The great plastic debate of 2013: is plastic really that bad?

by: Bogdan PetrovanMarch 18, 2013

plastic Credit: puuikibeach/Flickr

Samsung is keeping with the tradition of using plastic cases on its flagship devices. The use of plastic is a polarizing issue, but is it really that bad as some commentators put it?

Disclaimer: I am likely to be called a Samsung fanboy anyway, but for the record, I love the design of the glass-backed Xperia Z and Nexus 4.

Let’s do an experiment. Read any post about the newly unveiled Samsung Galaxy S4, on Android Authority or on other sites. Look at the comments. I am willing to bet that most posts will have at least one comment complaining about the plastic build of the device. Ranging from well-thought criticism to downright trolling, these comments seem to suggest that having a flagship made of (gasp) plastic is a disgrace, a stigma bore only by fly-by-night sweatshops in China.

But is plastic really that bad? Do we need more aluminum, glass, carbon fiber, unicorn skin (what?) in our lives? And why do we get so worked up over the materials that go into devices that we aren’t going to buy anyway?

Plastic vs polycarbonate

First off all, repeat after me: polycarbonate is plastic. I say this because, from time to time, there will be a stray commenter or even tech writer suggesting that the polycarbonate on phone X is better than the plastic on phone Y. Well, it isn’t, just like a Mercedes isn’t better than a car.

The flexible backplate of the Galaxy S4 is polycarbonate, just like the hard unibody of the HTC One X. It’s just that they were processed, shaped, and finished in very different ways.

plastic vs aluminum

Plastic isn’t inherently bad

People seem to hate the plastic on the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S4, but it probably has more to do with the way Samsung has designed its devices than with the actual material.

My guess is many people dislike the glazed finish of Samsung’s phones and hate the fact that the phones feel squishy, even flimsy. So people criticizing plastic actually complain about how the devices are built.

Of course, the final design of any phone is based on many hours of research, design work, prototyping, and evaluating. There are many factors to consider, and the price of the device is just one of them. In other words, Samsung doesn’t make its devices from thin plastic just to save a few dollars per unit.

Sure, price is an important factor, but it’s balanced by many others, from production planning (where do you source 100 million aluminum unibodies from?), to design (thicker plastic adds girth), to engineering (metal bodies stop radio waves).

Plastic has advantages for users as well. It allows for lighter devices. It makes replacing a scratched back plate affordable. It doesn’t chip like anodized aluminum or crack like glass. And for many users, it feels better. I personally hate using devices that I perceive as fragile.

I know some people like their devices to look premium: “If I paid 500 bucks on a phone, it better look like it!” I guess this logic would make the new Vertu Ti (clad in titanium and sapphire crystal) the ultimate Android smartphone, right? Not really, I think we all agree.

Why all the hate?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should embrace plastic. You’re free to love metal or whatever floats your boat. Diversity is what makes Android strong.

I am just saying you should live and let live. You may prefer aluminum or glass. Or better said, your favorite company might prefer those materials. But that doesn’t mean everything made of plastic is cheap crap you should dismiss. And more importantly, using a certain phone doesn’t give you the license to insult people that prefer other devices.

We’re all Android fans here. Why don’t we act like it instead of endlessly arguing over which phone is made of the “better” material?

  • Emma

    good article

  • Balraj

    you are a Sammy boy
    misleading article
    your indirectly telling ppl to compromise on looks for better software
    what’s the use of diamonds packed in a plastic box…yuk

    • Noob_Pawner

      are you sure you aren’t biased?it certainly seems like it,cuz i found the article to be quite neutral in nature.

