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Metal vs. plastic vs. glass vs. ceramic: Which is the best phone material?

Phones all look the same once you scrape away a few details. They're rectangles designed to fit (mostly) into one's hand and a display where we can tap and poke the things we see to find other things poke and tap. You can even make phone calls with them!

It's those details, though, that makes the difference. Speakers, bevels, buttons and the physical size are the things that make a Galaxy Note different from a Moto E4. They also are a big part of the price and what we use to decide which one is better for our uses. One of those details that's always a point of discussion, and sometimes a point of detraction is what the body of a phone is made of. Oddities like wood or gold phones aside, you'll find three different materials are being used to make phones is all sizes: metal, plastic, and glass.

Which one is best?

Metal

Metal, done very well on the Nokia 7 Plus.

Metal, done very well on the Nokia 7 Plus.

Plenty of phones use a metal band or a faux-metal finish over plastic trim, but there are also plenty that are made of metal. Usually, that means some manner of aluminum alloy that's very thin and light because the buying public is in love with thin and light. Nobody wants a 3-pound phone built from cold forged steel to lug around all day.

Metal screams premium.

For many, metal equals premium. Seeing an aluminum phone polished or anodized with a crisp finish does make a phone look good, so naturally, a lot of people associate them with high-quality, even if only subconsciously. But this isn't always the case as aluminum can be cheaper than other materials. Blame our perception here.

A metal phone can be a great phone. It can also be a bad phone. Let's look at the pros and cons.

Pros

  • That premium look. As mentioned, a phone that's well built will always look good with a metal design. Metal is beautiful and we can't help but feel that anything beautiful is automatically premium. For many, having a premium phone is important.
  • It's "modern". Metal is a big part of the industrial design school of thought. Minimal markings and no extraneous parts to take away from a single piece of metal with a certain shape is a complete design aesthetic, and it often ties in well with a premium look. There are plenty of fans of this type of design.
  • Heat transfer. That way a cold metal phone feels when you first pick it up provokes a thought. It doesn't have to be a good thought, but if you ever noticed that your phone felt cold you were thinking about it. Touch is one of our senses, and it's an important one.

All of these "pros" work together to give the impression that the small metal object you're holding is simply a superior product. Some people feel differently, but most people can't say a phone like a Pixel 2 or a Nokia 7 Plus felt bad or was built poorly.

Cons

  • Bends and dents. Metal deforms fairly easily — especially light, malleable metal like aluminum —and tends to keep its new shape, at least the types used to build phones. We're not talking about people on YouTube bending phones for a living; we're talking about sitting on your phone and bending it or dropping it and putting a big dent in that premium shell. (Buy a case?)
  • RF transmission. This means your LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth signals. Radio frequencies of the safe variety have a tough time transmitting through dense material. This can mean your phone needs to have antenna lines or glass cutouts for the antennas and probably won't support wireless charging if it's made of metal.
  • Heat transfer. The same thing that makes a metal phone feel solid and cold when you first pick it up will also make it feel hotter after you've used it for a while. Heat sinks and heat pipes (also made of metal) try to offset this, but a metal phone will always have a hot spot where the chipset is. And sometimes they can get uncomfortably hot.

The same material that can make a phone feel premium can also stop it from having premium features, like smooth lines without antenna bands or wireless charging. And they look a lot less premium when you dent or bend them.

Plastic

The Moto E5 is one of the few plastic phones you can buy in 2019.

The Moto E5 is one of the few plastic phones you can buy in 2019.

Plastic comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Man-made materials have that advantage. That means plastic can also come with a number of different finishes, and phones can feel slimy or even soft when made of plastic. Plastic is also cheap and very workable which means curves and design elements can be used with plastic that isn't feasible with other materials.

Any shape, any color, and tough as nails.

Some plastic phones look and feel great. Of course, others don't. Consumers can be influenced by their experience enough to think all plastic phones are a slippery, glossy, slimy mess even when they're not and the general perception is that plastic phones are cheap. But a plastic phone can be great, too.

Unfortunately, it's becoming difficult to find phones made of plastic. Even inexpensive brands like Nokia and Motorola are moving on to metal-bodied phones, and that makes me a little sad.

Pros

  • Cost. Not the cost to the consumer, but the costs of making the phone from beginning to end. Using plastic means manufacturing equipment is easier to tool, which means designers have more freedom to work with the shape, which means phones don't always have to look like a flat slab and still be reasonably priced. We love things that look nice and things that are reasonably priced. We love it more when they are both.
  • Resilience. Plastic is tough. Like football helmet tough. You might be able to break plastic but it will take a lot more abuse than metal or glass, and for the most part, it will snap right back into shape if it gets bent or dinged.
  • RF transmission. Plastic can be designed to be tough but still allow radio waves to pass through with very little signal loss. When you're building or using a phone, this is important.
  • Millions of colors. You can make plastic that's any color imaginable. Companies like Nokia (the Nokia of old, R.I.P.) and Sony have put this to the test and orange, lime, pink, yellow and even brown phones have all been offered and had their fans. Black is also a color for folks who like to keep things tamer.

