The Album app is among the most comprehensive and feature-rich gallery apps we've seen, and it's fast and easy to use.
At the very top of the list is a slideshow, showing off your photos. Lower down, the first photo of each month is shown at twice the size of other images. Photos are organized by month, and you can use pinch-zoom to change the size of thumbnails (then they smoothly animate into the grid).
You can also browse photos on a map (you can manually add geotag info too) or by folder. This includes network storage so that you can view photos from a DLNA server (your home computer, for one). Then there's integration with online albums - Facebook, Flickr, and Google Photos (someone should tell Sony engineers this is no longer called Picasa).
Image editing is handled by several apps, including the default Image Editor, Sketch and Sticker creator (so you can create your own custom stickers to send to your friends).
Sketch lets you fingerpaint over a photo or a paper-like texture, add text, stickers, photos and so on. If you're talented, (the below screenshot reveals our mediocrity), you can share your creations on the Sketch mini-social network. We stuck with just browsing through what others drew.
Movie Creator is similar to the Google Photos Assistant. It automatically creates short videos from the photos and videos you've shot. You can do it manually too: pick photos and videos, change their order, and add color effects and music (you get a small audio collection to start off with, but you can use custom files too). Then tap the Share button and send out your animated slideshow.
The Music app feels like part of the same Sony custom software package. The contextual side menu offers many of the same browsing options - by folder, network folder, and online services like Spotify (it's just a link to the Spotify app though). You can share music from the phone to compatible players.
The app can find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia, and search for lyrics on Google.
The Music app offers a variety of audio settings - ClearAudio+ determines the best audio quality settings depending on the track you're listening to. Then there's DSEE HX, which uses an almost wizardly algorithm that is supposed to restore or rather extrapolate compressed music files, like MP3s into high-res audio. According to Sony, the result is near Hi-Res Audio Quality, but it only works with wired headphones. It also helps with streaming audio but not Spotify.
Dynamic normalizer evens out the volume differences across tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.
The Xperia XA1 comes with an FM radio receiver and an app to go with it - and Sony's is probably the best one we've seen. It has nice visuals, pulls the stations' names over RDS, and you can pick favorites. You can also assign colors to group the stations - say blue for news, yellow for rock music, or purple for house stations.
The FM radio app is tightly integrated with TrackID, too. TrackID is Sony's trusted song identification software which has since evolved way past simple recognition. It can now show you music charts by country, give you live updates on recent searches across the world, and store your search history as well.
Named simply Video, the app is a lot more than a player. It can play your local videos and videos on your home network, plus it has extensive subtitle settings. Additionally you can flip a switch and have videos played in the background.
But if you tell the app where you are, and if your region is supported, it will pull info off of the internet with TV schedules, shows currently airing, and highlights of what to expect.
The Sony Xperia XA1 started off well in our audio quality test. The smartphone achieved excellent scores for clarity when hooked to an active external amplifier and had nicely high volume to go with it.
Unfortunately, headphones caused quite a lot of damage - volume plummeted to below average, some intermodulation distortion crept in and stereo took a hit. It’s not disastrous, but there are certainly better options out there.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Sony Xperia XA1||+0.17, -0.04||-95.2||95.0||0.0028||0.0066||-90.0|
|Sony Xperia XA1 (headphones)||+0.63, -0.29||-92.9||86.2||0.090||0.473||-51.7|
|Sony Xperia XA||+0.01, -0.18||-93.6||90.6||0.0030||0.010||-91.7|
|Sony Xperia XA (headphones)||+0.85, -0.18||-87.1||87.8||0.018||0.327||-54.9||Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus||+0.02, -0.08||-93.8||92.8||0.0037||0.034||-91.3|
|Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus (headphones)||+0.09, -0.03||-93.5||92.6||0.070||0.075||-49.0|
|Huawei Honor 5X||+0.02, -0.08||-93.4||90.1||0.0028||0.012||-93.4|
|Huawei Honor 5X (headphones)||+0.10, -0.03||-92.9||89.8||0.0048||0.071||-78.2|
|Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)||+0.02, -0.07||-94.3||92.2||0.0065||0.010||-95.0|
|Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) (headphones)||+0.42, -0.01||-93.4||87.1||0.029||0.254||-53.0|
You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.