Sony has decided to release a sequel to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for Xperia S it began in August of 2012, and took over from Google in November of last year. This time, the Xperia Z is getting its own project, which means that the company’s water resistant flagship phone will get to participate in the kind of Android development work more often reserved for Google-blessed Nexus devices.
Sony’s Xperia S AOSP experiment was well-received, though it was eventually moved away from the AOSP main branch to Sony’s own GitHub, owing to the limitations of what could be done with the hardware. Sony software engineers Johan Redestig and Björn Andersson want to help continue that work with Sony’s latest. The Xperia Z project will help developers and tinkerers interested in making contributions to Android, and to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro platform do so using essentially a vanilla Android OS installation on the device, albeit starting out on Sony’s own GitHub, and not as part of Google’s own main AOSP project.
Before you go thinking that this is a way to turn your every day Xperia Z into a stock Android Nexus device, however, note that use of the AOSP comes with a few big caveats: It can read the SD card, use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, the LED notification light and sensors, but the modem and camera are dependent upon proprietary binaries that Sony can’t release to the public. And still other binaries have been released by Qualcomm and Xperia Z, and are provided by Sony’s developer partners, but can’t technically be part of the AOSP efforts because they aren’t open source code. Sony plans to try to replace at least some of those binaries with source code as the project progresses, however.
While this isn’t quite as exciting as when Google added the Xperia S as a hardware target to its own AOSP main branch, it’s still good news for developers and the development community, and should help broadly with contributions to Android and its evolution as well.