      • Balraj

        it’s not that I don’t like Sammy
        it’s just that the plastic build doesn’t justify the flagship device s4 is
        like they are so many cheap Android devices which duplicate Samsung design and the worst part is even those ppl use plastic
        for example micromax, many other China companies
        so ppl will not recognise Sammy in the crowd and many ppl will mistake it for a cheap device unless you call them personally abd tell them
        that’s why I’m upset over the new s4
        look at apple, even at a slight glance ppl will tell you have a iPhone
        same thing can be said about new htc
        so I’m no fan not do I hate Sammy
        it’s just that it’s not worth compromising on a flagship device

        • WestIndiesKING

          So you are upset that that Sammy doesnt help you show off your new shiny toy to the public? Lol so its not about the build quality for you its about being able to show off the device? Hahahahaha

          I dont have a problem with the plastic as long as it feels good in the hand and strong. I have owned all types of devices and even thou im rocking the Nexus 4 now i wouldnt mind a plastic device. Plastic handles drops better then metal and absorbs impact better then metal.

        • uu

          pls stop this!!! u sucks!!! read the article firSt
          @the frst place, ur not the manufacturer..
          they are selling million of phones, so it will be hard for the to take MINUTES to build metal form just for one phone!
          u dont know abt cost and other manufacturing factors!

        • If you were to drop your metal clad phone on a hard surface, what do you think is going to absorb the impact? Yup, you guessed it, the class screen! Plastic on phones are good for absorbing impact. Thus lessening the the amount of pressure going to the class screen.

        • I always laugh quietly to myself whenever I see someone using an iPhone with a smashed front or rear panel. I’ve dropped my S3 countless times and apart from a small scratch on the back its relatively unscathed from its encounters with the floor.

        • Kiran Kumar

          Ha haha haa ..Thats so funny bro!
          I bet you, i can show you dozen chinese manufacturers which makes apple copy phones.

          “so ppl will not recognise Sammy in the crowd and many ppl will mistake it for a cheap device unless you call them personally abd tell themHEY THIS IS SAMSUNG S4!!!”

          Without identity, would you think sammy sold 50m SGS3?

          And if you want your beloved flagship not to be plastic, simple,go buy another phone which is built with metals,glasses!
          Class dismissed!!

    • [email protected]@#

      Pls… nobody’s perfect… if you don’t like plastic then who cares!? a phone is used not to be dropped… it is use for communication to one another!? what’s wrong with plastic anyway!? plastic is much safer than metal… besides if you hold metal on your ear when you have a phone call in a cold, winter night it would feel like you’re holding an ice cube than a phone… and what’s a metal box if there is no diamonds in it!? besides… your an apple fanboy…

      • Balraj

        I’m not a apple fanboy
        I don’t own one…..

        btw I’m not like who would compromise on a flagship
        plastic might not be bad but it’s not the best material for a flagship device either

      • Kiran Kumar

        That’s right. I don’t see anyone complaining of cheap plastic used in SGS3 other than in the tech sites. Besides,looks are the last thing to be considered imo.
        Would you go for a black & white phone if its built good n it looks good?
        C’mon ppl,get a life.

    • CyBrix_21

      Still, it is diamonds… Priced higher than you think!

    • Benjo

      Looks are subjective. I personally love the design and back cover of the Galaxy s2, and I think the nexus 7 has one of the best designed tablet bodies. Both of those are plastic. Furthermore is the appearance of the phone’s rear really that important? Few people are ever going to look at it as it is nearly always going to be covered by your hand or a case when in use. Unfortunately as manufacturers are targeting teens and female consumers, who on average have low technical knowledge, colors and flashy materials will continue to become increasingly become the main focus. The Xperia Z’s success in Japan so far with a young market has been more to do with it looking “cute” than it’s actual performance. More informed consumers though really shouldn’t be putting the appearance of the back cover as their priority.

      For back covers, functionality really should be the main focus and plastic offers more advantages. As stated in the article, it allows phones to be lighter. Thinner and generally more durable to shock. Plastics allow backcovers to be easily/quickly removed which allows for quick changing of batteries (something absent on most aluminium glass phones). Flexible plastics can actually avoid cracking more than some of the harder materials and the lower weight of the rear means less force is distributed to the screen in the event of a fall. The rear of an iphone is traditionally more resistant to minor scuffing than your typical plastic phone but that same aluminium is a major contributor into why the iphone’s screen (prior to the 5) was so easy to crack. The most important part of a phone is the screen and that is why plastic phones are generally better.

