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We asked, you told us: Metal vs Glass, so why did Plastic get you talking?

Do you prefer smartphones made of glass or metal? It was an innocent question, a response to what we’re seeing as a current trend around the smartphone industry, as flagships – possibly even including the coming Pixel 3 – go for all glass front and back, leaving the days of metal behind.

And those are the only two materials that are being seen in most new phones that we cross paths with. The days of polycarbonates and plastics seem to be over, while ceramic was tried but makes are moving away from it given the additional weight that material inflicts on a device.

Now, it’s not like this hasn’t been coming for awhile. Roughly two years ago, we asked you to tell us your favorite material for a smartphone, with metal/aluminium smashing the competition. Glass was in distance in second.

Of course, there is a tradeoff here. Unlike metal shields, glass is far more permeable for radio signals for improved wireless and LTE performance, along with the much more obvious benefit of wireless charging. On the flip side, dropping your phone without a case is always going to be dicey with an all-glass phone. And don’t forget that the iPhone X glass back costs more than $500 to replace. New phones forcing you get to a case if you’re at all sensible defeats the purpose of those nice designs.

This week’s vote jumped up again after a low last week that focused on the HTC U12 Plus, a phone that has its nice features but Jimmy’s review found some odd problems as well.

More than 60,000 of you chipped in on the website, on our YouTube poll, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Oh, and more thing – on our website poll we gave you the ‘other’ option and invited comments to see what was most popular after metal or glass.

Overall the votes had their swings back and forth but it’s clear that metal is a winner here, no matter where you found your way to a poll be it on social media or the website here.

Unleash the comments!

The comments had their usual passionate arguments but one thing that did come through us was the number of people that wrote in seeking a polycarbonate or plastic-backed phone. Honor 7A, anyone?

Here’s a little of  what you said:

  • Metal/aluminum. I prefer metal to glass … But I’ll have no problem with a polycarbonate “plastic” phone like the Lumia series with both durability and wireless charging.
  • I choose metal because it can withstand drops. A glass back is slippery and can easily be shattered. Even if I buy a phone with glass I will use case which hides the beautiful design of glass. I think most users will feel the same.
  • Metal/aluminum – wireless charging is nice but with quick charge tech, a more durable phone is better.
  • Polycarbonate. Great durability, offers a little flex, still transmits signals.
  • Glass, but only for wireless charging. Outside of that, my favorite “feeling” phone was my OnePlus One with the Sandstone back. It just felt solid and enjoyable to hold.
  • So funny. When some of us were perfectly happy with the feeling of the G3, everyone else complained that it wasn’t “premium” feeling enough. Fast forward to a wave of slippery, easily broken glass back phones and everyone wants plastic back. Plastic always made sense.

All these plastic fans! Will any manufacturer be crazy enough to try a quality, high-end device with a plastic back to test out these waters? Or are we all just the enthusiast community that always makes demands?

The problem with these devices was just how ordinary they looked in comparison. There’s a huge percentage of people who want good looks. I’ve been writing a throwback this week to the old Samsung Galaxy designs that were ugly or just strange. And as the last comment above notes, everyone agreed that plastic wasn’t premium enough on a flagship, especially when compared to the iPhone at the time. The Samsung Galaxy S5, in particular, had the old band-aid looking back:

Plenty in the Android Authority team fondly remember this device and its derivatives, such as the S5 and S5 Mini above for its nice hand feel, but the design was so roundly criticised that Samsung shuffled their design team and from the stunningly fresh Samsung Galaxy S6 onwards, didn’t touch polycarbonate again in its flagships. And, has done pretty well since, thanks for asking.

I’d be amazed if we saw a polycarbonate design any time soon from a major manufacturer. It’s been too hard for the likes of Essential to emerge as it is, let alone being able to survive being called cheap. And for all the love we saw for Lumias, the Nokia line for Microsoft didn’t sell. It’d be great to see if anyone could pull it off! See you next week!

 

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