Sony’s mobile division is often tough to praise, but it does get two things right: consistent design across all price points, and waterproofing.
That’s the ethos that drives the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, an attractive mid-range Android smartphone that – as the name suggests – can be dunked in water without issue.
It’s a cross-sequel to both the Xperia M2 Aqua and the Xperia M3, which gels with Sony’s third mobile maxim: frequent and confusing iterative updates.
Aside from the waterproofing, the M4 Aqua has respectable innards. It features a 5-inch HD display, an octa-core processor, a 13-megapixel camera, and 4G support.
You can buy the M4 Aqua for £229 on Pay As You Go. It’s also available on contracts from various carriers starting at £15.50 per month. This gets you a 24-month plan with no upfront fee, offering 150 minutes, 5,000 texts, and a miserly 250MB of data.
Sony boasts that the M4 Aqua represents a ‘renewed mid-range focus’ and has ‘no compromises’. But how does that claim hold up under scrutiny?
The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua will look familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a recent Sony smartphone. It features the ‘Omnibalance’ design aesthetic that Sony has built its Xperia range is built around.
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That seriously counts in the M4 Aqua’s favour, because it looks very similar to the flagship Sony Xperia Z3+. It’s glossy, rounded, and slim at 7.3mm. That makes it slimmer than the EE Harrier and the Honor 6. However, the mid-range Samsung Galaxy A5 is even more dieted-down at 6.7mm. The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is also lightweight at a feathery 136g, which is lighter than both the Moto G (2015) and the Honor 6. It’s still weightier than the 123g Galaxy A5, mind, but by no means cumbersome.
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The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua feels sturdy, although being coated in glass on the front and back may be a cause for concern for buttery-fingered users. It also means your handset will slide across every surface you set it down on. Fortunately, the corners are nylonised, which purportedly helps protect it from falls. We found this not to be true on our Sony Xperia Z3 however, which now has a smashed corner and a cracked back, after a fall from a paltry height of two feet. So much for nylonised corners, eh? On the plus side, when we press our thumbs hard against the ends of the M4 Aqua, it barely flexes, which is a good sign of robustness.
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The M4 Aqua is, of course, built for submersion – a nice feature for a mid-range handset. It’s IP68 waterproof certified, which means it’ll last for 30 minutes underwater at a depth of one metre. We didn’t test that claim to its limits, but we dunked the handset several times without issue. Don’t forget that thanks to the waterproofing, the microSD card and SIM trays have to be hidden behind flaps – we don’t access these frequently enough for that to be an issue though. Also, unlike the Xperia Z3, the Micro USB port remains uncovered. That’s a big improvement on last year’s Sony flagship.
The volume rocker and power button are less pronounced than on the Xperia Z3. They’re slightly more difficult to press, but the phone feels better in the hand as a result. Sony also decided not to include a magnetic charging pad on the side. It won’t be missed by most users.
The 5-inch screen is slightly smaller than the Xperia Z3+’s display by 0.2-inches. Some of the ports have been moved around too, but it’s otherwise identical. One key departure is that the phone’s edging is polycarbonate on the M4 Aqua, unlike the metal Xperia Z3+. It’s easy enough to grip though, and looks just fine. The bezels are thin, but big enough to hold on to comfortably when using the phone in landscape.
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We reviewed the black version of the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, but it’s also available in white and pink.
The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua has a 5-inch display, which is about the norm for a smartphone in 2015. Users with exceptionally small hands might find the M4 Aqua awkward to navigate, but we were able to reach the top of the screen without any difficulty.
We thought it was a shame that the M4 Aqua’s display is only 720p, because cheaper rivals come with a 1080p display. There’s really no excuse for skipping Full HD at this price. It’s especially annoying because this is a 4G phone, and would be able to handle streaming native 1080p content with ease.
Fortunately, the screen does look sharp and clear, despite the slightly lacklustre resolution. The M4 Aqua has good viewing angles, displays colours vibrantly and accurately, and the screen is just about bright enough to use outdoors on a sunny day.