The smartphone market is near saturation point. Since the craze for powerfully portable pocket computers first picked up in earnest, (arguably) with the launch of the first iPhone back in 2007, dozens, even hundreds of companies have rushed to the table.
With so much competition is there still room for smaller names, without big money behind them, to compete?
In smaller arenas, it seems as though a resounding ‘yes’ is the answer. Xiaomi in China and Micromax in India, among others, have achieved great success within their respective domestic markets. In Spain, relative newcomer ‘BQ’ has followed suit.
Beginning as a small startup in 2010, the firm has grown considerably, and now has its sights set on Europe as a whole, with devices such as the Aquaris M4.5 – part of a range of different sized handsets aimed at different sections of the market.
Available on Pay-As-You-Go from O2 for £100, or £13 per-month with £9.99 upfront, it is certainly priced keenly. But with so many other, higher-profile budget devices, such as the Moto G4 and the Samsung Galaxy J3 now dominating the ring, can the BQ Aquaris M4.5 survive?
A phone is many things, and certainly very personal. To sell something that is at once so uniform in a very individualised way is understandably quite a difficult task.
As such, reading reviews and watching ads, the public is bombarded with specifications and often maudlin attempts at playing the heart, all in an attempt to loosen purse strings.
From a first glance, the Aquaris M4.5 certainly doesn’t look like much. Small, matte black and slightly boxy, it almost avoids attention. This isn’t a phone made to bedazzle punters at the pub.
Holding it for any period of time gives off an altogether different impression though, mostly one of comfort.
With a 4.5-inch screen, weighing in at 115g and at 8.75mm thick, this is a device made for one-handed use, and it really shows.
I have quite small hands (my father’s secret shame), so phablets and anything above 5 inches are generally quite difficult for me to to handle without some serious finger gymnastics. With the Aquaris M4.5, I had no trouble whatsoever, which proved to be slightly liberating.
It also proved to be a snug fit in my partner’s petite mitts, nicely reminiscent of her cherished Nokia Lumia 630. The build material was particularly pleasing, the matte plastic has a pleasant ‘dry’ feel, resisting fingerprints very well.
BQ also publishes some bumph about a ‘Swedish finish’ and a ‘Solar UV coating’, the latter supposedly meaning the handset will handle strong sunshine well. Regardless, it exudes quality rather than cheapness, unlike, say, the Acer Liquid Jade Z.
There are nice touches of symmetry throughout. The 8MP rear-facing camera is positioned with a nicely square cut-out at the top left of the device, flanked by the dual-LED flash.
A subtle ‘BQ’ logo sits in the middle of the back-plate, while all of the various device safety information is tidied along the bottom.
On the top of the phone can be found a slightly off-centre 3.5mm headphone jack. The left side is flush, sporting only two microSIM slots.
At the bottom is a micro USB port for charging and data-transfer, along with two speaker grilles.
Lastly, on the right hand side sits the volume rocker, with the power button slightly below, along with a microSD card slot.
There is a surprise to be found on the front however. A small LED flash for the 5MP front-facing camera, alongside the call speaker, a notification LED, and an ambient brightness sensor. To the bottom can be found three capacitive keys.
In all, though it doesn’t look like much initially, some thought has clearly gone into the design of the Aquaris M4.5. It is distinctive while remaining subtle, a little bold while keeping a strong focus on the basics.