Plastic gives a manufacturer the freedom to build a phone that's tough and beautiful. And we've seen some very high-end phones from almost every manufacturer that were plastic, and nobody complained that they were plastic.

Cons

  • They feel bad. At least, they can. One of our favorite phones was LG's G2. One of the phones we always complained about when it came to the finish of materials was the LG G2. It was the phone that coined our use of slimy when talking about bad plastic. Don't even get us started on the Galaxy S III.
  • They can stain. The plastic on the phone can be stained by a colorful case or spending too much time in a cup holder in Florida-style weather, and some plastic finishes can stain you or your clothes. Remember the orange red Nexus 5? It did both.
  • They look cheap. Not all of them, of course. HTC, as well as that Nokia of old, built some gorgeous phones that were plastic. The LG Optimus 3D was not my favorite phone. Not even close. But it was plastic and the body, the build, and the finish were stunning. But for every good plastic phone, you can buy there will be four or five bad plastic phones in equally bad plastic clamshells on a hook at Walmart. That makes people equate plastic with cheap.

All the plastic phones that were tough, looked good and came in a plethora of colors have to compete with the bottom-of-the-barrel plastics used in phones that have none of those qualities. It's not fair to compare things this way, but you usually won't find a phone you think is plain ugly or that feels slimy that's not made of plastic. Stereotypes are sometimes real.

Glass

The Google Pixel 3 and Galaxy S10 keep everything under glass.

The Google Pixel 3 and Galaxy S10 keep everything under glass.

We started seeing glass phones with the iPhone 4 and Nexus 4. They aren't completely glass, of course, but there are plenty of phones with full glass backs to go with the full glass front. They can be beautiful and give a look that compliments a great design. They can also be fragile; phone screens break all too often and so do glass backs.

It only looks wet.

Using glass also adds to a phone's price. Cheap pieces of soda-lime glass you may find at the hardware store aren't suitable for a phone. Instead, specially made ultra-clear low-expansion glass and composites like Gorilla Glass are used and can add a lot to the final price. Exotic materials like synthetic sapphire can be exceptionally clear for the wavelengths of light a person can see, and very scratch-resistant. They are even more expensive, often prohibitively so.

Pros

  • RF transmission. Glass is dense, but still allows radio waves to pass through fairly easily. This means your LTE signal, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth will be stronger without any long antenna cutouts.
  • They look great. Phones with a glass back can have a feeling of depth if anything is under the glass. Glass can also shimmer and give the illusion of being wet. Both of these effects together can make for a stunning look. Samsung is a total pro at this, and its recent glass-backed Galaxy phones are simply beautiful.
  • They feel good in your hand. Glass can be polished until it's very smooth. Because it's inert it will also feel solid and cold like metal does. When you hold a glass-backed phone in your hand it just feels like a luxury product. Everyone loves luxury products, even if it's only an illusion.

Cons

  • Glass breaks. There is nothing any company can do to make thin glass unbreakable. That means when you drop your phone (and you will) you have to worry about breaking both sides.
  • Glass scratches. Everything will scratch, but glass seems to be the best at doing it. No matter what a company tells us about the Mohs scale or hardened polymers, glass will scratch. Scratches on a phone with the wet and deep illusion like a Galaxy S9 look terrible when they have a big scratch across the back.
  • Glass is slippery. When your hands are damp, holding a glass phone is like squeezing an ice cube. It can pop right out of your grip and when you consider that glass breaks and glass scratches, you have a recipe for disaster.

Glass-backed phones can look amazing. That silky wet look of a Galaxy S10 or the disco ball look of the Nexus 4 makes for a beautiful looking piece of gear. We want our expensive things to be beautiful.

Unfortunately, glass is also a really risky material to use in a phone. It needs to be thin (glass is heavy!) so when you use hardened treated materials like Gorilla Glass the risk of breaking increases because hardened glass is more brittle. It's a catch-22 situation that we gladly put ourselves in because of how great it looks.

Ceramic

The Galaxy S10+ is beautiful in ceramic, but it's not the only phone using the material.

Ceramic phones aren't commonplace in North America, though that's about to change with the Galaxy S10+. Phones that have used ceramic, like the Essential Phone or Xiaomi's Mi Mix series, look and feel amazing.

When you think of ceramic you might be picturing your grandmother's antique china, but that's not the whole story. Sure, ceramic can look beautiful and delicate but it doesn't have to be — ceramic is harder than glass or plastic, almost completely corrosion resistant, lighter than metal and it's an insulator so there is no heat transfer.

