Sony Xperia XA1 Review: Square One: User Interface

By 02:59 Wed, 18 Aug 2021 Comments

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 disclose the difference, though, as Sony's customizations are both very light and consistent between devices and Operating System (OS) versions. The gigantic things, like the proprietary Stamina battery saving modes and the home-baked multimedia apps, are here to stay.

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.

Lockclassy screen • A notification • Clock styles • Smart lock with face detection

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

Homeclassy screen • Homeclassy screen • App search and suggestions • Folder view • Homeclassy screen settings

The traditional app drawer is present, and you'll find a number of proprietary apps pre-installed. Sony takes remarkable 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 • Sorting options • App management • App search

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

Xperia themes • Smurfs theme

The notification area is plain Android. You can re-arrange the quick toggle tiles and adjust the classy 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 see 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 classy screen correct from the rolodex. It's easy to utilize the split classy 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 • Split classy 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 disclose it not to bother with certain apps.

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 Universal Serial Bus (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



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