Sony isn’t a company we often associate with developer-friendly practices, and yet it appears they are currently leading the mobile industry (aside from Google themselves) in terms of Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” support. Sony had previously released an unlocking mechanism for all of their “XPERIA” line of Android smartphones, something other manufacturers have failed to do (I.E. Motorola); and have recently been releasing alpha versions of their coming ICS update. Yesterday, Sony bumped the status of their ICS update from alpha to beta, and released a new build for the community to try.
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Sony lists the following major additions to this beta over it’s alpha predecessor:
- Updated UI – We hope you will be happy to see that we have added a number of UI elements from ICS, as well as some new UI features already introduced in the Xperia™ S we announced in January.
- Lockscreen and Face Unlock – We have added a shortcut to the camera directly from the lockscreen. Also, when you’re listening to music you can control the music player without unlocking the phone by using the music control icons on the lockscreen. In the coming final ICS upgrade, we will also include the face unlock app from Google for all phones that has a front-facing camera. The Face Unlock feature uses the front-facing camera in combination with advanced object recognition algorithms to provide a new way to unlock the phone. However, since Face Unlock is a Google Mobile Services (GMS) app, it is not included in this ICS beta ROM.
- Connectivity turned on – Since we published the ICS alpha ROM, the GSM modem and FM radio have passed the certification and type approval, and they are therefore turned on in this ICS beta release.
- Updated email client – The UI has been updated, and simplified email management has been added.
- Quick dial – We have added a quick and easy way for you to make phone calls. See how it works in the ISC beta ROM demo video.
While you should always be careful when installing a new ROM on your phone (official or otherwise), there are a few issues with this ICS beta that you should know about before hand. There is currently no support for WiFi, Bluetooth, or Google Apps (GMail, Maps, etc), as the update hasn’t officially been certified yet. So this ICS beta is probably not suitable for your daily-use phone, but could be something to play with if you happen to have an XPERIA device laying around.
Better than the Rest
Not only has Sony made it possible to unlock all of their XPERIA mobile devices and released these test builds of ICS to get community opinion, but they’ve also committed to updating all of their 2011 XPERIA devices to ICS. This is impressive not only from a customer loyalty standpoint (again, something Motorola could stand to learn from), but also because the XPERIA line are all single-core devices. In an industry where even dual core phones may be getting passed over for the ICS treatment, the idea that a company would go back and make the effort to deliver ICS on such hardware is incredible.
At this rate, perhaps the next Nexus device will be carrying a Sony logo.