Ceramic is also expensive. that's why we don't see low-end watches, dishware, or phones made from the material. It's costly to mine and manufacture because of the special equipment needed, not easily formed like metal or plastic, and requires better handling along the assembly floor to keep the unassembled parts from shattering. Still, once you feel it, there's no denying it's nice.

Pros

  • RF transmission. Like glass, ceramic allows radio waves to pass through fairly easily. This means your LTE signal, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth will be stronger without any long antenna cutouts.
  • They stay cool. Ceramic is what your power company uses to insulate the transmissions lines from their metal brackets. that's because it's non-conductive in regard to both heat and electricity. your ceramic phone isn't going to get hot in your hand.
  • They feel so good. Ceramic can be highly polished after it's formed to a completely smooth finish, and then take a clear coating to remove every surface line. Without any irregularities that your hand can feel, it's like holding a piece of ice. Except it's not cold because it doesn't absorb or give off any heat dues to the magic of its insulatory properties.

Cons

  • Ceramic breaks. Ceramic (the type used in something like a phone) is tough, but it's still breakable. With the right amount of abuse, it will break before metal or plastic will.
  • The coating can scratch. Ceramic is tough, and so are the polymers used to clear-coat it, but it can scratch. It's not as easy as scratching glass or even metal, but if it does scratch, you'll hate feeling even the tiniest blemish on that otherwise baby-smooth finish.
  • Ceramic is slippery. Wet hands? That might mean an oopsie because smooth ceramic is pretty slippery when your hands are wet or your fingers are cold and hard. Keep that in mind and take a bit of extra care.

Ceramic phones look and feel gorgeous. they also stay nice and cool because of ceramic's insulatory properties. There is a reason some of the finest watches you can buy are made from ceramic.

So which is the best?

That depends on just who you ask.

If you were to ask me, I would say that glass is the best. I like the way it looks and I like the way it feels. I know it will break or scratch easily, and I'll take that risk. I'd also tell you that plastic is probably the real best because it is more workable, more resilient, and is better for radio transmission. And good plastic can both look good and feel good. But I like glass better. That might change once I spend more time with a ceramic Galaxy S10 in my hands, but right now I'm a glass kind of guy.

Glass is best. No, wait. Metal. Or Plastic.

While there is no one winner here, there is a loser. Metal. Metal looks and feels good, but it's a horrible material to build a phone with. It's easy to bend, it's easy to dent, and radio waves hate it. But there are plenty of people to tell me I'm wrong because it also looks and feels good while you're holding it.

That's OK. The important thing is that you buy what you like, and because so many different companies build Android phones there's a good chance it's out there. I might be on Team Glass and you might be on Team Metal, but you don't have to use my phone and vice-versa!

Your take

Which team are you on? Do metal or glass look so good that their shortcomings are forgivable? Or do you just love plastic and the range of colors or the soft feel of a quality finish? Have you fallen in love with ceramic phones yet?

Get into the comments and let us all know which you like and why. Then be happy we have more to choose from than a single phone or its plus version.

Updated March 2019: Because ceramic phones are now a thing and we love having even more things to choose from!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