    • Diamond in a plastic box?.. common. What are you gonna do about it?.. it is still a diamond.. o a question for you.. are you blonde?

  • Emma

    n a related note, can someone please tell me the advantages the HTC One has over the Galaxy S4, apart from the build quality obviously (but I’d use a flip cover for the S4 anyway, so the exterior doesn’t bother me overmuch). Honest question. Really curious.

    • Noob_Pawner

      From a technological standpoint,i honestly can’t find any advantage the HTC one has over S IV,except a better loudspeaker perhaps.

      • LAKAME

        Maybe a higher pixel density? Tho it really really doesn’t matter when the ppi is over 400… :D

        • Jon

          It (one) has a lower pixel density, but larger pixels.

          • Elias Ortega

            Haha the ONE has a higher pixel density at 468 where the Gs4 has it at 441

          • you’re thinking of the camera

    • carlisimo

      Front-facing stereo speakers and low-light photography.

      • the front facing stereo should be better obviously, but the low-light photography part have yet to be proven.

      • taz89

        front facing speakers awesome no doubt, camera on the htc one dont seem as awesome as hyped..comparison between the one and note 2 shows in normal light the note 2 is better and sharper and in low light the one shows more than the note 2 but the colours are overblown where as the note 2 doesnt as much but again sharper…comparisons on

    • Nothing. HTC has really nothing to offer much against Samsung. O wait.. i guess the Aluminum Unibody?.. other than that, nothing.

      • If HTC ditched Sense and added more unique software features then I’m sure it would appeal to more. But other than the camera and audio HTC haven’t really contributed much to the overall functionality of the One.

        Its a average user experience in a nice shell.

  • Rohsn

    It’s about time people started realising that plastic isn’t so bad.
    They want a removable battery and yet hate the phone when it comes with one.

    • MasterMuffin

      ^THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I HAVE BEEN SAYING, people want removable metal back?

      • jmoney510

        The galaxy captivate had a removable metal back piece to get the battery out

        • MasterMuffin

          I’ve heard of it, but it’s from 2010 and ‘murica only so I don’t know anything about it. What I ment was back cover has to bend little for it to be able to get in&off its place, or the phone has to be otherwise plastic, right? It can’t be all metal and metal back cover??

        • Lucas Barbosa

          I had a captivate and it did look good, but I must say that the GPS one that device never worked correctly, and it also had reception issues. Afterall having a metal back implies having the antennas integrated with the metal (like on the htc one) making it harder to have a removable back cover, and therefore a replaceable battery and sd card.

        • The Samsung wave also had a metal cover to take the battery out too.

      • Anybody that still thinks a removable metal back is a good idea should take a look at Nokia n97 mini.

        • MasterMuffin

          I’m looking at it right now, it’s on my desk. Should I see something else than an old symbian phone that is slower than HTC Dream?

          • LOL, No, I was agreeing with yourself and Rohan.
            My point relates to the n97 mini having a stainless steel battery cover.
            What I am saying is that, based on how wear and tear affects the harder metal of stainless steel, I dread to think what sort of state a similar cover, made out of softer metal like aluminium, would be in – especially since nearly every manufacturer is now trying to make their phones thinner as well. Thus everything is slimmed down as much as possible, including battery covers. I’d certainly rather the more forgiving nature of a plastic material any day instead of the prospect of an ultra thin piece of aluminium or whichever metal.

          • Mike A

            You know whats funny? Is that every year we buy thinner and thinner phones, only to see them put in thicker and thicker phone cases.

          • Mike A

            You know whats funny? Is that every year we buy thinner and thinner phones, only to see them put in thicker and thicker phone cases.

