a custom ROM with root access.
Users with one of the listed handsets can only install the beta ICS ROM if they are running the latest software build, which is 4.0.2.A.0.42. The original Xperia arc and neo are not included in the list, 'as they have different partition layouts.' [via Android Community]