114 Comments
  • A metal edge with a polycarbonate back would be the best option. A few phones in the past have done this. The plastic back should be removable so users can access a microSD slot and replace the battery. If the plastic back ever gets damaged it would be insanely cheap to replace. It would also open the possibilities for personalization. Sell 1 version with the all glass back and a cheaper model with a plastic back. Those that want a "premium" feel can pay more for glass, and the rest of us that know we'll use a case can pay less for the plastic back version. 1 storage capacity option, 1 plastic version with additional backs for purchase, and a user replaceable battery.
  • I agreed with you completely.. until you said different versions of same phone...that doesn't fly. Because impossible\unrealistic to have a removable back and be glass
  • Sorry for any confusion. I meant the plastic back would be removable, like the OnePlus 2 and some Lumia phones, but the all glass version wouldn't be removable.
  • Agree. Plastic or cork. Glass is form over function. And please, don't call glass premium. It is cheap and common, and hardly suited to the design of a frequently dropped, expensive consumable. Glass hammer, anyone, anyone?
  • Sony listend to you with the xperia 10 and 10 plus :D
  • Plastic is the best without a doubt. All other materials have absolutely no functional advantage over it.
    But this doesn't matter at all these days when pretty shiny things sell better. I do have a glass+metal phone now because I couldn't find the same feature set in a plastic phone. But honestly, I hate the materials. Too slippery. There is nothing premium about metal or glass IMO.
  • Much respect. I always laugh at how we clown dogs for chasing laser pointers buy still manage to covet shiny rocks & fireworks. Never needed glass or metal. Give me the plastic. My phone still did as much & was cheaper.
  • I want plastic flagship phone back with removable battery. Why does Android have to copy Apple?
  • Because the general public wanted the so called premium materials. I remember in forums we use to discuss materials used in phones I remember people being disgusted by Samsung's continued use of plastics on their flagships.
  • I know right?! I remember the days when 8o% of forum members kept attacking Samsung's use of plastic. Words like cheap, tacky were thrown about. It was all why can't Sammy make premium, glass phones like Apple. Sammy took note. It's 2018 and now we all prefer plastic. Lol. Make up your damned mind people. It's exhausting, like catering to the demands of finicky toddlers, pffew!
  • Careful what you ask for ... you just might get it. I never had a problem with plastic. I owned the Lumia 920 & Galaxy S5. I hated the S5, but not because of materials. The 920 was a tank. back then I never put a case on the phone, now I have to. How stupid is that. If I'm going to put a plastic case on it, just make it with plastic. I'd like the edge to remain metal, but the back should be plastic.
  • The reason nobody makes phones with removable batteries is because they have to be much thicker and heavier than non-removable batteries. This would make the phone thicker, since it would need a sealed-off compartment for the battery and a thicker battery.
  • No, they can make interchangeable battery and water resistance, older Samsung phones had both of these features, and they were still thin. They just can't do it with the glass backs.
  • Plastic is my choice too. There are a multitude of materials to choose from - and usually I cover my phone with a good case anyway.
  • Yeah Ive notice that with my current phone. Too slippery
  • Plastic is probably the most practical choice due to it's durability and easier to grip but unfortunately phones are also fashion statement so people tend to look for what looks best rather than what is best
  • Missing options: ceramic, wood
  • Yep. Check out Ikimobile. Infinitely nicer to look at, a unique set of devices.
  • Plastics are the best logical choice. Metal and glass are ONLY good for shiny factor.
  • Easy. Nothing beats quality polycarbonate. Just look at Nokia's Lumia phones. Tough as nails and still able to use wireless charging.
  • True. I dropped my old Lumia 950XL tens of times on every surface from carpet to marble with absolutely no damage.
    But the LG V30 with metal frame and slightly curved screen edges... Cracked screen corner on the FIRST drop on hardwood floor from under 1 meter.
  • The Lumia phones were awesome. My 810 and 1520 never failed me - even with bad drops. Nokia knew how to make a beautiful, solid phone! Curse MS for screwing it all up...
  • Exactly. The Lumia 920 & 1020 felt great in the hand.
  • I wish the new Nokia would simply re-issue the old Lumia 1520 with updated hardware and Oreo. Release it in all its colors ( including Green ).
  • Loved my 1520... "The Beast" LOL
  • It was a legend! Always will be.
  • I still love my 1520 even though it just sits in a corner not being used and starring at me. I wish someone would unlock the bootloader.
  • My Lumia 920 is still in good shape, 5yrs after I first bought it. The matte colours on that we're gorgeous. What failed on mine was the screen. It never cracked, but white is now yellow.
  • My HTC Magic dropped countless times on all sorts of materials, from hardwood floor, to tiles, to concrete and asphalt. It tumbled down a staircase (with tiles). Ok, it isn't in good shape. The paint is gone, the plastic cracked, the back is in two parts barely holding together and one corner is missing. Oh, and the speaker grill is missing too. However the gorilla glass 1 screen? Not a scratch, let alone a crack. Best designed phone ever. Comfortable to hold, comfortable to use, and impossible to destroy the screen. Give it a polycarbonate back, modern hardware, make the screen bigger, and I would buy it in an instant.
  • The ideal for me would be a phone that's made with the same materials as the back of the Nexus 5.. It might not be the best looking but it feels great in the hand and gives the best grip I ever had on a phone cause it's not slippery