          • MasterMuffin

            Okay :D

      • lampion

        take a look at chinese phone, K-Touch W700/ Wellcom A100, a Tegra2 phone with metal back cover

      • X3R0

        I am in an industry that abuses equipment, a lot of this stuff is small and yes its got remove able batters and YES ITS METAL BACKS. So yeah, I fully expect the industry to step up and make removeable aluminum backs its not hard!!

      • Jacob Broussard

        My T Mobile G2 has a removable metal back, and it even locks, keeping it from falling off when I drop the phone. What’s the problem?

    • uzo ufondu

      This is true… I have a Note 2 and don’t mind the plastic at all, matter of fact, it is encased within a case so I don’t even see or feel the back plastic. That being said, the original Motorola Droid had a metal back and it was removable. You just had to apply a little downward pressure and you could slide it off easily. I would like to see a similar, but improved implementation of the back cover on future Samsung phones

      • Rohan Jayaram

        Yea, but over time the back plate tends to come off very easily.
        And also, if metal’s your thing and is a must, then a unibody is so much better.

        • uzo ufondu

          Yeah I remembered that after I had posted it. After 2 years, the back cover of my Motorola Droid would slide off at the slightest hint of movement…but hopefully Samsung can improve the design. Also I dont think I have a distinct preference for one over the other. I would most likely slap a case on my phone anyway, no matter the build material

    • I’m one of those who don’t give a damn about removable battery, so I have full right to complain about Samsung shitty design :)
      Give me Motorola looks and battery specs, HTC feel and Samsung updates/specs, Sony’s waterproof and I’m sold.

      • MasterMuffin

        + Nokia’s durability :)

    • On a Clear Day

      If you put a decent case on it that is designed to do a good job of protecting the phone – you can’t even see the silly plastic back case. Jeez – perhaps someone ought to point out to those who are taking such umbrage re the plastic that it’s what a phone does, how well it does it, what the screen is like, how fast etc that is important. What are they spending their time doing – looking at the face of the phone or its back? Some people obviously get high off bitching.

  • There are good plastics (e.g. Nokia 920 and HTC One X) and there are bad ones (like the toy plane in the picture). I had a One X and even if it plastic (polycarbonate), it feels very solid and it has a nice feel to it.

    I cannot say the same to the feel of the plastic in an S3. not sure of the sturdiness of the S3 as I never had one.

    also it’s bad to charge premium price for plastic. Like in a car. a cheap car would have cheap plastics in the interior while a more expansive ones have nicer plastics.

    • taz89

      i think as the author stated the hyper glaze doesnt help make it feel as good as a matte finished plastic also lets not forget the samsung devices have a removable back cover which will always feel less solid than a unibody plastic, thats just the way it when you compare a solid piece to multiple own s3 has no issues at all, no cracks or creaks or loose back cover but i agree the glossy finish doesnt make it feel as good but i have a matte plastic case so it doesnt bother also if you really hate the shiny back you can always buy an alternate 3rd part matte or aluminium back cover from ebay etc

  • Henry Léon

    Nice Post! ツ
    # I personally always give respect to any kind of useful technology product even it is made from a looked-like unuseful or cheap material, like plastic.
    # Many people know the benefits of plastic material for a phone’s body, while many others just believe its lacks.
    # I would rather have and carry a light gadget with heavy quality specs than a heavy gadget with light quality specs. It could be a smart design.

  • itznfb

    Why all the hate? The plastic S3 goes back and forth with the iPhone as the best selling single phone. I don’t think there is much hate. That being said… I do hate it. I own a Galaxy Nexus and a Nexus 4. The Galaxy Nexus is probably one of the best feeling plastic phones out there. It still just feels gross in my hand though. It’s flimsy, it creaks and it just looks like something you’d buy at toys r us for your infant to play with. Compare that with the N4 and it’s a completely different story. A solid, well built, professional looking device with a gorgeous pixelated glass back. It’s just a completely different feeling when in hand.
    In the enthusiast crowd many of us want top notch devices and that includes the look and feel of the device. The plastic body of the Galaxy series just doesn’t fit that category.

