The head of Google's Android Open Source Project (AOSP), Jean-Baptiste Queru, made an interesting proposal recently. He added a new device to the AOSP repository, but this is no Nexus variant. Queru created an empty git project for the Sony Xperia S, but he needs the community to get behind the initiative. This will be the first device not designed under Google's supervision to be supported under AOSP, and that could be a big deal.


AOSP has been getting more robust as time drags on. Back in the pre-Froyo days there was only a little usable code posted for hardware targets, but more recent Android releases have included exact source files. The CDMA Nexus devices on ICS even have some proprietary code included for the wireless radios. AOSP was always designed to support third-party hardware targets, but the Xperia S will be the first.

So why the Xperia S? JBQ referred to it as a powerful GSM phone with an unlockable bootloader from a company that has been very friendly to AOSP. I suspect that last bit is the important part. This isn't the first time Queru has spoken highly of the company. Back in April he commended Sony for getting Android 4.0 out the door on the Tablet S so fast. He also mentioned that Sony has contributed a lot of code back to AOSP. That would seem to make the Xperia S a great candidate for AOSP support.

If this project does take off, there is no guarantee of a usable stock Android build spontaneously appearing. This is a purely open source project that will mainly be used to learn about how Android can grow and change. As JBQ said, this is going to be about "bleeding edge" software - not stability. For instance, there might be hardware that doesn't quite work without some proprietary software. With that in mind, JBQ was careful to remind folks not to upload code to the project that they don't own. Perhaps Sony's good will toward AOSP in the past means that won't be an issue, and the company may even decide to support the project and contribute code itself.


Plenty of users are anxious to see this project work - it could mean more devices get solid stock Android support and faster updates from the community in the future. This move is also spurring on talk of a possible Sony Nexus device among users. I'm not necessarily sold on that angle, but Samsung has already had a good long run. Maybe Google is looking to distance itself from the Apple-Samsung patent battle and this is just the first step.

[Google Groups]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://www.facebook.com/wrg25 Will Gonzalez

    i'm all in on a possible Nexus Device....... crossing my fingers

  • Brfield

    Hopefully the trend continues with further devices. Would love to see a lot of 3rd party phones in the AOSP git.

  • Gav456

    I, for one, would love to see this take off, and for the OEMs doing it to see noticeable sales increase. It's a shame that that's what it will take for manufacturers to see what (power) users want from android. Would be nice, eventually, to be able to choose either skinned or vanilla.

  • ConCal

    I would have never guessed they would chose that phone. I hope to see this happen with other phones.

  • RedPandaAlex

    I wouldn't rule out a Sony nexus device because three have good unique hardware design, but I think where Google and Sony really need each other is home entertainment. Sony needs a stronger apps ecosystem for the ps4 to compete with microsoft and Google needs wider reach for Google TV. I'm guessing it will be integrated into the ps4. And for that reason Google's relationship with Sony will really grow.

  • GazaIan

    You know what would be cool? What If Google picked up devices for AOSP that manufacturers are too lazy to support? It could be like an official Cyanogenmod, minus the Cyanogen stuff. Shitloads of updates for several devices, all thanks to Google and our developer community.

    • Drayon

      Or an universal android aosp code that would work on any android device in the same way as windows can work on any pc.
      I know it will require a shtload of work, but this brings that dream just a little bit closer.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ngomac Chisanga Ng’oma

        I agree so much with you here, I wish it could come to that, where android and windows are delivered the same way. I'm no coder so I couldn't comment, but that has to be something Google should consider working towards.

  • Leon

    Just when i buy a xperia s. Awesome!

  • Joephus

    If Google bought Motorola... wouldn't they make a Motorola Nexus????

    • Ron Amadeo

      Why? What would the benefit of that be? Motorola will already do everything Google wants.

      You want someone like Samsung to do the Nexus device. A company that doesn't traditionally listen to you. Everything Motorola makes will (eventually) already be a Nexus device in everything but name.

      • Joephus

        I was just asking...

  • horaz

    The main problem with locked boot loaders is that bl don't boot unsigned roms. If Google sponsor AOSP projects for some devices, they simply can ask the manufacturer to sign the AOSP ROM.
    The "security reason" to not unlock the bootloader doesn't matter. Like "hi, I'm google, I made this ROM for your locked device, don't unlock the phone, just sign the ROM".

    Will be a good start.