  • I ALWAYS use a silicone gel case, so looks are unimportant to me. Sturdy, cost-effective is.
  • I don't know why tech sites do stories about the look of a smartphone or how it feels in the hand 90% of the people have their smartphone in a case I would say no matter if it's a iPhone or Android phone, writers are just lazy
  • I never used a case when I had a plastic back.
  • Your comment makes no sense. Tech sites do stories about design and you say it's lazy. What's lazy about doing your job? They do so because manufacturers care about design. They do so because customers care about design. Your 90% figure seems like a number you pulled out of a dark body cavity. Even if a majority of users put their phones in a case, it doesn't mean they don't care about the way the phone looks and feels when they're looking at it at the store.
  • I think a big problem is that people don't think enough when they go shopping. They care about the wrong things. When I shop for a phone, I care about the headphone jack (and yes, I have Bluetooth headphones. BOSE SoundSport Free. I still want a headphone jack though). I care about removable batteries. I like good design just as much as anyone else, perhaps even more so, but I also care about protecting my investment. So how durable is it? How easy is it to protect the phone? Can I apply a tempered glass screen protector? But many look at it, see it's fast and pretty, and buy it. Yes, later they may notice their mistake, but then it is too late. And next time they buy a phone they seem to have forgotten it, and make the same mistakes. Or maybe they don't realize there are better phones? (Then again, there aren't these days.)
  • Given that 90% of owners are putting a cheap plastic case on the phone anyway, "premium" shouldn't even be a topic of discussion. Make it out of plastic or polycarbonate, cut the price way down, push the durability way up, and while you're at it, let me take the back off so I can replace the battery.
  • Plastic all the way. Cheaper, more durable, allows wireless charging. I care less about "looking premium" and more about will my phone survive a drop and support wireless charging. Plastic accomplishes both and lowers the price to boot.
  • People think they are somehow cooler or higher-class for having a metal and/or glass phone. It's kind of sad in a way to see how important this is to people.
    Mining the world of metals that we could be using for more important things, but instead using them one devices that people will discard likely after, at most, a year? Dang. There's a huge problem.
    Materialism.
    I enjoy my software experience on my Galaxy S8+. I wish it only came in plastic though. Plastic is bad enough. Lol
  • My phone's made out of Titanium, Ceramic and glass(Essential Phone) and while it does look great I prefer the "premium" materials because of the weight it gives the phone. Plastic phones just feel too light to me. I need something heavier
  • I loved the feel of my Essential phone when I had it - but I'd rather the manufacturers build plastic phones and make them heavier with bigger batteries.
  • I've honestly never been a fan of plastic devices. But I definitely get why people prefer plastic to more expensive materials. I just think metal/glass/ceramic feels better in the hand
  • It most definitely does feel better. Just too overdone for a handheld gadget imo.
  • Pick up a Lumia 920. Premium heft, and feature packed, with a solid polycarbonate design.
  • The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact has a plastic back, yet it weighs 168g (and it is a small phone). It absolutely feels as premium as it gets.
  • I'll vote for plastic as well. Glass is just insane and metal dents and scratches easily. Plastic is versatile,cheap, and very durable. I hate the term " feels good in the hand ." I suppose I have a dirty mind.
    I really wanted the Moto E5 plus as my new phone but I found out it has a polymer glass back. Imagine a budget phone with that. Jeez.
  • Metal or Ceramic for me. I like my phones to have weight to them. Can't really get that with plastic, and the only glass phone I've owned cracked after falling less than 6 inches onto carpet.
  • Could always add a bigger heavier battery to add weight.
  • Wouldn't want the actual size of the phone to change though
  • Try a 920 Lumia, 185grams of beauty. Could hammer nails in with it.
  • I prefer metal, but I'm also fine with plastic. I'm not a fan of fragile glass backs, but OEMs aren't giving us much of a choice with recent flagships, unfortunately.
  • I remember the good ole days when everybody made plastic phones and all the articles on the tech websites would complain about them! So I blame them for ruining a good thing!! Of course this is tongue in check but it is also true. I think the best material to use is the one that is being ignored by all the premium phones. PLASTIC!!
  • I prefer soft touch plastic like the Nexus 5. It can look brand new after years of use without a case, allows wireless charging to work and is cheap. It is the perfect material for a phone. I hate glossy Samsung plastic but it is still better than glass. Glass is the absolute worst.
  • None of the cons for plastic are functional complaints - they are perception complaints. Plastic is the toughest, best material to make a durable, functional phone. The rest is ego.
  • I have a Nokia 8 which is both Metal and Plastic and a Lumia 950XL which is Plastic and both feel premium so I think that the subject of this article is very subjective. I also think that with Glass or Metal you should, ideally, have the phone in a case.
  • Looking at these Pros and Cons good plastic is the clear winner.
    And yet we all buy glass backed phones! (Nearly all)
    There must be an opportunity for HTC, LG or one of the Chinese companies to market a flagship type phone with a plastic back.
  • Id buy an S9 Active, if I could. Us only...
  • That's because the only way not to buy a glass backed phone is by buying a phone that in other ways is terrible. Slow hardware, bad screens, bad software... so in the end it's a matter of what we're more willing to live with. Considering that many of us put their phones in a case anyway (for good reason), we'll take glass backed phones in spite of the glass.
