A Modder’s Thoughts on the New Sony Flagships

Z3 and Z3 Compact

The other night a friend complimented me on my red Nexus 5, and went a bit further to say that she found her iPhone “boring”. I wound up for my sales pitch about the many and varied benefits of the Android platform, but unexpectedly cut myself short. For me, Android is only really worth using with a rooted device. You may agree or disagree with this; either way it’s the premise for today’s post.

Now that Howard has reviewed the latest Sony flagships—the Z3 and Z3 Compact—I’ll be sharing what I know about modding them.

The Good

Sony seems to have an especially good reputation with the XDA crowd. I’m guessing it’s because their Android team has really embraced AOSP (the Android Open Source Project), not only making their own contributions public, but allowing third-party devs to contribution as well. For a big OEM that’s a pretty big deal.

Modders can unlock the bootloader of their Xperia device with a key from Sony, similar to an HTC or Moto device. It’s also worth mentioning that Xperias can be purchased SIM-unlocked from your local Sony store. For a custom recovery, look no further than ClockWorkMod.

The Bad

If you’ve visited the XDA development forums for either the Z3 or Z3 Compact you may be wondering: “Where are all the custom ROMs?”

Historically, Xperia devices have been hard to come by in the USA, where a lot of homebrew firmware development (at least on XDA) seems to take place. This has changed with the latest flagships, as for the first time they’re widely available from both US carriers and Sony. For now, the most popular Xperia ROMs I can find are from the Free Xperia Project, which seems to be some sort of collaboration between Sony and CyanogenMod. For the Z3 family you can already download FXP ROMs built with Android 5.0

The Ugly

The big downside to unlocking your Xperia bootloader is that your camera experience will be degraded. Android Police has the grisly details; what it all boils down to is that Sony most likely doesn’t want anyone reverse-engineering their image processing technology. It’s just unfortunate when you consider that a lot of power users would choose an Xperia specifically for the superior camera.

Still Interested

Even with the camera “gotcha” I’m still interested in these Sony flagships. I like that there are both phablet and non-phablet options, and the modder-friendly support from Sony looks promising. Maybe Howard will lend me one so I can break—er, free it? 😎