Sony might only be offering 500 Swedish users the chance to trial it, but its new Concept for Android project could just be the future of non–Apple smartphones.
The Japanese giant, whose mobile business was reported to be up for sale earlier this year, is offering Xperia Z3 owners the opportunity to play with a stripped back version of Android on their devices.
In an official blog post, the company said: “[Concept for Android] has some 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.”
That means the likes of Sony’s Xperia Lounge and its Music service stay. But take one look at the screenshots and this is very much the Android experience you’d expect from a Google Nexus device.
What do you get? Just the apps you need, the Play Store for the apps you want and a simple home screen.
Until now, Sony’s take on Android has been clever, dynamic and often infuriating.
Like so many other Android custom skins, it solves problems that no longer exist.
Stock Android has been of a high standard for years now and there’s really no need for Sony to offer more bells and whistles.
Of course, some manufacturers already know this.
Motorola offers phones without its own egregious adornments. But many others do not.
Samsung still has its own custom skin, albeit a much less busy version than before.
HTC’s Sense is cool, but remains a pointless addition that slows down future software updates.
And really, the latter is what it’s all about. Android remains a fragmented ecosystem, with Lollipop still only a niche concern, despite Android M being imminent.
Users are having to wait an age for updates, often meaning its easier to get the latest edition of Android by going out and buying a new phone.
Compare that to iOS, where four-year-old iPhones run iOS 8, and you can see why Android-owners get frustrated.
With Concept for Android, Sony is saying it gets it.
It even suggests faster updates are the ultimate goal, claiming that paring back Android means "this will eventually enable us to respond to your needs quicker and easier". That’s for certain.
And let's face it, Sony needs something to work with Xperia sales struggling to match the competition.
At least now it’s thrown down the gauntlet to its rivals and begun leading the way towards a more united Android.