Is metal really a better material than plastic on phones?
As any follower of the smartphone industry knows, we're living in an age where OEMs are striving for all metal and glass designs in favor of cheaper materials, such as plastic. This is a trend we've seen from Samsung, LG, Google, and plenty others, and while glass and metal might subjectively be more attractive than plastic, are these materials really any better in day-to-day use?
One user on our forums shared his thoughts on how he wished Google had released an updated version of the Nexus 5 in favor of the Pixel 2 that we currently have, and this sparked a discussion of metal/glass vs. plastic when used on phones.
Here's what some people had to say:
Plastic seems to be the favorable material for most people, but there are still some users that like the move to metal/glass.
Now, we pass the question on to you – Do you prefer phones made out of plastic or metal/glass?
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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.
This is all marketing anyway, oooh look, all metal design..but wireless charging won't work. Oooh look all glass design, wireless works, they can be made water proof buy they are fragile as hell, are more finger print magnets than ever and they feel funny to the touch.
Marketing people, it's all marketing and we are all robots buying what we are told!
2. Plastic is not more durable than metal
3. Plastic scratches and basically rubs away over time
4. My Nexus 5x looks like it went through a warzone and my Nexus 6p looks brand new.
Metal phones dent, bend, scratch, paint fades or flakes.
Glass phones smash, scratch, shatter and crack.
2. Plastic and metal are durable in different ways. Plastics can take flexion stress far better than metal, with no indication of having suffered stress afterwards where the metal will show bends or indentation.
3. Plastic will typically scratch more easily than metal, agreed. But I'd rather have a phone on which the back was scratched than bent - the latter being more likely to damage components and reduce overall structural integrity to a greater degree going forward. As to rubbing away, if you're speaking of the actual material thinning over time, I'd agree, if you keep it in abrasive environments it could become noticeable in under 50 years. My Nexus 6 looks like it did on day 1. Same with my 4 year old Nexus 7 tablet. You must be rough on your stuff... Going onward... 5. Metal is more expensive to mold and produce, leading to costlier phones that don't perform any better.
6. Metal has a disruptive effect on radio performance to a far greater degree than plastic.
7. Metal obstructs current wireless charging methods to a far greater degree than plastic.
8. Left in direct sunlight (not optimal in any case, but it happens), metal bodies absorb far more heat, one of the greatest enemies of electronic devices in terms of long term performance.
I like the idea of a rubberized phone with the specs of a current highend phone like my Note 8.
In some ways it's very nostalgic to have to pick this phone up daily and use it, even for the simple task of data entry.
So for me the p
Rubberised plastic feel of the Nexus 5 was truly the pinnacle of plastic durable design and comfort
Plastic has many advantages like:
- Removable battery (I remember some back covers that would accommodate larger batteries)
- No RF interference (no need to dodge internal antennas, or wireless charging circuits)
- Extra resistance when dropped (more flexibility) and dampens energy transmition to front glass (less likely to break front glass)
- Replaceable covers (user can "refurbish" parts of phone to make it look new
- Neutral temperature sensation to the skin (not cold or hot to the touch)
- Cheaper to make Plastic Cons:
- Reduced heat dissipation (I suggest making just part of phone in metal - possible the frame or just part of the back to work as heat sink) So in the end I would really prefer a Pixel 2 made of plastic and I would pay the same for it (then I know it would be better)
Not a fan of glass or metal, the more rigid something is, the higher the risk of breaking it... Glass backs are the stupidest thing ever, for something that gets handled so often and is at risk of being dropped, sat on, jammed in places, scratched...
I flew the metal one this morning in fact and it was great! 😊
The soft touch back on my Moto X Pure Edition was comfortable and very grippy. In other word, functional.
How can that be a bad thing?
Yes, I still use my Nexus 5. :-)
Until now it has been standing up to the newcomers. But I think it is about time to start looking for a replacement.
- Metal and glass phones are more expensive
- Metal phones don't do wireless charging
- Metal and glass phones are less durable than plastic phones since metal scratches, deforms, and passes shock waves along in drops. Glass backed are more immune to scratching, but easily shatter the glass on the body even if the screen is fine. Jury's out on the ceramic backed phones like the Essential and how well that holds up relative to glass. If LG went back and used the old Nexus 5 platform, kept the same old body but upgraded to an SD835, newer camera like the one used in the Pixel 2, kept screen same size and just switched to an OLED panel at 1080, found ways to increase battery capacity, it would be the perfect phone for many of us... and will surely be cheaper than the base Pixel 2. Such a phone would sell like hot cakes. Flagship without the premium material bs, easy to get into and replace components if needed.
Granted, we could fast forward to today/tomorrow to high end cars which are using carbon fiber reinforced plastics and still have that 'premium' look and feel. I wouldn't be surprised if phone manufactures start to go down that path. I guess as long as we need to update/upgrade our phones every 1..5 - 2 years (thanks to non-removable batteries) plastic is OK. If I were going for a phone that was going to last for 4-5 years I'd want one built to last... from metal/glass/ceramic. Also, with the premium comes the premium price tag some customers are willing to pay. I think manufacturers should make a model with the same features in both plastic and glass/metal etc. at different price points based on the materials. Let the customer decide.
Maybe bring back the Nokia N9 plastic style design.