Monday, 17 August 2015 14:06

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua smartphone – will take a bath

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Sony may have a winner with its new M4 Aqua – with a 5” IPS screen, IP65/68 rating, a decent camera, and a two-day battery life.

Initially it is only available from Optus on a $0 upfront and $40 MyPlan Plus over 24 months - minimum $960 but that includes 500GB data, unlimited talk and text to standard Australian numbers. Other plans are available and allow for 3GB, 6GB and 10GB of data and some international call allowances.

As the phone is not yet sold by major retailers, I looked online to get an indication of price – I am guessing it has a recommended price of about A$399 and various grey market sources have it for between $320 and $360.

“Sony has a renewed focus on its mid-range tier of products and the Xperia M4 Aqua is the perfect representation of this new wave of competitively priced handsets, with no compromises,” said John Featherstone, Sony Mobile Communications Head of Business Development for APAC and Market Head for Oceania. “Offering many of the standout features made famous by our Xperia Z Series; superior imaging, up to two-day battery life and waterproofing – Xperia M4 Aqua brings a proposition and price that make this product a compelling offer in the mid-tier segment of the market.”

First impressions – It’s a Sony with the commensurate quality I would expect from this brand.

iTWire has developed a new paradigm for reviewing smartphones.

  • Flagship phones – Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, LG’s G, Sony Xperia Z3/4, HTC One M9, Lenovo Moto X, and Microsoft 930 series (superseded). Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi, ZTE and others have entrants in this category.
  • Mid to high range – Huawei P8/Max, OPPO R7/Plus, Xiaomi, ZTE, Samsung A, LG L&F series, Moto E/G, Lumia 6XX. This may include Note/Phablets with Pen support
  • Mass market – Huawei Ascend Y/G series, OPPO N, ZTE
  • El-cheapo <A$100

This device fits squarely in the Mass Market range yet punches above its weight in a number of key ways. Where these are above its class it receives a + or more.

Mass

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Model E2353

Rating

Screen

4-5”

5”

5

Screen type and quality

LCD

IPS LCD

Triluminos and Bravia tech for excellent daylight readability and colour

5+

Pixel per Inch

300+

294

5

Glass (equiv)

Hardened

Scratch resistant

5

Res

720p

1280 x 720

5

CPU

32-bit, dual core+

 

Any ARM foundry

Qualcomm MSM8939 Snapdragon 615

Octa (8) core -Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53

This is generally found in mid-range phones costing much more

5+

Memory RAM

1GB

2GB RAM

5

Storage

8GB

8GB storage (about 2-3GB available after a clean install)

This is typical of a mass market phone so take care to use the micro-SD card

5

MicroSD

Up to 16GB

Up to 128GB

Supports OTG external USB flash drives as host

5+

LTE

Local market only

700/1800/2100/2600/TD2300 MHz

Sufficient for Australian market and Optus

5

Dual SIMM

N/A

Uses single Nano SIM

Telstra Blue tick rural

No

N/A

Purchasers should check Optus coverage in their area

Wi-Fi

N single antenna

Wi-Fi N, dual antenna, Wi-DI, DLNA and hotspot

5+

NFC

Some do

Yes

5

GPS

A-GPS

A-GPS and GLONASS

5

Mapping system

At least one free mapping system

Google Maps

5

Bluetooth

Usually 3.0

4.1 LE and ANT+ support

5

Sensors

G-shock

Gyroscope

Ambient light

Compass

Proximity

Accelerator

Most

Accelerometer

Proximity

Compass

5

Battery

(Assumes Micro USB or Lightning)

<2000mAh

At least a day Removable

2400mAh – non removable (function of IP68 rating)

850 mAh charger takes about 3 hours to fully charge

Lasts for two days of typical use using stamina and Ultra Stamina mode to prolong life.

5

Fast charge and/or Qi

N/A

N/A

Camera Rear

8MP+ f2.4

Single flash

13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, LED flash

Sony Exmore RS sensor

Geo-tagging, touch focus, face/smile detection, HDR, panorama

Video 1080p @ 30fps

5+

Camera Front

2MP 720p

5MP, 720p video

5+

Screen to body ratio (higher better as it affects dimensions) or keyboard

60%+

65.2%

145.5 x 72.6mm

5

Thinness

9-10mm

7.3mm flat back

5+

Looks – highly subjective

Consumer quality

Pleasant, white facia, polycarbonate white back

Other colours may be available – coral (pink), black

5

Weight

200g or less

136g

5+

Operating system

No upgrades promised

Android Lollipop V5.x

Sony are pretty good at providing OS upgrades within the 5.x family. 5.1 update scheduled for November

5

User Interface (UI) Bloatware

It the UI and apps covering for adware

Simple, US is not over bearing but reflects Google’s influence more than its Asian competitors. Unable to remove Google apps from the home screen.

Able to set up without a Google account.

Can use Xperia transfer app to transfer data/contacts etc., from iOS, Android and Windows Phone using USB, Mac or PC.

5

Video, Audio codecs

Limited

Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- MP4/H.264 player
- MP3/eAAC+/WAV player
- Document viewer
- Photo/video editor

- Walkman music player and equaliser

Loudspeaker – average loudness

No video out – MHL or HDMI but supports Miracast

5

Options

Buds

Yes

5

Innovations

N/A

FM radio

5

IP or ruggedized

N/A

IP65/68 certified - dust and water proof up to 1.5 meter and 30 minutes

5

Warranty

1 year

1 year

5

Service in Australia

Yes

Yes

5

Price

$250+

Estimated RRP $399 or less

5++

On the surface, (that is a pun for an IP65/68 rated phone), it appears to offer excellent value for the specifications. If you delve deeper, however it is not quite as good as the specifications suggest. Do not get me wrong – this is why we developed the new review paradigm - because for a sub $400 phone it offers many features above its class.

Battery life is two days – on ‘Stamina’ or Ultra mode. If you use this like most other smartphones that leave Wi-Fi on all the time it will get one day.

Camera quality is adequate as is the single LED flash. Despite its 13MP Sony Exmore heritage and autofocus you get what you pay for - it takes ordinary, OK, shots.

Call quality is fine but the LTE bands limit its use as a world phone.

The phone can become moderately hot when playing a video.

Opinion

It is a good smartphone – a leader in the mass-market field and punches well above its weight in many areas. There are no deal breakers and being IP65/68 rated it would be a good phone for a rough-about kids.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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