Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Dual review: A smartphone built for the Indian monsoon

As the country heads into its annual tryst with the Monsoon season, we had a chance to spend quality time with a smartphone that’s particularly adept at dealing with inclement weather. From a lineage of devices that can comfortably withstand the rigours of rough treatment, Sony’s Xperia M4 Aqua Dual is a phone that packs capability in a palm-friendly form factor.

This is a 5-inch phone–a screen size that the industry seems to be collectively veering towards these days–that feels both light and slim in the hand. Its rounded edges make for a very comfortable tactile experience, and its design stays true to the familiar Xperia design language: the classic round silver power button is about halfway down the right edge and is easy to reach, sitting immediately above the volume rocker. There is also the dedicated shutter button, which plays to the Xperia line’s prowess in photography. On the right edge is a flush flap that conceals the microSD card slots, and the dual SIMs (both slots accept only nano SIMs) are at the top right.

The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with minimal skinning, on a Snapdragon 615 chipset and the 2GB of RAM making for a visibly smooth user experience. While the entire Lollipop experience here is par for the course, there are a few areas that are amp’d up, primary among them being the camera app. Based on the capable Exmor RS imaging engine and a 13MP primary camera, the app adds numerous features that let you stretch its photography capabilities. For example, an AR mode that overlays all manner of digital creations onto a real scene (from dinosaurs to balloons) to morphing faces onto different bodies to the regular slew of ‘portrait beautification’ modes.

Like other phones based on the Exmor sensor, this one’s signature move is its particularly stellar response to low-light situations. In shooting various scenes–some in near pitch-black conditions–this is one of the few phones that picked up details where others recorded nothing but a black image.

But the title feature of this phone is its IP65/68 rating, meaning it is built to withstand fairly high levels of dirt, dust and water. The rating specifies that its internals are sealed against powder-sized grains of dust, and it can be submerged into water at a depth of greater than 1 meter. So it should be resilient to a everything from a drooling toddler to a splash in the pool with friends. Of course we had to put it through a real-world test ourselves, as evidenced in this short clip:

As seen here, despite the phone having its USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack exposed, it doesn’t stop the phone from offering top-of-the-spec dust and waterproofing capabilities.

Quick specs
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Dual
  • Network: GSM/HSPA/LTE band 1(2100), 3(1800), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 28(700), 40(2300)
  • SIM: Dual Nano SIM, Dual LTE
  • Screen: 720 x 1280 pixels, 5 inches (~294 ppi pixel density)
  • OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Key hardware: Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 processor with Adreno 405 graphics (Qualcomm MSM8939 Snapdragon 615), 2 GB RAM, 8 GB storage expandable up to 32GB via microSD
  • Camera: 13MP rear w/autofocus, 5MP front
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Weight: 135 gms
  • Battery: 2,400mAH

Price: Rs 23,990

We threw several of the demanding real-world applications at it (a.k.a. games): the phone’s capable Snapdragon 615-based system more that sufficed with smooth gameplay at mid-level graphics settings. The Bravia engine has always done a good job with image color and clarity–in this phone, images were bright and rich (although appearing a tad saturated, as is wont to happen in most Sony phones). Even though it has a lower-than-HD resolution of 720×1280, its smaller-than-phablet screen size of 5-inches delivers sharper screen density. All in all, a very decent experience with gaming and watching videos.

We did however note an issue–the phone tends to perceptibly warm up during intense and prolonged use (a bout of streaming video, gaming and the like). It’s something that is noticeable, but doesn’t necessarily hamper real-world use. We found battery life to be par for the course with the device regularly making it through a day of moderate use.

So should you buy this phone? If you’re looking for a snappy Android device with great photography chops, it goes up against several others that offer virtually identical screen-processor-ram specs, and at lower price points (the Mi 4i, Yu Yureka, Micromax Canvas Knight 2, ZTE, Nubia Z9 Mini, Phicomm Passion P660, for example.) But if you especially need one that’s built to take a beating while you’re on the road and are ready to pay a premium ranging from 30 to 45 percent on the price of comparable phones, the Xperia M4 Aqua Dual does carve out a space for itself.