Sony may not come to mind as one of the most developer-friendly mobile tech companies out there, but its Open Devices program proves otherwise. The latest fruits of this creation come in the form of AOSP Android 8.0 Oreo, which is now available for six Xperia smartphones.
Google has steadfastly refused to add a reboot option to the power menu in stock Android over the years. In fact, it removed everything other than "power off" from that menu in Lollipop. Users have been asking for a reboot option forever, and now Sony is asking for it too. Sony has opened a bug tracker issue and submitted a patch to add it, but Google does not appear to be biting.
Sony's open device project was launched to allow developers to run AOSP Android builds on many of Sony's devices. The company has been keeping up the software support for this program, and has even added new devices frequently. Now, Sony's latest flagships are joining the open initiative. You can grab the Marshmallow software binaries for the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact right now.
Sony is continuing its odd support for modifications and software based on Android's open source core. Today they're releasing a collection of flashable recovery partitions for some phones - technically these count as "custom" recoveries, but they're based on AOSP, and therefore pretty close to what you'd find on Nexus devices. Sony's intro video does state that the recovery can restore data, flash custom ROMs, and boot to multiple ROMs, something that most stock recoveries can't handle.
The new recovery is available on the Xperia Z1, Xperia Z1 Compact, Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia T2 Ultra, Xperia T3, Xperia M2, and Xperia E3, all of which need to be unlocked at the bootloader level and running the latest "generic" software from Sony.
Sony hasn't always been the best at updating its phones, but the company does have a commitment to AOSP unlike most others. It contributes a lot of code to Android, and developers are encouraged to tinker with unlocked devices. In fact, Sony has just announced support for AOSP on the Xperia E3 and Xperia T3, meaning all Qualcomm-based phones from 2014 can run pure Android with very little hassle.
Sony is making it easier to get AOSP ROMs up and running on its flagship devices with a few goodies for developers. After showing off stock Android 5.0 running on the Xperia Z3 recently, the company has posted source code and binaries for the Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact, Xperia Z2, Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z1 Compact.
Sony's back to its AOSP tricks, working to release some functional (if not exactly ideal) versions of the latest release of Android based on open-source code. This time they've quickly put together Android Open Source Project builds for the flagships of the last two years: the Xperia Z1, Z2, and Z3. You can see the bone-stock builds running in the video below.
As always with Sony's developer promotions, these builds aren't intended for end users - they aren't provided with any kind of promise for reliability or functionality. They don't even include the Play Store or other standard apps, which many people (erroneously) think of as part of "stock" Android.
Sony's relationship with "pure" Android is an interesting one. As a company they generally make it easy to root or otherwise modify their phones or tablets, with a few notable qualifiers. The AOSP for Xperia project, which provides the basic tools for building standard Android ROMs on popular devices, is also one way that Sony stays relevant for those who buy phones with the intent to add aftermarket software. Today it gets two new flagship options, the older Xperia Z1 and Z2.
You can find the binaries for both new phones on the SonyXperiaDev GitHub. They're classified by codename: "Honami" is the Xperia Z1 while "Sirius" is the Z2.
Recently there's been arumor that Sony is planning on releasing stock AOSP ROMs (clean, Nexus-style builds of Android) for some of its high-end phones and tablets. It's easy to understand why Sony in particular might attract that kind of attention: the company has better support for aftermarket development than most, promptly releasing binaries and source code on the company's own GitHub and even some developer-grade AOSP builds. But as for consumer-ready, finished and fully supported AOSP ROMs? Yeah, that's not happening.
At least not yet. While this blog post says that some of the members of Sony's development team love the community that's grown up around its open source Android releases, there are no current plans to support retail Sony Xperia hardware with full AOSP ROMs.
Hot on the heels of releasing a Google Play Edition of the enormous Xperia Z Ultra, Sony is once again pleasing fans of "clean" Android by expanding the AOSP For Xperia Project. The latest device to get a semi-official AOSP option is the Xperia L, one of the cheapest devices in the company's 2013 lineup.
Though the 4.3" screen and 1Ghz dual-core processor on the Xperia L aren't likely to make it an object of desire for hardware junkies, developers and enthusiasts now have the option of running a completely stock version of Android 4.4. But hold on, ROM fanatics: this isn't as simple as grabbing a custom recovery and flashing CyanogenMod.