[GUIDE] All Things XPERIA - Debranding - Rooting & More...
The process of tinkering with any Device can seem a like a daunting process for New members but it's really quite simple so long as you read EVERY WORD of a thread describing how to Modify your Phone you shouldn't go far wrong.
So you've just received your new XPERIA Phone and want to get it Updated, De-Branded, Rooted, Unlock the SIM & Bootloader, Flash a Custom ROM, Theme or simply Repair your Phone, well hopefully everything contained here should help with all of that, but as most XPERIAs are similar in their workings this is wrote as a general reference, so a link may take you to a page in the Ray section for example but it will/may still apply to you and what you're trying to accomplish. So lets get started...
The Flashtool, Updating, Unbricking & De-Branding:
If you have Un-Locked your Bootloader DO NOT UPDATEOver The Air (O.T.A) or YOU WILL BRICK your Device. If you have Bricked then see THIS thread with how to Restore your Phone.
The Flashtool is simply what it says on the tin, it's a tool that flashes Firmware to your device in a similar manner as SEUS or PC Companion does except the Flashtool requires .ftf files which can be downloaded from your devices General or Development forum. This is generally the preferred method for Repairing your Phone if SEUS or PC Companion aren't an option or you just prefer not to use them. You can also use the Flashtool to flash a Generic .ftf to your device which will remove any Operator Branding from your device.
This video by BlueChipJ explains the process of using the Flashtool...
When you root your phone, you gain “superuser” privileges to the Android operating system. When you are using a stock device, you have the equivalent of “guest” privileges. If you are familiar with any Linux operating system, you know that the superuser privilege allows you to gain access to administrative rights. This level of access gets you down to the nitty gritty of the OS with no restrictions, lets you make changes to the system, and run scripts that would normally be blocked with a standard user account.
Rooting methods for the XPERIA line of Phones has constantly changed from apps to Pre-Rooted ROMs and Kernels. A Google search of "root -insert device name-" should help to find the specific method for your Phone but the following link is well worth reading - [How-To] Rooting guide for 2011 xperia devices
Sony Xperia : S, T, P , Acro S, Ion , Tipo , Tablet S, Go, Sola, U
Bootloader & SIM Unlocking:
PLEASE NOTE: The ONLY WAY to Sim Unlock your Phone is to PAY for it, so do some Googling and read which services have been recommended in the past.
PLEASE ALSO NOTE:
If you're Phone was manufactured AFTER a certain date, 12W11 (look under your battery for a similar number) then the Testpoint method no longer works, and People who have had Phones returned from a Service Centre are reporting that they can no longer unlock via the Testpoint method either.
The stock bootloader on most Android phones is set up to run a signature check on any update file you attempt to flash to your NAND internal memory. So if you were to take a stock Android phone purchased from a carrier, and try to install a custom ROM on it, you'd get nowhere fast. Even after rooting, you still need to get access to the bootloader. Basically, unlocking the bootloader lets you install unsigned ROMs, like CyanogenMod.
There are three ways to Unlock yours, the Standard/Official method (For SimFree/Un-Branded Phones) which is explained HERE, (PLEASE NOTE! - You loose DRM when using the official method but not with the TestPoint) but if your Phone came from a Carrier then chances are (99%) you won't be able to use that method. There is a simple method of checking if you can or not which you'll find HERE.
Then there is the TestPoint method...
Two members - Alejandrissimo or Jinx13 offer a Remote Service which isn't free, but cheaper than anywhere else on the net, and when you take in to account you will also SIM Unlock and retain DRM using the Remote method it's worth it.
A custom ROM is a fully standalone version of the OS, including the kernel (which makes everything run), apps, services, etc - everything you need to operate the device, except it's customized by someone in some way.
So what does the "customized" part mean? Since Android is open source, developers are free to take stock ROMs, modify them, strip them of garbage, optimize them, add things, and pretty much do whatever their imagination and skills allow.
In the Development Section you will find a variety of Custom ROMs, some require you to have an an Un-Locked Bootloader and some don't, it's usually stated in the thread title if it's required or not but modding your Phone with an unlocked Bootloader is much simpler. Most ROMs usually come in .zip format which require ClockworkMod (CWM) to install them.
You can find a great Guide HERE that will show you how to use Fastboot which is the method used for installing Kernels required by certain Custom ROMS.
ClockworkMod – also known as Clockwork and CWM – is a custom recovery for Android phones and tablets that allows you to perform several advanced recovery, restoration, installation and maintenance operations on your Android device
To use CWM on an XPERIA then it's recommended to unlock your Bootloader because then you can simply flash Custom Kernels that come with CWM pre-installed, it's also safer imo because it's separate from the system, but if you haven't unlocked your Bootloader for whatever reason then you're going to have to use [APP]/[RECOVERY]x-Parts [CWM Installer] [Version 7.0] 29/6/12 which is installed to the Phone's system, although it's less effective should you accidentally wipe your system while trying to flash a new ROM as you won't be able to access it.
How to Install CyanogenMod on your Xperia (bootloader unlock, fastboot, Google Apps, etc.)
Modifying & Theming:
To be able to install full themes that you're going to find in the Themes & Apps section of your device then at the very least you are going to need to be Rooted as you'll need to be able to overwrite, delete, add files to the system, and default theming on the XPERIA line is quite limited. If you choose to use a Custom ROM such as FXP's CyanogenMod 7/9/10 then you have the benefit of using the ThemeChooser so you can download themes till your hearts content from the Play Store.
Adrian DC has released a DefaultThemes Customizer which you can download from HERE, or you can learn to modify apks yourself and mod your Phone to your own liking.
...then add two .9 png images of the same name, status_bar_item_background_normal and status_bar_item_background_pressed to your drawable-hdpi folder, recompile, zipalign, push to your Phone, done.
Quick Tip: If you can't create a .9 from scratch just edit the first two in drawable_hdpi which in my folder is alert_bar_background_normal.9 and alert_bar_background_pressed.9, just remember not edit over the .9 borders.
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