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Sony Xperia M2 Aqua review: The perfect waterproof phone for your shower

Pros

  • Excellent waterproofing
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Low screen resolution for size
  • Bad screen visibility in bright light
  • Chunky design

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As you may have guessed from the name, the Sony Xperia M2 Aqua is a brand new water resistant phone courtesy of the Japanese giant that seems to have made repelling H2O something of a personal vendetta.

Seriously, forget the Xperia Z3, the Sony Xperia M2 Aqua has the highest water resistance-rating for a mass-market smartphone. If you regularly make business calls in the shower, there is no other phone we'd recommend more highly.

However, although Sony's marketing team has been running wild with the M2 Aqua's IP65/68 waterproof rating, it does little to disguise the fact that this is really little more than a special water-resistant edition of the original M2.

We're talking an identical camera, chipset, screen and battery. Even the upgrade to Android 4.4.2 KitKat is negligible, since the original M2 is eligible for the OS boost now anyway.

So is the M2 Aqua just another drop in the smartphone ocean?

Display

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To find out, let's work our way from the outside in starting with the screen. The Sony Xperia M2 Aqua has the same 4.8in LCD display of its predecessor with a 540 x 960 pixel resolution and a 229 ppi (pixels per inch) sharpness. It's alright, but for the size of the screen we had been crossing our fingers for a higher resolution. Menus and image quality are not quite as crisp as they could be.

Protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3, the M2 Aqua certainly offers a decent enough screen – but you won't be doing cartwheels over it. For a display that falls close to the 5in mark, the resolution is a little on the low side.

The absence of oleophobic coating also means the handset collects fingerprints pretty quickly, and is pretty reluctant to get rid of them even after a good bit of breath and polish. Pair that with poor visibility outdoors - largely thanks to the very reflective screen - and you may struggle to read texts while standing in bright sunlight.

Still, the viewing angles have been drastically improved with an IPS matrix that also reduces contrast loss, and when you head indoors the screen's brightness and contrast is impressive.

Design

At first glance the Sony Xperia M2 Aqua looks pretty similar to its predecessor. Then your second and third peek you realise that it's virtually identical. The new smartphone has exactly the same 8.66mm thickness, and is only a fraction of a millimetre taller and wider. With some pretty bulky bezels, the M2 Aqua could definitely have slimmed down somewhat.

Just a single gram was added to the weight - a rather impressive fact considering the IP certification - and the improved water resistance has meant that the micro USB port and 3.5mm headphone hack have been sealed with water-tight flaps.

The only real major aesthetic change is the back, which has been given a smooth, matte face-lift. Compared to the M2's original glossy rear, the new backing feels much nicer and won't collect offensive finger smudges every time you pick the handset up.

Speaking of which, the Xperia M2 Aqua isn't a particularly compact smartphone. You can use it single-handedly, and it's by no means uncomfortable to hold, but it does lack a certain grace. For example, its thickness won't stretch your palm to breaking point – but it's definitely noticeable.

Processor

Snapdragon 400 is a fashionable processor choice across this generation of Sony midrange devices, and its competitors' equivalents. Still, a Snapdragon 400 and a qHD screen are the specs of last season's mini smartphones, but in fact some rivals have managed to pack a 720p screen into a Snapdragon 400 chipset. If Sony wasn't so focussed on waterproofing and turned its attentions to a higher screen resolution, everything might be just that bit crisper.

Camera

The Sony Xperia M2 Aqua comes fitted with an LED flash on its 8-megapixel camera. A hardware shutter key will please users who prefer the feel of a solid button when taking photos, and in general those photos are good quality.

Outdoors especially, the images are sharp with good contrast. Indoors and in poor lighting the photos can come out a little grainy, but in general the camera copes well.

There's a fun feature called "Augmented Reality" that allows you to overlay virtual worlds (like a rampaging T-rex) over your scene. It's a fun mode that will definitely please kids, though bitter adults may want to give that one a miss and instead take advantage of other modes like "Timeshift." Here you can capture 30 shots in just two seconds – and intruigingly the M2 Aqua will start shooting even before you've pressed the shutter button.

Shooting video isn't quite as polished as taking pictures. The Xperia M2 Aqua can shoot videos in 1080p at 30fps, but the quality occasionally stutters. Colours also tend to be exaggerated, but the exposure is of sound quality with decent enough dynamic range.

Battery

While on paper the Sony Xperia M2 Aqua has the same battery life of the original M2, it's been boosted by the better-optimised Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS. Its predecessor only had Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and what a difference an up-to-date operating system makes.

In our tests, we found that the Aqua lasted for 75 hours before having to be recharged when it was just sitting in standby. With normal use of regular texts, calls, and occasional web browsing and gaming we found that the battery lasted for 44 hours, meaning you don't need to charge the M2 Aqua everynight.

Of course, engaging Sony's Stamina mode will stretch this even further. It extends battery life by switching off Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and background apps when the screen is switched off – and that certainly makes a difference.

Verdict

It's key to stress that this is in no way a new smartphone in its own right. The Sony Xperia M2 Aqua is just that: a slightly upgraded, waterproofed version of the original M2.

Still, while it's by no means going to make headlines, the handset is sure to make waves in the midrange market as a decent waterproof option. Before now water-proofing was a selling point of the flagship, but the M2 Aqua has cracked open a new market for H20 repelling handsets.

The downsides are that while the M2 Aqua's build is solid, it sometimes feels a little too solid. For the screen size, it's fractionally too big and heavy. Team that with a reasonably low pixel density on the screen, and despite good brightness and contrast, the M2 Aqua definitely feels towards the lower end of the market's price range, despite its high-end waterproofing.

Speaking of which, pricing details have not yet been revealed, but we've reached out to Sony and will keep you updated on the company's response.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
Network 4G
Processor 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Ram 1GB
Memory 8GB
Memory expansion MicroSD
Display 4.8in
Main camera 8-megapixel
Front camera 1.1-megapixel
NFC Yes
Wi-Fi Yes
GPS Yes
FM radio Yes
Battery 2,330 mAh
Size 5.51 x 2.83 x 0.34 in (WxDxH)
Weight 149g
OS Android 4.4.2 KitKat

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