  • Plastic with a custom red color.
  • Why don’t you guys run a test. Pick the best from every example, and show which one stacks up the best. Maybe once, and for all we can put this argument( in the post, I can see it’s a hard subject) to rest.
  • IIRC, It appears that the only high end plastic backed phone you can buy is the XZ2 Compact. If you had wireless charging and use a case all the time, wouldn't you rather the phone be plastic and pay a lower price?
  • Don't like glass as I kinda tend to drop my phone a lot. But, okay with both plastic and metal.
  • I wish that someone would come up with a plastic screen that didn't scratch so easily so that we can finally get screens that don't shatter.
  • Not necessary. Create a phone with a plastic screen that is designed to take a tempered glass screen protector on top, and comes with one pre-installed. If the glass cracks or is too scratched, buy a new protector from the manufacturer, pull off the old protector, and apply the new one. Also, you can absolutely design a phone where the screen doesn't crack, despite being made from glass. It's based on a simple principle: Don't let anything hard hit the glass. So if the top and bottom for example are raised by a millimeter or two, it would take a freak accident to crack the screen. There used to be phones like that, like the HTC Magic and other early HTC Android smartphones (remember the G1?), but unfortunately manufacturers have abandoned that idea and made matters even worse by using curved screens, 2,5D screens (which makes using screen protectors impossible), ...
  • I used to be hardcore about this but tbh it doesn't really matter any more. Current high end CPUs can run full bore with low TDP, which means putting a case on your phone doesn't sacrifice performance. Just slap a case (and screen protector is necessary) on and go.
  • I have a Sony Xperia XZ2 that overheats constantly, and takes ages to dissolve the heat, even when putting the phone in the fridge. It mostly affects the camera. Will be getting a replacement unit soon (in case there is something wrong with the XZ2), and then hopefully a XZ2 Compact which has a poly-carbonate back. I expect the latter to do much better despite using the same hardware in a smaller case.
  • Plastic. Hate the hype for glass.
  • of course metal is best and most premium. glass is plain dumb
  • Please stop using the word premium for a phone. A phone is a phone is a phone. They're a tool. They're not unique or special. There are millions and millions of them out there. They should not be made with a fragile slippery material. It's ridiculous.
  • but you know, iPhone users are not so smart, they dont see the difference between a golden brick or an iPhone :)
  • I love metal phones the best! So premium! And they will never break (not counting display). The problem is... No one makes new metal iPhones anymore. HTC stopped, Sony stopped, OnePlus stopped, and even Apple stopped. I hate glass backed phones. NO I don't care about wireless charging that's a fraction the speed of quick charging! Glass phones break so easy and scratch easy. Glass phones show so many finger prints. Plus when your hands aren't completely clean, your fingers stick to the back. So many reasons I hate glass phones. But I'm forced to buy them cause that's all there is now. :'(
  • Wow! I think I only saw 1 comment in 6 hours prefer glass. Companies need to read this and rethink their stupid decisions.
  • If everyone selling raincoats with a single sleave, consumers only have that option, so buy them. Manufacturers enjoy the profit, and use the "they sell so well, everyone wants single leave raincoats" argument. If they produced 2 options, most people would not buy two glass phones in a row.
  • The problem is that we're actually using our brains when buying a phone, but we don't have a choice. All the phones worth buying, with proper performance, they are made from terrible materials. So we bite the lemon and also buy a case to go with it. And in the shop people go "oh, look, it's pretty" and buy the premium phones too. Win win for manufacturers. LG had the right idea for the longest time, in terms of hardware, but they were let down by a bad reputation from older phones and terrible software/software support. And now they are slowly joining the herd and giving up what was great about them. What we need is a new manufacturer that makes a phone with premium hardware, removable back (for access to the battery), and a lip around the screen. Have some high quality materials that don't break, say a metal frame that clearly looks metal, but a poly-carbonate back. Maybe add some rubber in the corners and raise the top and bottom around the screen (the rest can be flush so that it's nicer to use). Add stock Android (plus promise software support for many years) and advertise it properly as the phone that you can use forever, and that doesn't need an ugly case.
  • I like the look of glass, but both of my all time favorite phones had metal backs (HTC M8 & OnePlus 3) so I guess I am actually a metal head...f-ing metal! ;)
  • Metal and glass look great but.. When it chips and cracks it looks crappy. Plastic is just more ideal but at the end you going to have an ugly case over that pretty metal/glass back so you might as well go with plastic. I stopped caring for the outside and caring for functionality and longevity.
  • Glass is the worst thing you could put on the back of a phone. Give me a rubbery plastic black Nexus 5 please.
  • This is all so stupid. All but 1 of these options have to be covered in a plastic or rubber case because they're so slippery. I'd rather not be forced to use a case. So it doesn't even matter what these other 2 options are. Make phones out of grippy plastic and be done with it.