  • Akhsdcool

    See man I don’t care if my phone is made with plaster of Paris but the s3 drops and breaks without a fight and I hate that the htc are way better so if youwant to make plastic make it a little strong please

    • MasterMuffin

      No it doesn’t brake easily, I dropped my sgs3 from my pocket straight to gravel and glass got few minor scratches, but the plastic didn’t take any damage. Plastic FTW if the hardware still kicks everyone’s arse!

      • Akhsdcool

        See man I am not against you but mine broke not one but twice on marble and once with a rugged case on so don’t drop your phone one more time cause it is weak amazing but very weak
        I will grab the htc one as soon as it huts the market in my area

        • Benjo

          I’ve used an S2 for 2 years and a S3 (work phone) for nearly a year and between them they have survived about a dozen falls on concrete from around shoulder height. I am not actually much a samsung fan and I dislike a lot of the choices they make but I cannot find fault in the durability of their phones. The s3 does seem like it would break more easily than the S2 but so far it has taken a lot more abuse and is still without even a single crack or major scratch.

        • CoolCustomer

          I can see where you are coming from and the problem with drops is that it is all about speed and angle. If you drop any phone and it makes contact at the wrong angle it will just be destroyed (figuratively of course) regardless of build material. I had two cheap-ish phones (myTouch 4g slide) the first one I dropped as I left the store screen was unusable. The replacement I got dropped a few months later while I was running and then bounced an inch off the ground enough for me to kick it as I tried to stop so it went skipping across a parking lot, scratches on the plastic but no other damage. All depends on how it drops.

  • Arlee Carlo Repunte

    plastic is perfect

  • nishantsirohi123

    This nonsense was started by “crapple” despite the fact that the earlier idevices were plastic saying “don’t settle for cheap plastic”
    so all those calling shots for the device as plastic, even rolls royce has plastic in its interiors. what makes the device is the feel. The windscreen in cars is also plastic.

    and half of the “metal clad” phones these days are not really metal, it is plastic made to look like metal. yes that is the beauty of the flexibility
    something like android, with its flexibility that you have devices from entry level that cost 50$ to 700$ megalodon devices
    too bad it is these rigid dumbs here

  • Can’t deny the fact that HTC One & Xperia Z both are beautiful phones…

    Given the HUUUGE number (millions) of phones that Samsung has to manufacture …. its perfectly justifiable for them to use high quality plastic….

    Other that that… Samsung also makes TVs , Ultrabooks , SSDs & soo many other things… SO I guess they have to maintain a balance between all of them regarding what materials they will use & how much they’re gonna use…

    If they start using materials that people want … they will end up spending too much on a particular product (in this case smartphone) …. which will affect other products & the end user will also have to pay the elevated price…

    Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong anywhere…

    We are all family guys …. HTC Sammy Sony whatever is your choice … At the end , Android is what we are talking about.. :)

  • people want an iphone or htc one because of metal/aluminum and then they will put a plastic case on it as MOST people do….

  • gadgetguy1

    So funny listening to the iphone users trash the phone because its made of plastic, yet the first thing they do is buy a plastic case to put it in

  • Anirudh Singh

    right, HTC one for me please !

  • I have my outdated Droid Bionic and love the feel of it with the Moto. extended battery and case. I held the GS3 with out the Otterbox or siedo case and I felt like the HULK, it felt more like a toy than a manly device. Though plastic is not bad but for paying a high price, for a device I would expect a better design targeted toward a more manly appeal. But buying the 3500mah Siedo battery and case makes a big difference but not many will dish out $70 for a battery or $54 for a case. Plastic is good to a certain extent look at our old American Muscles for example an how they turned into basically plastic expensive legos.

