Mobile manufacturer Sony Ericsson is embracing a group of independent Android ROM developers known as FreeXperia in order to learn from the community.
Sony Ericsson is providing support to a group of independent Android developers to allow them to experiment with the software on its Xperia phones . Photo credit: Sony
The company said it was providing support to the group so that it could exchange knowledge with the team and learn from the developer community. As part of supporting the group, it also provided around 20 Xperia devices.
"During some time now, the FreeXperia group of independent developers have been working on the CyanogenMod custom ROM for our latest Xperia phones," Karl-Johan Dahlström, head of developer relations for Sony Ericsson, said in a blog post on Wednesday. "From a Sony Ericsson Developer programme perspective, we were impressed by the passion shown and decided to help out with some bits and pieces, since we are aware that Sony Ericsson phones have been somewhat difficult to work with from an open developer point of view."
The decision to support FreeXperia builds on work Sony Ericsson did earlier in the year, which included providing the option to unlock Xperia 2011 handsets' bootloaders and posting details of how developers could build their own Linux kernel.
Developers had previously struggled with proprietary features of the software, such as some camera controls, but the company explained these to FreeXperia by providing them with debugged and rebuilt camera binary libraries. It plans to release these on the company's Developer World portal under a special EULA licence, Sony Ericsson said.
However, the company said unlocking a handset's bootloader to install custom ROM images involved risks that remained the responsibility of the owners and could void the warranty.
"Sony Ericsson does not guarantee any functionality of your phone while going down this road. This is for advanced developers only, who are aware of the risks involved and have the knowledge to minimise the risks," Dahlström wrote. "For normal consumers, we strongly recommend not to unlock the bootloader and use custom ROMs, as it is not needed."
Also on Friday, CyanogenMod founder Steve Kondik said in a post on Google + that the next CyanogenMod release will support 10 new Sony Ericsson devices, including the Xperia Arc, Xperia Neo and Xperia X10. Kondik also confirmed that the FreeXperia team is now officially a part of the CyanogenMod development group.
Sony Ericsson is not the only company trying to embrace its community of independent ROM developers to encourage support and diversification of their platform.
In August, smartphone manufacturer HTC kept its promise to start unlocking bootloaders on devices launched during 2011 in order to allow customers to install custom ROMs. HTC also released the source code for some of its most popular devices, such as the HTC Desire Z, Sensation and Flyer tablet.