Thursday, December 06, 2012

Xperia Mini Pro with Android 4.0

I had read somewhere that Sony were going back on their promise to make Android 4 or Ice Cream Sandwich available on my Xperia model, the Xperia Mini Pro. This is the small phone with the slide-out keyboard. And since I was mainly running Linux, I didn't bothered to install the Windows-based desktop companion software. 
However, the phone running Android 2.3 had been acting strangely, slowing down mid-app and losing sensitivity on the touchscreen when the battery was below 50%, which was quite often. The last straw was when the home screen started crashing. Of all the things I'd expect Sony to put care into was their home screen app. It was their own software. It is the main thing that all top brand Android phone makers have to differentiate between each other. So I booted into Windows, ran Windows Update (which took a long time because I hadn't booted it up for a long while) and removed the old LG desktop companion software. Several reboots later, I plugged the phone in and installed the companion software without a hitch. I thought may be there would be a patch or something for their home screen software. I was surprised to see the Android 4 update available. I reckoned what the heck, I had time to burn.
Contrary to my experiences with the LG P500 Optimus One and it's companion software, the Sony Xperia version  was very easy to use. It was clear that Sony called upon it's decades of consumer appliance experience in designing the interaction process of the software. It was download, plug-in the phone, wait for it to restart and Android 4 booted up on my phone. 
Well, not exactly. There was one hitch. The software installed a driver while it was trying to communicate with the phone or Windows installed a driver just before the software was about to be uploaded to my phone. Windows told me to reboot to activate the driver which I didn't. I went ahead to try upload the new Android OS. Anxious minutes passed and nothing happened. Finally, a window popped up from the Sony companion software asking me why was it taking so long. It assured me it was safe to unplug and replug in the phone. I did so and still nothing happened. Finally, I decided to follow what Microsoft told me to do and rebooted the PC. I went through the process again and it uploaded the new OS and rebooted in less then 30 minutes. Start to finish, it was slightly less than 2 hours, much of that spent on Windows update and rebooting. Which was much better than the two day horror I went through with the LG P500 upgrade from 2.2 to 2.3. That story will have to wait for another time.
That was about 2 weeks ago. What's the verdict?
So far, I can see better performance. It varies from app to app or activity to activity.  The good news is that things that didn't run well before, now run ok. Need For Speed didn't work at all on the Xperia Mini Pro with Android 2.3  although it worked fine on the LG Optimus with the same version. Now it works fine with Android 4. Perhaps it's because more memory is made available. One of the benefits of the upgrade is that crapware that was pre-installed now can be moved to the SD card or even removed. Which means it didn't start up automatically taking up memory and not stored in the main memory, taking up more memory. Moxier is back, though, hopefully not for long. I think I can neutralize it. It was possible on 2.3 why shouldn't it on 4?
Another huge plus is that software I already have suddenly becomes more useful or seem to be sprouting out new features. Apps suddenly have additional features and functions. I think that because it wasn't possible with Android 2.3.
I only have 2 gripes.
You will lose Adobe Flash if you upgrade to Android 4. It was sort of a ruse really. The Sony website and companion software explicitly says that it will remove the Flash plug-in. But it also assured me that I could just get it back from the Play Store, which I couldn't. Since Adobe is ceasing development on Android, the Play Store doesn't allow you to download it. The entry is there for whatever reason but you just can't get it. 
Losing Flash seems to bother me more than I thought it would. The thought of my Android downgraded to the same level of IOS devices bothered me. I'm not going to be apologetic. I lived to through the times when there was no Flash on Linux and have been thru the phase of making up excuses for the lack of it. Face it, Flash is needed for a full web experience. The most upsetting part is that a lot of interactive educational sites require Flash. Like it or not, many interactive multimedia sites need Flash.
Only other grip is that Swift does not support the slide out keyboard properly. Which means that I am probably the only person in the world who has the combo of an Xperia Mini pro with a Swift app. Or will be the first person to complain about it on their Google Play page. The problem is with the modifier key. When I want to capitalize letter, the shift key get's 'sticky'. To disable capitalization, you have to click on the shift key again and press space bar. The number modifier works roughly the same.
I hate complaining like I am now.

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