  • Sérgio Martins

    So the phone with the best hardware and software specs is made of plastic…so what, still the best. Cant wait for that plastic in my hands :)

  • chris

    Great article!! Thanks for thinking outside of the box …Thumbs up!

  • I think our main problem is a societal one – by that I mean we are so darned hard to please when some countries are still struggling to get fresh water, sanitation and sufficient food – and we argue over what our phones look like.

    We need to get a sense of perspective – and also a sense of ownership. If you don’t like a phone, quite simply – don’t buy it. No-one is forcing you to buy this, or that device. As a small business owner myself I know that you just cannot please everybody and the wider your target market the greater the likelihood of not pleasing people becomes, because tastes and perceived needs vary so drastically.

    I personally like the lightweightedness of my Samsung Galaxy and I prefer that to the weight of my friends’ iPhones. The larger screen suits my larger fingers and I’m happy. I don’t mind if you have a Blackberry, iPhone or anything else.

    That is, my friends, the supreme luxury we have in our society – choice. So enjoy the freedom to choose and choose well to suit your needs and tastes. :)

    • William

      I agree, plus it bothers me how people will talk bad about a device just because of it’s lower resolution. Yet people in 2nd/3rd world countries are lucky if they have the basics.

    • Very well said.. to sum it all, it is a First World Problems.

  • CH

    i am fine with plastic as long as the plastic does not degrade like some of the china low quality plastic.. glass and metal once dented or cracked, look worst than plastic anyway

  • Gurth Brookz

    Who cares what its made of or how thick it is. Almost every person excluding myself puts an ugly case on their phone turning it into a rubber/plastic thicker phone. Worry about what the phone does not what it looks like. (Note 2 Owner)

  • williamworlde

    Off the top Disclaimer: I currently own a Samsung GNex. Though it has a plastic casing, with its gunmetal colour and diamond/carbon-designed back-plate, it looks rich – to me at least. If I’m paying upwards of $600 – and with my taxes here in Canada, that’s roughly $700 – my device, dammit, MUST not only function well, but look good too! I think Samsung has failed miserably in that regard.

    Funny thing beauty lying (funny thing too this English!) in the eye of the beholder though because I think the equally plastic Windows Samsung Ativ is a beautiful device! Maybe I just like the colour gunmetal; actually, I do. PLUS, it has splashes of metal. Maybe I like it because it has “metal” in its name; it sure looks like it.

    When I changed my beautiful iP 3GS late last year, I *almost* chose the beautiful 4S “free” from my SP. THAT is a rich-looking device, though it MUST have a case to shield that same glass and metal beauty.

    Plastic has been about cost, availability and flexibility, not about beauty. My brand-name digital camera, stereo, DVD, in fact anything of great value to me, is made primarily of metal.

    More expensive cars consist of metal, leather and soft-touch interiors, as opposed to their cheaper plastic, vinyl and brittly cousins.

    In our society, we have created scaled values. Though some of that may have more valid reasons, e.g., copper is a better electrical conductor than aluminum, generally speaking our value system is created by our own whims. This is the reason that although gold and silver are metals, one is of way more value than the other. (I know, I know; gold is an excellent conductor too!)

    It’s also the reason that the fashion pundits will say “grey” is in this summer and the non-thinking masses will be wearing grey in summer! It’s the same reason people will create these “discussions” and other people – like me – will respond to it. Hmmm…..

  • Apple_Nexus

    The plastic iPhones felt cheap and the plastic Android phones also feel cheap. Plastic feels cheap because it is cheap!

    I was looking at a Samsung G3 the other day. I thought it was a dummy phone with all the plastic and the unrealistic screen colours. :)

    The new Samsung G4 costs over £500 but is still made of plastic. The Nexus 4 IS a cheap phone but looks much better quality.

  • RK

    I think the problem is not really about the plastic, but how the actual design. Samsung’s design is just not that attractive comparing to HTC’s

  • Elias Ortega

    I think most people are complaining because Samsung has so much money that they could invest in design research, making a phone design of premium materials, aluminum is light also. Samsung has the money, they’re just too lazy.

