Review: Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

Battery performance is also acceptable, providing what should be a good day of life for most people, though two days are definitely possible.

Our test of using the phone for calls, social media, web browsing, emails, taking photos, and music playback found a good day and a half was possible, and if you pushed it a little more and managed to relax a bit, you’d find those two days were possible, though it might get a little strained on the back half.


All up, though, a performance of one to two days is about in line with other handsets, and Sony’s strength in battery life is certainly noticed here.

Unfortunately, storage isn’t on your side with the M4 Aqua, and that appears to be one area where Sony has really skimped.



Seriously, 8GB is all you get, and that’s not even available for you to play with, as only 1 to 2GB is sitting there waiting for you by the time you’ve activated the phone.

That is nothing. Well, technically it’s a little more than “nothing”, but even entry-level phones tend to offer more storage than this.


Granted, you’ll at least find a microSD slot for expanding the memory, a move you will definitely want to do if you end up with this phone, as the tiny amount of storage is just so frustratingly low, we’re not even sure why Sony opted for it in the first place.

We’re told that there may well be a 16GB model, but we haven’t seen it, suggesting Australia won’t be getting it, which means neither will you.

The camera could also do a little better, and is an example of why megapixels don’t always mean everything.


Going simply by the numbers, you might automatically say “well, it has a 13 megapixel camera on the back and a 5 megapixel camera up front, they must be great”, and we’d get where you’re coming from.

Except they’re not the best camera modules on the planet, and the occasionally sluggish performance of the Snapdragon 615 used here doesn’t help much, loading the camera in a second or two compared to the instantaneous reaction seen on the flagship models that look pretty much the same.

When the camera loads, you’ll find the familiar Xperia camera interface which feels like it takes a page from Sony’s compact cameras, complete with an intelligent auto mode that tends to make pictures look nice and pretty, a manual mode that isn’t overly manual, panorama, augmented reality, and the usual dose of extra and downloadable camera modes the Xperia range is known for.

Unfortunately, the results from the camera aren’t mind blowing, with bright daylight being the only time this camera feels like it’s actually performing well.

Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

In daylight, all is well provided you don’t get close to the photos, and you can snap away, though that lack of storage on the phone could make things a little messy forcing you to delete photos quickly.

Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

But at night, the camera falls to pieces, and even Sony’s typically solid low-light friendly tech falls over, producing noisy images with details that are impossible to discern and appear blotchy.

There’s no other way of saying this, but in dark environments, the M4 Aqua’s camera falls over, and while the phone itself can survive a close encounter with the water, its camera captures images that almost appear water-logged.

Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (100 percent crop)
Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (100 percent crop)

Not helping the mediocre results is a lack of timing, as the camera won’t always fire exactly when you want it to. It might, or it might take an extra second or so, which we suspect relates to the processor and the drop in performance we didn’t quite anticipate.

One of the better features from the Z3 and Z3 Compact has made its way over to the M4 Aqua, and that’s the camera button, meaning you should be able to use this under water as a camera provided you go into the camera mode first, firing an image by pressing this button (make sure to run the phone under tap water when you’re done, since its water resistance is modelled on fresh water, not salt or chlorinated).

Unfortunately, even pressing this to fire the shot or holding it down to go into the camera mode isn’t totally timely, and you may find a good second or two before that processor kicks into gear and lets you in.

Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

This sounds vaguely like it might be the processor taking its sweet time, so we really have to question why Sony didn’t spend time tweaking this phone to perform better, and why perhaps an extra gigabyte of RAM hasn’t been installed to make it zip along.

There has to be something to make this phone respond, because right now, the not-overly-impressive responsiveness kind of dents that excellent body design and is fantastically water-proofed microUSB port, of which we would have loved to see on Sony’s other phones.

Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua front-facing camera. Left is 100 percent crop, right is the full image.
Image sample from the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua front-facing camera. Left is 100 percent crop, right is the full image. This selfie camera is doing a little better than the rear camera, but we’re not talking huge wins here.


Sony’s take on the mid-range gets some things right offering that friendly distinctive Sony design for a better price tag, but lets it down in storage and with a camera that just doesn’t feel up to Sony’s regular quality.

If the price were to drop a little below mid-range, we think Sony might be onto something here, though you’d want a little more storage, too. Basically, consider if you have a microSD to add and don’t mind a camera that only works nicely in daylight, otherwise it might just be easier to wait for the Z3 or Z3 Compact to drop in price and spend the extra quid on those.

Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Easy to hold; Upgradeable storage; Water-resistant body with open microUSB (cool!); Battery could last up to two days if need be, though one day is more likely;
Piddling 8GB storage is one of the lowest amounts we’ve seen in ages; Performance can be a little slow; Camera is of a decent megapixel amount, but isn’t the best quality, nor particularly fast;