  • The problem is that the front needs protection too, and you only get that with a case. Unless the phone was designed sensible, with glass being recessed and surrounded by something to ensure it won't hit the ground first. HTC did it well with the Magic (aka MyTouch 3G). Comfortable to hold and use, but also impossible to destroy. But yes, I prefer plastic too.
  • A quick read of all comments shows that plastic is the clear winner. Listen A/C and voice this loudly to manufacturers instead of hyping up and going on and on about so called "premium" glass designs.
  • Clearly a well-designed plastic phone is best. The original Oneplus One had an excellent build, so did the nexus 5 and the nexus 5x. This horrible glass age was probably started by a combination of Apple's decisions with the iPhone 4 (they knew they were increasing the chances of cracking or shattering and they stood to make more money) together with the mountains of apple-addicted reviewers who started to call that type of design "premium" and all plastic phones "cheap". Eventually, even Android fans and reviewers started drinking the kool aid too, and we ended up in this brittle slippery mess. Phones break more, manufacturers make more money, case makers make more money, reviewers stare at pretty reflexions, and we lose as consumers because our choices have been reduced to one.
  • And the award for the best comment goes to...
  • As a reviewer I'll always bash on glass whenever I can.
  • Plastic is best, but only good plastic. Wi-fi charging, radio waves, resilience that resists scratching and bending, lightness... it's the most practical, and practical is what I like now. No point in getting a metal or glass phone, only to put it in a plastic case to protect that fragile metal or glass. How thin and light is that "premium" metal or glass phone when it's in a thick plastic shell to keep the fragile materials from bending or breaking? I'm in favor of cutting out the middleman and just going with plastic to begin with.
  • Metal for me. I couldn't care less about antenna lines, no different to having the antenna sticking out the top of the phone, or wireless charging, which is nothing more than a gimmick anyway.
  • My old LG V10 was the best constructed phone I've ever owned, and I've owned plenty. Steel edge rails, flexible rubberized removable back and heavy as a tank. Man I wish I could have a phone like that again as it was the only phone I ever had the balls to use without a case. Glass backed phones don't bother me since they always reside in a case, and I do love wireless charging, so...
  • Metal all day long, more durable. Substance is more important to me than style and for me metal on a phone looks just as premium as glass which is way too fragile.
  • Mmmm LG V10. Sexy phone with different materials will always look more"premium" than a single material.
  • I don't care about the "premium" aluminium and glass materials since I don't ever use a naked phone.
    My favorite phone was the Note 4 and the flip cover from Samsung. I miss removable plastic back covers since they provide unmatched features and give you the best flip cover experience since you don't add a damn plastic case around your phone.
    Leather texture and metal railing FTW!
  • Polycarbonate.
  • I'd say that the material on the back of the phone is mostly irrelevant. Most people will slap it into a case and never feel the metal or plastic or glass back. That said, I buy the phone I want, then put a dbrand skin on it. Extra grip and no scratches. Drops? None to date.
  • If the phone was properly designed and had a smarter choice of materials, a case wouldn't be necessary.
  • I don't see mentioned in the article ceramic or composite backs. I loved the plastic backs, replaceable batteries and wireless charging of my SIII and G4. Ceramic and some composites (fiberglass & aramid, but *not* carbon fiber) are radio transparent. Any of these options are less brittle that glass and hide scratches better than either glass *or* metal. I'm more a form over function kinda guy but still think a plastic phone can be stylish. If your glass phone is too slippery to hold, consider a vinyl cladding like Slickwraps.
  • Plastic. Or rubber. I have/had a Sony Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Compact, Xiaomi Mi6, OnePlus Two, LG V20, LG G5, Xiaomi Mi3, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and HTC Magic (MyTouch 3G). Oh, and a Motorola A925, if anyone remembers those. The Magic felt cheap, with glossy plastic, but it was unbreakable. Well, not quite. The screen was. I hardly had any scratches on it, let alone cracks. And this phone dropped a lot. On tiles. Down a staircase. On asphalt. So much that the paint on the plastic was gone, the earpiece grill was missing, and A CORNER ON THE BACK TOO. Plus the back was broken in two. Screen? Scratch free. Best designed phone, ever. How did they do it? Easy. They didn't expose the glass. The plastic completely surrounded the glass, and on the top and bottom the case was raised by a millimeter or two. It was comfortable (though slippery) to hold, it looked good, and with better materials, current hardware and a much bigger screen (3.2" is a bit small) it would be my dream phone. The Galaxy Nexus was what you'd call cheap plastic I'd say, but it was ok. Mi3? Slightly better plastic. The G5 was much bashed for being metal but with some sort of coating, but I thought it was absolutely fine. I hated the curve on the top of the screen, that was just a dumb idea. But otherwise a wonderful phone. Then the LG V20: I love how solid it feels, but yet has a removable back. Wonderful. What I don't like so much? The 2,5D glass on the front. Stupid idea, but I guess people think it's more premium. Makes it near impossible to use a proper tempered glass screen protector, and it exposes the screen more than necessary. The risk during a drop is much bigger than with the old HTC. Which again, impossible to destroy (and I tried!). Now the glass phones: What the hell are they thinking? These things slide easily off anything that isn't absolutely flat, and you really need to make sure it is, because it can take an hour before it drops to the ground and cracks. And crack it will, because it's glass. D'uh. Making a device that often drops out of the