  • Maybe those people loving glass and aluminum are crazy. after they had their phone they buy some protective cases which is made of PLASTIC ..

  • JWolf_PDX

    Why all the concern over the material? As has already been said most people put a case on their phone. That and hasn’t it been proven that metal interacts poorly with the phone’s antennas causing signal strength issues? Have those all been fully resolved? I don’t know that I’m convinced. To the people that need to show their phones off, really? I can’t think of anyone I’d want to be around less than someone who places some level of status or coolness on what their phone is made of. At the end of the day isn’t it more about what’s under the hood and what the device can do anyway?

  • Actually is not the plastic issue, it was the design problem. Plastic can be high quality look, but Samsung plastic look cheap.

  • oooooz

    Most people seem to put some sort of case on a phone, so i don’t see how it matters what the phone is made of.

  • AP007

    let say your back plate got damaged (twisted out of shape) I am sure it would be more expensive than a plastic back, also the making of a whole device to support metal parts is more expensive. I personally don’t mind plastic but I think a bit of textured feel may actually help, I liked the i9100 back.. however at the end of the day I think it’s what your phone can do should be the deciding factor, not a premium feel and all do get to do is say “hello” and send a text..

  • Odhiambo Ombewa

    Samsung has made phones with metal, they will do it again whe time comes!

  • Easy

    Wonderful post! I have S3 and don’t even remember it is plastic till I read a comment or article.

  • doode

    It’s not that they use plastic. It’s doesn’t even matter whether it is cheap or expensive plastic. It’s that it FEELS like cheap crap plastic.

  • Bruce Low

    Anyway people who are buying an iPhone or any phone that is made of glass or aluminum are buying a plastic case. So stop wining.

  • Sal

    Thank god that this aritcle was published! I’m tired of people whining about the plastic that Samsung uses and how cheap it feels. First off I own a Samsung smartphone and the back plastic design has a nice feel to it. I actually like the design with the Samsung logo imprinted on back. I also like that I can easily remove the plastic back cover just to get access to the battery whenever I encounter problems. There really is nothing

  • Poldaddy

    as a engineering designer of plastic parts i can say that plastic CAN (not alwasy is) better than metal, particularly aluminium. engineering plastics are now being made that are lighter and stronger than AL, but can be injection moulded, so much cheaper. i don’t think the issue is with the body design or construction, but how the internals are held in place. if i am dropped off a building in a fridge, it might survive, but i would defenintely be injured, as would a phones internal parts when falling out of your pocket. drop proofing is a big design challenge, that most people wouldn’t want to pay for

  • I don’t mind plastic materials on mobile devices. I like my device to be light but sturdy. Samsung has done that with the S3 and probably the S4. I don’t get why anyone would want to carry around an aluminum brick in their pocket… Oh well.

  • vampyren

    I totally agree with this article, i have had iphone for ages and actually dont like the unibody for the exact reason you mention, one scratch and thats is it. I love to be able to pop open the back cover to replace SD, battery or even the cover to a new unscratched one. Also it contribute to the weight factor. S3 feels really solid in the hand so i dont understand the complain from people either, its like looks is more important the usability and features nowdays.

  • tBs_Battousai

    “Live and let live”, nice thought and something we should all be working towards but I’m starting to actively stop reading the comments due to all the hate and negativity… not just here but all sites… some people can’t understand that we are all different and that we live our lives in different ways….

  • Roberto Tomás

    I agree. Plastic has tons of advantages, from easily to assemble (and therefore reassemble), to lightweight, to being cheap to replace when dealt with too roughly. Plastic is not that bad. And as much as I like aluminium, it is also the least likely phone design to have even a whisper of water resistance or ruggedness.

