Best Value: Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
There were many new phones released at MWC, and two of them were flagship devices from two of the leading smartphone vendors. We definitely thought both the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6 were great devices and could have given either them an award for best phone of the show (in fact we did give the S6 another kind of honor).
However, this year we wanted to recognize that not everybody needs (or can even afford) a $600 - $700 (and up) flagship phone. There were quite a few good mid-range phones announced at the show, and while many of them won't be finding their way to North America, one of them, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, will be, and it's our pick for the best value in a handset.
At first glance, the Xperia M4 Aqua looks very similar to Sony's current flagship, the Xperia Z3 — which is great, because the Z3 is one of the best-looking of the current Android flagships. The M4 trades much of the Z3's metal for plastic, but it retains the attractive glass front and back. Like the Z3, the M4 is also waterproof, but it one-ups its older brother by having an uncovered USB charging port while maintaining the IP68 rating.
Inside, it is powered by Qualcomm's mid-range Snapdragon 615 SoC, which sports a 64-bit octa-core CPU (made up of two quad-core A53s, one running at 1.7GHz and one at 1.0GHz) and an Adreno 405 GPU. This should be more than powerful enough to keep things running buttery-smooth on the M4's 5-inch IPS HD display.
The M4 Aqua has a good camera for a mid-range phone, with a 13MP Exmor RS sensor on the back and a 5MP on the front. For software, the M4 Aqua will be the first Sony handset to ship with Android 5 Lollipop, and the build of the OS we tried at MWC was an attractive combination of Google's Material Design language and Sony's own look and feel.
The Xperia M4 Aqua will start at €300, which is about $350 USD, and will be coming this spring to the U.S. initially as an unlocked device directly from Sony. It will also be coming to Canada, both as an unlocked device and from yet-unnamed carriers.