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Sony M4 Aqua is no pushover!

May 29, 2015 12:26 IST

However, considered its high price of Rs 25k, Chinese smartphones like Xiaomi Mi4 and Oppo's One Plus One can dent the Japanese phone's popularity, says Himanshu Juneja

Sony M4 Aqua

Not too long ago Sony's India managing director Kenichiro Hibi said that the Indian market is important for them and how they would aim to compete with players like Google Android One, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, etc.

Even though he clearly hinted at the Rs 10,000 price bracket, it seems like there are handsets where Sony is ready to be flexible about its pricing strategy.

The Sony M4 Aqua seems to be one such phone. The M4 comes across as more of a stripped down version of the acclaimed Sony Xperia Z3. Don't let the step down tag come in its way, as M4 seems like a well rounded phone.

Will Sony be able to price the device right? Will the M4 Aqua prove to be a match to its competitors? Let's take a quick look at the recently launched Sony device.

Construction

The M4 Aqua is a thin device, and to the customer's delight, Sony has made it dust and water proof (upto the depth of 1.5m and for 30 minutess only, IP68 certification).

The phone measures 5.73 x 2.86 x 0.29 inches in dimensions, and weighs a 136 gms.

One has to forgive the people who would confuse the Xperia M4 Aqua with Xperia Z3. With near identical dimensions and looks, the phone really can pull off the looks of its slightly bigger cousin.

The build quality deserves special mention as even though it is high grade polycarbonate and plastic all around, the phone has been able to pull off the Z3 look convincingly.

The well rounded corners help in the gripping, credit to the company. Unfortunately, despite the non-glass, non-metal frame, the phone remains a fingerprint magnet.

Connectivity options

The Xperia M4 Aqua is an LTE enabled dual SIM mobile phone and also comes with features like Wi-Fi 802.11, Wi-Fi direct, Bluetooth 4.1, and DLNA for connectivity. The phone also carries the AGPS and GLONASS for GPS assistance.

It was nice to find the option of FM radio with Radio Data System (RDS) technology. Indians particularly have a good deal of penchant for their radio content.

Design

Sony M4 Aqua

The phone has its 3.5mm audio jack located right at the top edge. Sony decided to pack the right side of the phone with good number of entities as one finds the Nano SIM card slots with its flap, the signature power button, the volume rocker, as well as the camera button, all on the same side.

The left side of the phone carries the MicroSD card slot along with its flap, and the surprisingly uncovered Micro USB port.

This has been achieved by providing an extra layer of water proofing and should prove to be a boon for the harried users, who had to deal with the annoying cover everytime the port had to be engaged. Of course the user needs to dry out the port before using to avoid any mishaps.

The bottom edge of the phone carries the speaker unit.

Display

Sony M4 Aqua

Sony provided the phone with a 5-inch IPS LCD, with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels. The all important pixel density comes out to be around 294 ppi. The display is a pretty good one here, as the pictures came out to be bright and vibrant. The contrast levels were very impressive as well.

The text appeared sharp, giving no problems while reading ebooks, or while browsing the web in general. The viewing angles were pretty good, retaining good clarity.

Last, but not the least, the outdoor visibility during bright sunny days was not an issue either.

Hardware

The phone hasn't been provided with top of the line hardware but that is understandable keeping the price segment in mind. The configuration is nothing to be written off by any means.

Coming with a 64 bit octa core processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 along with Adreno 405 GPU and 2GB of RAM is a pretty solid combination. The processor basically consists of Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 and Quad-core 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53.

As for storage memory, presence of 16 GB memory was assuring. Expansion option of up to 32GB via microSD card slot has been provided as well.

Software

Sony M4 Aqua

The phone comes with the proprietary Xperia user interface atop the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS. The dual SIM phone makes sure to ask the user about which SIM to route the call through every time the call is made.

There are few changes here, as the lockscreen is now devoid of widgets, which was pretty awkward to see. Once inside, the OS in itself was pretty fluid and zippy overall. The optimisation Sony brought about was there to see and feel.

The five screens allows user to choose the preferred home screen. The themes are there, and so are the pre-loaded apps. Sadly, removing them will be a cumbersome process, given how company wants users to latch onto their services.

Presence of app drawer was like a sight for sore eyes, and there are ample options throughout the OS to customise the phone. The default keyboard offers Swype like input, as well as concise keyboard for single handed operation as well. Finding Chrome as default browser was a pleasant discovery.

Overall, Sony tried not to interfere too much with the OS department, and kept things fluid throughout.

Performance

Packed with a pretty decent configuration, the phone looks reasonably solid.

The phone performed admirably well, and even though the innards are not flagship material, Sony has optimised its OS quite nicely, which means that the phone works smoothly throughout.

Apps load and shut pretty convincingly and switching between apps wasn't an issue either. Games and HD videos chugged at a comfortable frame rate as well.

The downer surprisingly was the speaker. For whatever reasons Sony had, they didn't make the speaker loud enough. This means one has to look for external sources to enjoy the content in full glory.

Thankfully, the sound output via 3.5 mm audio jack was top notch, and should wow the audience easily.

Camera

Sony M4 Aqua

Sony supplied a 13 MP camera with flash for the rear set up, and a 5MP variant for selfie lovers.

The auto mode handles the normal tasks with aplomb and shouldn't leave too much room for complaint. HDR provides some impressive results, but takes a good time to click away the required number of shots, thereby prolonging the time taken to hold the camera still.

Images stabilisation is onboard; so that is a huge sigh of relief. Video quality was more or less acceptable during test samples.

Rear camera performs admirably well and users here too get the advantage of the Superior Auto mode. The camera handles the low-light surroundings pretty well, but extreme cases of dim lighting witnesses grainy results.

No surprises really.

Battery

The phone comes with a 2400 mAh battery of Li-Ion variant. The non-removable nature of the battery may become an issue for some. The company claims the battery to be capable of lasting two days.

However, with a moderate usage pattern the battery lasted a day and a half with ease.

Included are ways to curb the battery drainage such as switching the mobile data off as and when the screen gets turned off. Similarly, the Wi-Fi can be set to turn off when no signal is present in the vicinity. Quite thoughtful.

Verdict

Here is the thing: Sony M4 Aqua is by no means a pushover. It has a pretty good hardware inside and performs satisfactorily as well. The real issue is something familiar with Sony mobile phones, and that is its pricing.

The phone is asking for pretty good money with a Rs 24,990 price tag. The problem for Sony gets compounded while considering that the scenario has changed due to the onslaught of the chinese phone companies.

Xiaomi Mi4 still packs a punch, and Oppo's One Plus One isn't a forgotten case either and there would be very few who would want to spend considerably extra for a dust and waterproof device.

Unless Sony prices this phone for something like Rs 18,000 Rs 20,000, the chances of M4 Aqua getting picked up remain utterly slim.

Himanshu Juneja
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