  • Everybody complaining about the Galaxy design and this and that. So having a phone made with aluminum equates to being premium. Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t the first and second generation of the IPhone made up of, ohh I don’t know “PLASTIC”. You gotta understand the choice of materials Samsung chooses which helps them manufacture their phones at an accelerating pace. I’ll choose tech and software performance over aesthetics any day. Besides Samsung does not do a shabby job in terms of design. I lot of consumers have noted it feels nice in the hand when holding it despite its looks. It’s just a matter of subjectivity. For all intent and purposes it shouldn’t be a deciding factor when buying a phone.

  • X3R0

    I think plastic is great!!! But when you mix it with glass, circuit boards and LCD displays you have an issue. Example, my plastic s3 flexed in my pocket, the amoled display didn’t, cost me 250$ this plastic phone of mine. I love plastic on kids toys, but these aren’t kids toys… My next phone will be an aluminium and glass bodied phone, the only thing I miss about my iPhone 4s… Never again will I buy a Samsung phone… Ever

  • Nicely done bro. I’m using an S3, plastic is not that bad. And youre right, if it scratches, we can just replace it with a cheaper one. Unlike aluminum unibody (what?) If it s dented, what now?

  • Benedict Tan

    My 2cents is that plastic isn’t bad at all. I really enjoyed the build of my Galaxy S2 and personally I’d have better piece of mind if my Nexus 4 wasn’t glass backed.

    But both those phones have pleasing aesthetics. The issue I have with the S3 and S4 generation of Samsung devices is not that they are made with plastics; it’s that they are fugly as hell.


    Bogdan Petrovan better than nate swanner

  • Sara

    Nokia e6 had a removable faux metal/aliminium/whatever-it-was back and the battery was removable – held up pretty good even to this day. Pretty much plastic, especially white glossy, flexible plastic (aka s3/s4 and note2), is always horrible to look at. Note; i said ‘pretty much’. But it’s more durable since it usually just chips or even crack a bit if you drop it (e.g s3). Again it’s down to personal preference. And honest if you don’t use a case and drop your phone even by accident you deserve to have your phone break and the screen crack. I mean, seriously how F’ING hard is it to buy a $2 case from eBay? Sometimes even less than $2! Thin, clear case. It’s not that hard people! Geez then you complain when you drop your phone and the screen cracks. Idiots!

    • Mike A

      If all it takes is a $2 case, why cant phone manufacturers $2 worth of more protection and not give us sub par phones. Plastic, metal or glass.

  • roy

    wow… very long thread.. my eyes ache a little from reading.. i have nothing against plastic, or metal or anything.. owning a high-end phone is a privilage..

  • The Boeing Dreamliner is revolutionary in its construction using plastic for its shell. Does this make the aircraft cheap and tacky? More and more things are made from plastics everyday, it probably puts less strain on the use of natural materials so in my eyes its a good thing providing it can be recycled.

  • Mark Mann

    i prefer metal to plastic, but, i could quite honestly care less what the phone is made out of…my experiences with samsung phones are horrible, that’s why i don’t like samsung

  • Lots of misconceptions here. I work for and we stock hundreds of types of plastic. There are some that need to be handled with care, but many, such as those used in the production of toys and cell phone covers are extremely safe. Metals have their own risks as well, and plastics used in manufacturing have more desirable properties than they did a decade ago. Materials are lighter, stronger, disperse heat better (like the battery) and are more durable. I have a lot less stress dropping my plastic S3 than I did my iPhone.


    I agree with you, it even helps in cooling the phone, and the light weight, and another thing, “fragile” phone, oops, Long live Samsung.

  • Are metal unibody form factors and uSD cards mutually exclusive, because while I can live without a removable battery as long as the battery is 3,000mah plus no removable storage is a non starter.

  • Lilith_Black

    Removable metal backs are not durable (easily scratched, chipped and dented)
    Plastic glossy etc is alright it’s just that I prefer the more matte textures that some have (like the nexus 5) where the plastic does not feel sticky