First, Sony Ericsson decided to unlock the bootloader of all Sony Ericsson Xperia released this year. Then, the company taught everyone how to build a custom Linux kernel and flash it onto an Xperia handset. And, now, Sony Ericsson has decided to support a group of independent developers to speed up the production of custom ROMs for Xperia phones.

Sony Ericsson’s chief of developer relations, Karl-Johan Dahlström, announced that about 20 Sony Ericsson Xperia handsets have been provided to the FreeXperia team that has been making custom ROMs intended for Xperia handsets and based off the CyanogenMod custom ROM.

Dahlström admitted that customizing Xperia devices had been very challenging for independent developers, since some parts of the code are proprietary. Sony Ericsson went out of its way to help the FreeXperia team wiggle its way out of the bushes by providing, for example, debugged and rebuilt camera libraries. That, plus the 20 Xperia development units, made the FreeXperia team’s work much easier and smoother.

CyanogenMod on Xperia

So easy and smooth, in fact, that both the CyanogenMod and FreeXperia teams officially announced this week official CyanogenMod support for Sony Ericsson Xperia devices. Xperia devices have not enjoyed the blessings of CyanogenMod for some time, but the development team has promised an upcoming build/release with nearly full hardware support.

The following Xperia handsets released or to be released this year will have CyanogenMod support:

  • Xperia arc
  • Xperia neo
  • Xperia mini
  • Xperia mini pro
  • Xperia PLAY
  • Xperia ray
  • Xperia active
  • Xperia pro

The following Xperia handsets released prior to 2011 will also be supported:

  • Xperia X10
  • Xperia X8
  • Xperia X10 mini
  • Xperia X10 mini pro

Not for Everyone

Impressed by developers’ “passion” and acknowledging that custom ROMs are inseparable from the Android ecosystem, Dahlström points out his company’s firm belief in the openness of Android, resulting in Sony Ericsson’s loving embrace of the developer community:

The reason for this is that we firmly believe in the openness of Android, and we are really impressed by the huge activity shown in our products. By being supportive and open, we hope to both learn from the open community, and also share knowledge when that is possible.

Sony Ericsson, however, is not promising support for all customization efforts for its Android handsets. Dahlström also warned that unlocking the bootloader on an Xperia handset and placing a custom ROM on the device can void the device’s warranty. For ordinary consumers, Dahlström advises against unlocking the bootloader or using custom ROMs–“It is not necessary,” he said, since Sony Ericsson Xperia handsets “deliver great phone experiences through our rigorously tested and official software releases.”

Do moves like these from Android handset makers such as Sony Ericsson make you want to buy a particular manufacturer’s Android products?

Image credit: Sony Ericsson, CyanogenMod