Sony tries to come out with different kinds of phones across its Xperia line to attract customers across price segments. So while not everyone can afford its water resistant Xperia Z3+ smartphone, Sony has released a more mid-range offering in the form of the Xperia M4 Aqua Dual, which offers water resistance at a comparatively affordable price point. Let us take a look at this phone. (We will call the phone Xperia M4 Aqua for brevity)
Build and Design: 7/10
Sony has reached a maturity level with its design and all the Xperia phones have a standard look with minor variations along the edges. The Xperia M4 Aqua is no different. You have glass screen on both sides, which by the way are a smudge magnet and with a black coloured phone, the smudges become quite apparent. The Xperia M4 Aqua uses plastic around the edges and there is that similar rounded edge design, there are no sharp corners.
On the top you have the 3.5mm audio jack, on the left hand side there is the capless microUSB port, followed by the microSD card slot which is covered by a cap, the base just has the speaker section. On the right hand side, you have dual nano SIM card slots at the top, followed by the circular power/standby button, the volume rocker button and finally the camera shutter button. The rear side just has the Sony Xperia branding with the camera section on the left hand corner with the LED flash unit. The rear cover is non removable.
The front section has two cut-outs at the top and base of the phone, while the top is for the earpiece speaker, the bottom one acts as microphone. The speaker is located on the base. The phone measures 7.3mm thick and weighs just 135 grams. It gives a good grip thanks to the rounded edges. But thanks to the location of the volume rocker button, you may end up pressing it often.
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua comes with mid-range specifications such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 SoC which has an octa-core processor with 1.5GHz Cortex A53 quad-core cluster and a 1GHz Cortex A53 quad-core cluster, along with the Adreno 405 GPU. This is paired with 2GB of RAM. The phone comes with 16GB of internal storage out of which around 7.4GB is available to the user. But you can expand the storage to up to 200GB using a microSD card.
The phone comes in a dual nano SIM configuration, with the first SIM card slot supporting 4G LTE band. Apart from this you have the standard Wi-fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS, FM radio and so on. Android 5.0 OS is present on the M4 Aqua along with the Xperia skin atop it.
On the camera front, you have a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing camera. There is a 2400mAh non removable battery under the hood. It comes with the IP68 certification which makes it water resistant for up to 1 metre under water for around 30 minutes. Unlike its higher end sibling like the Xperia Z3+ , the M4 Aqua will not respond to touch when there is water on its display.
Just like most Sony phones we have seen in the past, the Xperia M4 Aqua also comes with the Xperia skin on the Android 5.0 OS. The Xperia skin has a typical look and like always, Sony tries again to push out its custom media widgets by default. Proprietary apps such as Album, Video, Whats New, Lifelog, SocialLife, PlayStation, Xperia Care, Sony Live are complemented with other known ones such as LinkedIn, Kobo Books, AVG Protection and game bundles. While most of the default multimedia apps are useless, Sony has give you the option to uninstall them if you dont need them.
An interesting addition to the proprietary apps is the Movie Creator app, which makes short films after you have shot a certain number of photographs/videos. Quite a fun app when you are on a vacation. The left most screen gives you the option to arrange apps according to various parameters. Long holding onto the home screen will pull up the features such as widgets, wallpapers, themes and other home page settings. But this can be annoying if you are trying to swipe from left to right, as accidentally you may activate the left most settings screen.
The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua sports a 5-inch HD display with an IPS panel. The viewing angles are good on the M4 Aqua and text appears sharp, but in terms of colour reproduction the display isn’t the best we have seen from Sony phones. Brightness levels and sunlight legibility are average. For instance, while composing shots in bright outdoors you really have to squint to get a good look at the composition. While watching movies and playing games, the output is average due to lack of high contrast, but there was thankfully no backlight bleeding.
As we have seen with the Sony phones in the past, the Xperia M4 Aqua also brings up the heating issue to the fore. Use the camera for sometime in the sunlight or stream videos and feel the rear side going warm. If you are out in the sunlight and immediately keep the phone in your pocket after shooting for considerable amount of time, the heat makes it carrying in your jeans pocket uncomfortable.
The user interface is smooth and we did not notice any lag or slowdown when it came to animations, app switching and so on. Even the call quality is quite good with the earpiece speaker being loud and clear. The same cannot be said of the on board mono speaker which sounded tinny.
Playing casual games such as Fruit Ninja, Subway Surfer 2 does not require much horsepower and keeps the heat under control, but start Dead Trigger 2 and the phone really does heat up. You will need to play at medium or low settings for Dead Trigger 2 to keep things running smoothly.
The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua comes with a 13MP rear camera with the ExmorRS sensor with a large f/2.0 aperture. This is complemented by a 5MP front-facing camera. As has been seen with most Sony cameras, the software supporting the camera is also quite elaborate. You get the superior auto mode for beginners as well as the Manual mode for the seasoned users. Apart from these you have the Sound photo mode, AR Fun mode, AR Effect mode, Sweep Panorama mode and so on. The physical shooting button is a great value add with the M4 Aqua.
Sony cameras are generally known to give good image quality and the daylight photographs were packed with details. Focussing was generally quick and it was only in low light situations that we found the focussing to be slow. The Superior auto mode wasn’t the most accurate. For instance, while shooting a flower indoors from up close, the camera instead of being in the macro mode, was in the night mode. You are better off using the Manual mode for ample control on your settings. Low light and indoor photographs do show noise prominently, although the images are good enough to be shared online and the output is certainly better than what we have seen with other similarly priced phones. Thanks to the physical button, you can shoot under water as well.
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Battery Life: 7.5/10
Sony phones are known for their long lasting batteries and the Xperia M4 Aqua delivers on this front. We could easily pull in a working day with over 20% battery remaining. PC Mark for Android gives a screen on time score of 7 hours 34 mins. Additionally, there is the Stamina mode, Ultra Stamina mode and Low battery mode to further help you manage power more efficiently.
Verdict and Price in India
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Dual is priced at an MRP of Rs 22,000 and can be bought from online market places from Rs 20,000 onwards. Snapdragon 615 SoC with 2GB RAM has become a standard for mid-range phones, but the pricing for these phones is also up to Rs 15,000. Naturally majority of these phones are from the Chinese companies and will not come with the waterproofing feature.
But looking at the performance and features, it is difficult to recommend the phone specially when there are so many competitors which offer better feature set and performance under the Rs 20k price point. Some of the phones that immediately come to mind include Xiaomi Mi4 / Mi 4i, OnePlus One and even the recently released Motorola Moto X Play.
The Xperia M4 Aqua Dual is great only for those who are looking for a water proof device which offers a good image quality and better battery life. And if you are sold on Sony's brand positioning. For everyone else, there are many other options to choose from.
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