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Do you think it's OK for flagship phones to have plastic designs?

Samsung Galaxy S21 in Phantom Violet
Samsung Galaxy S21 in Phantom Violet (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

If you've been following the smartphone market recently, specifically with some of Samsung's most recent releases, you'll notice a new trend has been gaining popularity within the company. The Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy S20 FE, and Galaxy S21 — all phones we'd consider to be flagships or value flagships — have shipped with a plastic back.

We typically expect higher-priced phones to feature glass backs, but with these handsets, we've been treated to plastic. When being asked to spend $800 or so on a smartphone, does plastic really cut it?

Here's what a few of our AC forum members have to say on the matter:

I like it better than the glass.

ctown81

I would not be opposed to a plastic back on my Note 20 Ultra for several reasons... 1. I have heard the 'glasstic' does not feel cheap 2. I like that it is less likely to shatter if dropped - I've been using my phone with just a skin 3. It should make the phone cost less But I get that others want that ultra premium (but fragile) glass build; I just don't care about the glass. I still...

danhartman26

The plastic back on my S21 feels cheap to me, especially when you tap on it. Samsung could have used a better material IMHO. I don't really care since I always use a case with my phone. I guess it's good in the sense you don't need to worry about the glass back breaking or cracking with a phone drop.

cohoman

I don't mind the plastic back on my S21 at all. Really couldn't care any less that it's not glass. It feels pretty good and doesn't flex at all when pressed. Definitely one of the things I was worried about before even ordering my phone, but I don't regret getting the base S21 at all.

kjjb0204

Now, we want to hear from you — Do you think it's OK for flagship phones to have plastic designs?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

19 Comments
  • I really don't mind, the polycarbonate build is much more durable than the glass sandwich. Besides 99% of consumers use cases anyhow!
  • spot on, how people use phones without cases
  • Fine with me. I use case so don't really notice anyway.
  • I've been saying this since the S6. I don't understand why metal backs and then the more fragile glass backs, became a must. If you want to carry around a phone with no case and an easily scratched, shattered back, that's on you and should not have been considered the "premium" option for everyone.
  • Plastic is easier to scratch than glass.
  • Absolutely. Nobody needs more glass on their phone outwith the screen asking to be shattered and replaced
  • Glass was a fashion, associated with marketing departments pushing the word "premium" as if it meant something. It helped when thinness was an obsession. It was also a bit better at heat dissipation than plastic, and solid metal did not allow wireless charging. Today we have hybrid solutions like the Pixel 5 which has a metal/plastic back.
    Cars don't have chrome bumpers these days because plastics are much better from a functional and durability perspective. Even the most expensive ones have plastic bumpers. The BMW i3 is largely made of plastic,in fact.
    The same should go for phones which have to withstand handling.
  • But those chrome bumpers sure did make a car look good!
  • They will be back someday. Old things become new again.
  • The average consumer didn't ask for glass backs. Apple used it, and phone reviewers raved about it, leaving other OEMs no choice but to follow through with it. Turns out it wasn't a smart material to use especially with the ease of breaking it. Now, same reviewers are open to the use of plastics and are even justifying its implementation🤦🏿‍♂️. My issue is not with plastic backs on "flagship", but with the other specs that come with the device. My Galaxy Note 4 didn't use a glass back, yet it didn't skimp on specs. These days plastic comes with other compromises.
  • You might be confusing average consumers with average phone nerds. I think average consumers care more about form than function when it comes down to it.
  • If we're getting a plastic back, I want to be able to unclip it, take out the battery and undo some torx screws to get into the phone. No reason for plastic to be glued.
  • Easier to waterproof when glued. That said, I'd sacrifice that (I know for some it's 'must-have,' but I've never had an issue where it would have been of value) to have a removable back. Easier to repair... Easy to swap out batteries on the fly... Easy to customize with different backplates (designs, leather, wood, etc)... The modern phone 'ideal' has sold the general public on the idea that one potentially useful attribute and a marketing-crafted aesthetic advantage is better than several more generally useful attributes, durability, cost, ease of repair, and cost of repair.
  • I didn't jump back on the Samsung wagon until I could get a (near) premium phone that wasn't all glass.
  • Glass isn't as bad as I thought. I've had a few now with glass backs and so far I haven't cracked one. However I'm very OK with good quality plastic.
  • Nothing whatsoever wrong with plastic. I prefer it. As others have said most people use cases anyway. That's the reason that I find color to be meaningless.
  • If it's under the case, who cares what it is, as long as it doesn't add to the weight, cost, or fragility of the phone.
  • I don't mind at all. The nice trade-off is the cost savings. I have the plastic-backed Pixel 4a5g. It's a nice feeling plastic and doesn't feel too cheap
    ; I wish it was soft touch like the Nexus 5 or vintage HTC. Plus, I slap on a dbrand skin to avoid grimy fingerprints.
  • Quality plastic feels great, is lighter, more durable, generally less slippery, cheaper, easier to replace than glass. The only advantage of glass is for those who prefer it for the feel or look. And for those, the question is, do you use a case? If so, it's like buying an Armani suit but never taking off the Walmart overcoat that's hiding it.