​Sony testing 'stripped back, vanilla' Android with Swedish Xperia users

Sony's struggling smartphone unit will trial a new vanilla version of Android with Swedish users over the next three months.

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Sony concept for Android Image: Sony Mobile

Sony is considering launching a pared-down version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, and is testing the concept in Sweden first.

Sony says Concept for Android is a fresh take on Android 5.1 Lollipop for the Z3 with "significant differences compared to our current commercial releases, with a stripped back, vanilla Android look and feel, with native Sony features and apps we find most popular amongst our users".

As part of an effort to build user feedback into its "business and process design", Sony is looking for 500 Xperia Z3 owners on any mobile network in Sweden to take part in the Concept for Android pilot.

The trial kicks off in Sweden on July 27 and runs until September 13. After that date, trial participants can restore their former Xperia software. Testers will need a Windows OS device to install the concept OS on their Z3, and the campaign isn't open to Z3 compact owners, Sony notes.

Sony will look at expanding the Concept for Android campaign to other devices and markets, depending on the success of the Swedish Z3 experiment.

Sony's no stranger to using tech-savvy Swedes to pilot new takes on Android for Xperia users. Last year the company partnered with Three Sweden to test Lollipop with Xperia Z owners, in order to get feedback on the OS ahead of its release to its flagship Z3 and Z2 devices this year.

Concept for Android comes as Sony's smartphone business continues to face an uncertain future with the company laying off nearly 2,100 staff from its smartphone division in February, reducing the division's total headcount to 5,000 by April.

In addition, Sony executives are still unwilling to rule out an exit from smartphones as the company attempts to shed 60 billion yen from its operating expenses by 2016. And as the company outlined to investors in May, it's slashing the number of smartphone variants from 61 in 2014 to about 30 devices in 2016.

Sony's fourth quarter 2014 smartphone sales rose to 11.9 million, up from 10.7 million the corresponding quarter the year before, but it still lowered its full year forecast from 50 million to 39.2 million for the full year ending in March.

Industry watchers may find out more about the fate of Sony's smartphones at the company's next earnings update scheduled for July 30.

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