Review: Sonim XP7
The Sonim XP7 ships with the core Google Play apps for content consumption. These apps are available to all Android devices. The latest versions of these apps, updated with Google's Material Design, work well for handling each different type of content available in the Play Store, including music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines. You can also make use of the generic MP3 and video players for sideloaded content. Without a memory card slot, however, loading your own music is a bit of a chore involving the cable.
The XP7 also throws in an FM radio for good measure. The radio works well, but you need to use a pair of headphones (as an antenna) to get any reception.
Music sounds good when played back through my fave set of earbuds, and the screen does a good job with video content. You can also blast music out of the speaker at volumes loud enough to annoy those around you.
The XP7 uses the crummy stock camera application. I find it utterly annoying that the camera button on the left side won't launch the camera when the phone is locked. You have to unlock the phone before using the camera. Ugh. At least you can use the button to snap photos.
The Android camera UI is minimalistic. There are only two buttons: one to access the settings and another to swap shooting modes. The controls can also be accessed by swiping from the side of the viewfinder towards the center. Swiping from the left opens the control dial that has most of the options. The Sonim XP7 includes HDR (which can be set to come on automatically) and panorama shooting modes.
The settings are bare bones. You can adjust exposure and the flash, as well as control the timer, sounds, image size/quality, and white balance.
The camera's best feature is its speed. It focuses and captures pictures incredibly fast.
The XP7 has an 8-megapixel sensor. The camera is passable, but hardly impressive. The camera had a hard time locking down focus and many of the photos looked rather soft. I saw some white balance problems here and there, but exposure was generally good. My biggest gripe is the presence of grain, which even invaded shots taken outdoors under sunny skies. It's good enough for everyday camera needs — especially considering its use as a work device — but I wouldn't use it for vacation or wedding photos.
The XP7 can shoot video up to 1080p full HD. The video camera was consistently better at producing usable results than the regular camera. It handled extreme swings in light without pause, and locked down focus most of the time. I noticed grain, but it was less pervasive. White balance was generally accurate. Again, it's good enough for capturing anything you might need on a work site, but I'd use dedicated video equipment for important events.
The Sonim XP7 includes both the stock Android gallery app and Google's newer Photos app. The stock gallery app is the same one that comes with most Android devices. It doesn't offer anything new or different compared to other Android KitKat phones. It's acceptable for managing photo albums and sharing photos with social networks. It also has some simple editing features, such as crop, rotate, red-eye reduction, and filters that help correct color, exposure, and other issues.
The Photos app has a more generous set of editing functions, and can be used to back-up and interact with your photos on Google+. I'd recommend the Photos app over the older gallery simply because Photos is the default app for Lollipop phones moving forward. Moreover, it has better editing functions and sharing tools.
The XP7 has a decent Bluetooth radio. I had no trouble connecting it to headsets or my car's handsfree system. Calls routed to headsets didn't sound all that great to me. I was able to pair it with a stereo speaker and with a Nexus Player. Music playback wasn't good at all, but the XP7 worked perfectly for controlling the Nexus Player.
The Sonim XP7 ships with the older, generic Android browser and Chrome. The generic browser is certainly functional when it comes to rendering web sites, but I thought it was a little slow when surfing on AT&T's LTE network. The newest rendition of Chrome is solid when it comes to rendering web sites, be they optimized for mobile or not. I thought Chrome was a bit faster than the generic browser, and I like its controls more.
The lock screen offers a simple digital clock. The font is white and the numbers are a wee bit thin for my tastes. You do have to be careful about your wallpapers, as they can obscure the clock at times. Otherwise it's generally easy to read, even outdoors, thanks to the bright screen.
Google Maps is the only navigation tool installed on the XP7. I found that it functioned quite well. The GPS radio was quick to locate me, and I'd estimate accuracy is within about 25 feet. Maps is a great tool for planning routes or searching for nearby points of interest. The phone was able to keep up during live turn-by-turn navigation and had no trouble re-routing me when I purposely went off course.
Sonim is hitting its stride in its quest to make the best rugged phones for demanding industries. The XP6 and XP7 are the company's best efforts to date, and represent much more than just two phones, with support for a whole ecosystem of software and specialized accessories.
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