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My my my, what an interesting year this has been for phones.

This year, Apple really does have its work cut out for it when it comes to making a product that can beat what’s out this year. But what if you want something from the slate of Android phones out now: what’s the best Android for your money?

We’ve reviewed them all, and then some, spending time with them in our lives and used them as a real phone, so let’s see just which is better from our point of view, working this out not just in different areas, but really getting down to the nitty gritty for those of you who just aren’t sure yet.

Design and build

We’ll start with the most obvious one for all these handsets: the look, and then the feel, and they all have something different to offer here.

Samsung, for instance, has taken an approach closer to what it offers in its tablets, with a plastic body, shiny faux metal trim, and a dimpled back to give the feeling that you’re holding a fabric or leather-bound handset that won’t slip out of the hands.

It’s comfortable, that’s for sure, but well built it isn’t, feeling more like plastic and less like a strengthened material like metal or aluminium.

LG has taken a similar approach, adopting plastic in the design but painting it to look metal. That’s a slightly better approach, and the G3 feels a touch stronger than the S5 and just as comfortable, but it’s still plastic.

HTC and Sony are thinking along the same lines, however, making their phones out of premium materials.

In the case of HTC’s One M8, it’s mostly made out of aluminium, and we’re not kidding on that, with a brushed aluminium making up around 90 percent of the handset’s design, with glass the rest thanks to the screen. It’s certainly schmick, and it feels fantastic and solid in the hands, too.

Sony’s Xperia Z2 has a similar approach, taking aluminium for the sides and encasing the rest of the handset in glass, making it feel very premium, similar to what Apple did with the iPhone 4 and LG with its Optimus G, the first in the G series handset.

Our only quibble with the Xperia Z2 design is that it’s so angular that it can ruin pants and jeans, as we found out when we carried it around for an extended amount of time.

Ruggedisation

Making a phone water and dust proof is now a thing, because you’re going to take it out of the office, so why not make it as durable as humanly possible?

In this year’s four flagship fighters, only two are slightly ruggedised, with water and dust resistance applied to the Sony Xperia Z2 and Samsung’s Galaxy S5. You can probably get the HTC One and LG G3 a little bit wet, but don’t expect them to perform like what Sony and Samsung have provided.

Both have protection against water and dust, but to different limits, and keep in mind, if you want these to keep resisting these elements and not succumb to a watery grave or die a dusty death, you need to leave their little plug ports closed when the particles or droplets hit.

For those unaware of IP ratings, it stands for “Ingress Protection” and is an international rating to determine levels of resistance to elements that don’t normally agree with electrical components. We’ve seen it in devices before, but up until 2013, they were generally very bulky, so its introduction in slim-line phones is a pretty serious development.

In IP ratings, the first number relates to dust or “solid particle” protection, while the second is about liquids.

Samsung’s S5 relies on an IP67 rating, and when you break that down, that means it is protected against all dust (6) making it dust tight, while the 7 means the Galaxy S5 can survive contact with water for an immersion of up to a metre.

Sony’s Z2 has an IP58 rating, which cuts back on the dust protection a bit, bringing it to mostly dust protected though some might get in, while the 8 in the IP rating means the Xperia Z2 can go beyond one metre in depth, though usually only to a maximum of three metres.

The time you spend with that phone under water will probably be small-ish, with around 15 to 30 minutes the most you’ll want to use it for at one time, but it’s still a pretty decent amount of time with a phone underwater, so that’s something.

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