Android as it should be…

Recently I installed CyanogenMod 9 on a Xperia sola and i’m really enthused :-). Android as it should be…

CyanogenMod is based on the source of Android, but without any vendor specific modifications.

The Xperia sola

The Xperia sola by Sony is a quite neat device considering the price (official price in February 2013 at 219 EUR):

  • Android 4.0.4
  • TFT-Display with 480×854 pixels at 3,7″ (≈ 264 DPI)
  • “Floating Touch”
  • Light sensor for automatic display brightness
  • LED for notifications and charge indication
  • Camera with 5 megapixels, auto focus and LED lighting
  • Separate key for triggering the camera
  • NovaThor U8500 dual core CPU with 1 GHz (Cortex A9 CPU, Mali 400 GPU)
  • 512 MB RAM, 8 GB internal memory
  • Slot for MicroSD cards up to 32 GB
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HSDPA, magnetic compass, GPS, NFC, FM radio

Unfortunately Sony could not resist to add their own surface to the system and to add many applications which do not make it faster. Most of these applications can not be removed (as for example the meanwhile ineluctable Facebook integration). This results on one hand in a battery runtime which is barely longer than one day even with light use and on the other hand the system is quite sluggish from time to time.

CyanogenMod 9

CyanogenMod is a variant of Android which was developed with the goal to be free of manufacturer specific modifications on one hand and additional features which are missing in the manufacturer specific version on the other hand. Also see http://www.cyanogenmod.org/.

Version 9 is based on Android 4.0 and is available for the Xperia sola as well at FreeXperia. There you also find instructions how to install it. At the time when this article was written, FXP206a was the latest version available. This version supports every function of the device except the FM radio and NFC and is also suitable for everyday use.

Update 2013-04-07: Meanwhile version FXP214 is available. Some problems, which occured in versions FXP207 to FXP213 where fixed there.

CyanogenMod 10

Development for Version 9 (according to Android 4.0.4) has ended with version FXP 216a. Since version FXP 217 further development will be based on Version 10 (according to Android 4.1), so you can then also use a newer Android version on a Xperia Sola.

Practical experience

The first impression: “Wow, this is fast” :-)

Indeed the missing of any “bloatware” (Facebook integration etc.) affects the system quite positive. The start of the system is faster and also changing between apps is much more fluid – even when many apps are loaded.

The device acts like a more expensive model with a faster CPU and more memory :-).

When you look more closely you will notice the many little improvements, as for example:

  • Lockscreen with configurable shortcuts, calendar preview and weather display
  • Themes
  • Configurable “power widgets” in the notification drawer to toggle Wi-Fi, GPS, 2G/3G, Bluetooth etc.
  • Configurable status bar
  • Configurable functions for the hardware keys (for example controlling the music player by pressing and holding the volume keys)
  • Root access

The battery runtime also improved after changing the CPU governor (a mechanism which changes the CPU frequency depending on the current demands) from “ondemand” to “interactive”.

The only things, which do not work yet are the FM radio and the LED above the Xperia logo at the bottom of the device. NFC also seems not to work (it can be activated, but NFC tags don’t get recognized) – but since I don’t need these functions anyway and everything else works perfectly, this doesn’t bother me at all.

Android as it should be!

Following is a small collection of screenshots. As launcher I use ADW Launcher. The clock on the launcher is the Clean Clock Widget.

In some screenshots I have pixelated some text for privacy reasons – in the original the text is displayed properly of course.

Camera sound

When taking a picture using the camera a loud “pling” sound is played, which can not be disabled in the camera app. If you prefer a silent camera you can delete the file /system/media/audio/camera_click.ogg or rename it (for example to camera_click.ogg.disabled) using Root Browser or similar.

The same file is also used when creating screenshots.

In the same path you also find another file which is used to indicate the focus of the camera – camera_focus.ogg. This file can also be deleted or renamed if you don’t want a focus sound.

Important: After updating to a newer version these files will exist again with the original names.

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