Replacing the operating system software on an Android device is something most consumers will never do. Widely speaking, the perks of custom ROMs are known only to savvy enthusiasts unafraid to void a warranty or, in a worst case scenario, render their hardware completely inoperable. But Sony is taking steps to make the concept more appealing to everyday users. It's now providing a tool that restores a smartphone to its default factory settings — essentially returning the user experience to what it was out of the box. In doing so, Sony is giving anyone wary of tinkering with software an easy way to undo any mistakes or unwanted changes they've made. Other Android OEMs have helped users unlock a device's bootloader, opening the door to customization, but few have provided such a straightforward "reset" method.
Released today in beta form, the flash tool is compatible with a small list of Sony smartphones: the Xperia S, Xperia arc, and Xperia arc S are first to receive support. The company says it plans to expand that list moving forward. Sony also hopes to eventually offer a selection of software releases for each device. In theory, that means you'd have the option of rolling back to a previous version of Android if you're finding a recent update has hampered performance. Sony's embracing of the Android community has earned the company a favorable reputation among many, and even led Google to experiment with adding Xperia hardware to its AOSP program.