Sony Ericsson Xperia active review: The Rainmaker

The Rainmaker

GSMArena team, 03 November 2011.


The Xperia active's visually customized phonebook can store extensive information about all your contacts. The list can be sorted by either first or last name.

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts, or set the phonebook to display only contacts with phone numbers.

If someone is added in more than one account, you can “join” their contact info. This can be really handy as you can have Facebook, Twitter or other service details all in the same place with the regular contact’s details.

Quick contacts are enabled – a tap on the contact’s photo brings up shortcuts for calling, texting or emailing the contact.

Each contact can have a variety of fields (and repeat fields of the same type), the plus and X buttons let you add and remove fields as needed. The fields cover anything from names (including a field to write down the name phonetically) to addresses, nicknames and notes.

There is an option to redirect calls directly to voicemail. Personalized ringtones are enabled too.

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Phonebook • Quick contacts • Viewing and editing a contact

You can "star" a contact, which puts it in the Favorites tab. Also, in each Gmail account there's a special group called "Starred in Android" where these contacts go automatically.

There are two contact search options – a dedicated search field on top of the contact list, and an alphabet scroll to jump to names starting with a specific letter.


Voice quality is good on both ends of calls, the earpiece is loud enough and there were no interferences whatsoever. The built-in secondary microphone is used for active noise-cancellation so calls are loud and clear even in noisy environments. We didn’t experience any reception issues either.

Unfortunately, the Xperia active does not support smart dialing. There’s voice dialing though (the quickest way to activate it is the dedicated homescreen widget).

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Dialer app • call log

Thanks to the proximity sensor, the Sony Ericsson Xperia active automatically disables the touchscreen during a call.

As usual, the phonebook, call log and dialer are all part of the same application. The call log shows all the dialed, received and missed calls all in one list.

We also ran our traditional loudspeaker test. Sony Ericsson have the xLOUD audio enhancement on the Xperia active. A quick test shows deeper sound, but we also used our digital noise/loudness meter - xLOUD made a difference of about 5dB when you sum up the tests. It's not just a straightforward increase though - it boosts lower frequencies, while high frequencies (and high frequency ringtones) remain mostly untouched.

The Xperia active got an Average mark with xLOUD on and Below Average with xLOUD off. More info on our loudspeaker test as well as other results can be found here.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOveral score
Sony Ericsson Xperia active (no xLOUD)66.564.968.5Below Average
Sony Ericsson Xperia mini pro (with xLOUD)70.762.270.1Average
Sony Ericsson Xperia Active (with xLOUD)70.564.968.2Average
HTC Wildfire S73.566.169.6Good
Sony Ericsson Xperia mini pro (no xLOUD)67.766.275.7Good
Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman (with xLOUD)75.668.278.1Very Good
LG Optimus One P50077.174.577.9Excellent


The messaging department of Android values simplicity in design and is very easy to use. All SMS/MMS are organized into threads.

Each thread is laid out as an IM chat session, the latest message at the bottom. You can manage individual messages (forward, copy, delete) and even lock them (against deletion). You can use search to find a specific message in all conversations.

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Threaded conversation

The Quick Contacts feature only works in separate messages, not in the whole thread. You can also request delivery reports.

Composing a text is a little frustrating as the text box starts off as a single line and grows only to three lines, which makes working with longer texts harder.

You can add multimedia (photos, videos, sounds, etc.), which will convert the message to an MMS.

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Messages • QWERTY keyboard

Text selection is a major change in the user interface since Gingerbread - it's done by placing two large pointers either side of the marked text. You can then drag each of those easily to make the selection you need. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.

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Text selection

Moving onto email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there’s no unified inbox.

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Gmail app supports batch operations and multiple (Gmail) accounts

There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.

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The standard email app

Sony Ericsson have added a Preview Pane to the generic email client. The preview pane can be expanded and collapsed, as well as thumb scrolled. The nice thing here is the pane stays exactly where you left it and can save you a few taps. You can check out our video demo to see how it works.

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The preview pane

Google Talk handles Instant Messaging. The GTalk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat and Ovi Contacts.

Text input - three virtual keyboards

As for text input, the Xperia active offers just the default (Gingerbread) on-screen full QWERTY keyboard (portrait and landscape) and a virtual numeric pad in portrait mode only.

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All of Xperia active’s keyboards are pretty comfy

A tap on the text area will reveal a “handle” attached to the text cursor – it’s easy and more accurate, which makes correcting mistakes easier. A tap and hold will bring up the select options – select word and select all – with two handles to adjust the start and end of the selection. Another tap and hold brings up the copy/cut options.

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Text positioning

Reader comments

  • the bossy
  • 15 Sep 2014
  • a0q

Hello, I have this phone for almost 1,5 years. For a second time I have problem with the speaker. Nobody can listen loud and clear when I call. First time they change the hardware with the speaker. I don't know what to do now. Do you have any idea? ...

  • sebas
  • 05 Jan 2013
  • LLc

I have the same problem!! Is this suposed to happen??? And i have another trouble too... when I take photos underwater, the loudspeaker gets wet and i dont know of this is ok!! Please help me!! PLEASEEE!!!

  • nidhin
  • 21 Dec 2012
  • U@3

helo. my xperia actives camera is not clear as others. I found that it is because of the waterproof cover's cameras glas is not clear. I cleand it but juz a lil bit of change. please help. any suggestions????