Sony Xperia XA1 review: Square one

Square one

GSMArena team, 06 May 2017.

An Xperia like any other

The Xperia XA1 is running Android 7.0 Nougat at launch, so it's not at as up to date as the XZs and its v7.1.1. You'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference, though, as Sony's customizations are both very light and consistent between devices and OS versions. The big things, like the proprietary Stamina battery saving modes and the home-baked multimedia apps, are here to stay.

Sony Xperia XA1 review

Smart Lock gives you conditional security - trusted nearby devices, locations, faces, or voices can allow you to skip the security unlock protocol that you may have set up on the phone.

Lockscreen - Sony Xperia XA1 review A notification - Sony Xperia XA1 review Clock styles - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smart lock with face detection - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smart lock with face detection - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Lockscreen • A notification • Clock styles • Smart lock with face detection

The homescreen appears unchanged from the rest of the X series. This includes the swipe down gesture: it shows a screen of the apps you use the most, along with recommendations for new apps to install. The search field is highlighted so that you can start typing the app's name immediately.

Homescreen - Sony Xperia XA1 review Homescreen - Sony Xperia XA1 review App search and suggestions - Sony Xperia XA1 review Folder view - Sony Xperia XA1 review Homescreen settings - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Homescreen • Homescreen • App search and suggestions • Folder view • Homescreen settings

The traditional app drawer is present, and you'll find a number of proprietary apps pre-installed. Sony takes great pride in the A/V prowess of their devices, and the multimedia apps are all custom and feature-rich, but more on them in their dedicated chapter.

The app drawer is quite functional as well, letting you sort the apps by frequency of use, name, date installed or a custom arrangement. The app search works here too, and you can go into a management state, allowing you to uninstall multiple apps instead of having to drag each one to a virtual waste bin.

App drawer - Sony Xperia XA1 review Sorting options - Sony Xperia XA1 review App management - Sony Xperia XA1 review App search - Sony Xperia XA1 review
App drawer • Sorting options • App management • App search

Themes are available (both free and paid) that can customize the look and sound of the Xperia XA1. Some themes are even interactive, with their wallpapers reacting to your touches.

Xperia themes - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smurfs theme - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smurfs theme - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smurfs theme - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Xperia themes • Smurfs theme

The notification area is plain Android. You can re-arrange the quick toggle tiles and adjust the screen brightness. What's missing is a toggle for Auto brightness (you need to go into the settings for that). It's the way stock Android is set up, but we miss that option there.

The app switcher is similarly a vanilla Android affair, with the 3D rolodex look and a Close-All button. The native Nougat multi-window is present - in Sony's implementation if a running app supports split screen, you will be able to snap it at the top or bottom of the screen right from the rolodex. It's easy to use the split screen mode, but there is no way of knowing which app supports it - you have to start it first and then try to snap it. It's also a 50/50 split always, you can't resize the windows, though on the 5-inch XA1 you're unlikely to be split-screening too often.

No-nonsense task switcher - Sony Xperia XA1 review Split screen apps - Sony Xperia XA1 review Notification area is vanilla Android - Sony Xperia XA1 review No auto brightness toggle - Sony Xperia XA1 review No auto brightness toggle - Sony Xperia XA1 review
No-nonsense task switcher • Split screen apps • Notification area is vanilla Android • No auto brightness toggle

The Smart cleaner feature will periodically empty the cache of apps you haven't used in a while. You can switch this off, or just manually tell it not to bother with certain apps.

Smart cleaner frees up memory of both kinds - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smart cleaner frees up memory of both kinds - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smart cleaner frees up memory of both kinds - Sony Xperia XA1 review Smart cleaner frees up memory of both kinds - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Smart cleaner frees up memory of both kinds

Sony has a proprietary backup solution built-in on its latest Xperias. It can backup applications, contacts, messages, and phone settings. The backup info itself can be stored in the cloud under your Sony online account, or locally on the microSD card or an external USB device. Backups can be scheduled, including conditions like "Connected to Wi-Fi" and "Charging device", depending on your preferences.

Scheduled backups are the best way to prevent data loss - Sony Xperia XA1 review Scheduled backups are the best way to prevent data loss - Sony Xperia XA1 review Scheduled backups are the best way to prevent data loss - Sony Xperia XA1 review
Scheduled backups are the best way to prevent data loss

Reader comments

  • Varun

Never ever buy this one

  • Ram

I feel you bro... Same problem... Great phone.. But the toushcreen is garbage

barely used it, never dropped, brand new... came in with many problems/errors/defects such as compass not working, or GPS not very good. Touch screen stopped working on sides after a few months making it nearly impossible to use. Constant crashes. Un...