most easy to break material is just a stupid idea. Exposing more than necessary by curving the glass etc. is even worse. It'd be absolutely possible to make a phone that won't break, but still feels good and looks good. But I guess that's not in the interest of phone makers, because we wouldn't need to buy a new phone so often then. One more thing: Glass traps heat. The camera of the XZ2 overheats constantly. First certain functions are deactivated, and then it stops working completely. I've tried to cool it down by holding it to the aircon of my car. Until my hands started to hurt. And the exterior of the phone was freezing. Inside? It was still 50+°C. The camera was still overheating. The phone couldn't be charged, because the battery was overheated. Yeah, great idea, using glass. And finally, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact. It has the same design as the XZ2, except for being smaller, and for having a poly-carbonate (plastic) back. It feels every bit as premium as the XZ2. It won't break anywhere as easily as the XZ2. It's not as annoying as the XZ2, because it doesn't constantly try to suicide. It won't slide out of your hands when they are dry. Or wet. It's perfect. (Except for the exposed screen). And I've handed the XZ2 to many people, and no one liked the slipperiness. Now I'd like a removable back, but that could be done if Sony wanted to. Oh, and the OnePlus Two? The plastic back was really rough, which made it rather grippy. And it was a nice sensation too, IMHO. I liked it a lot. Plus the metal frame looks and feels as premium as it gets, with different cuts that reflect light differently. To date I think it's one of the best looking phones ever. Glass phones are so fragile that you'd have to be stupid not to buy a case for it. Which makes it thicker, which makes it ugly, which makes the glass rather pointless. I would absolutely pay a premium for a high-end phone that doesn't break easily. Give me a poly-carbonate back, and a raised lip around the screen. Or perhaps a bit of a banana shape, at the top and bottom (with glass NOT being exposed). Then I could skip the case and still not worry every waking moment. The phone would be slimmer and smaller as a result (my V20 with Tech21 case is a beast). Maybe integrate rubber bumpers on the corners. I'm sure it'd be possible to make such a device still look and feel premium, certainly much more premium than say an iPhone 10 wearing a case.
  • I really miss the plastic with removable backs. I hated when all the "best" Phones went ro metal and glass. My phone is a very expensive tool that gets a lot of hard use, and goes everywhere with me. It's ridiculous that if I try to go a weekend without a case, even being extra careful, I'm going to end up with scratches and dings.
    Also my favorite phone to hold was my old HTC Aria because it had a rubbery smooth finish that just felt nice to rub and fidget with.
  • You failed to mention if all four are good for wireless charging. If not, then which ones? Metal I would image wouldn't support wireless charging. What about ceramic?
  • I think glass is the worst and metal is right above that. Plastic and ceramic are at the top with a nice soft touch plastic being best for feel and durability.
  • Carbon fiber material
  • Plastic and ceramic the best materials
  • I am huge ios and android fan. I know the two words in the same sentence may not be the best choice of words but that's true. I spend half of the time that I get at home thinking which phone should I use since I have both an iPhone 8 and Galaxy note 8. Apple started the trend of sealing the battery in the name of premium design. But I think it was more do with forcing people to upgrade the phone in couple of years due to battery degradation. Samsung quickly realized and copied it. These companies also argued that sealed battery and glass back will help with wireless charging. However, I feel it was just marketing. You may think that Apple and Samsung are rivals but in the end they both try to squeeze consumers by guiding (I should say forcing) them to upgrade in anyway possible. Buy a glass back sealed battery phone. Either you break it or the battery will go to hell. It is kind of ridiculous that people who did not upgrade their 500$ laptop for 3-4 years now upgrade their 1000$ phone every 1-2 years. I understand that phones have become really capable and the analogy with laptops may be correct but hey they both are computing devices. I could take sealed battery but please bring back lumia 900 design. I spent sleepless nights to get that phone when it launched. IMHO that was one of the best phone design of all time. Polycarbonate phone are still the best but nobody makes them. Also note how both Apple and Samsung try to match the prices of their offering. This is called marketing. Offer a less premium device at previous flagship price and then raise the price of current flagship making the cheaper one look like better value. You can read about it online. What we should ask to these companies is why the cost of phone increased. If anything the cost of components decreased. but cost of iPhone still increased. I am all in for technology and innovation. But the cost of tech should be justifiable. Forcing people to buy 4K and smart TV with very limited 4K content and poor smart features is like robbery. Enough with my rant.
  • If you're going to put a case on it anyway, even a clear case to see the purty phone inside, it really shouldn't matter whether it's glass, ceramic, plastic or metal to the user ---- it should just be about the feature set of the device. If you use the device naked, well, then that's another matter altogether.
  • Metal is my favorite. I never held a ceramic phone but imagine it would be my 2nd favorite. It really bothers me that all premium phones are now made of the most fragile material of the 4 (glass).
  • Plastic or metal; glass and ceramic are just too fragile. I honestly don't see why plastic gets such a bad wrap as a low-grade material.
  • I had my Edge 7 for 2 years. When I traded it in, it looked nearly brand new. I had my Pixel 3 XL for 2 days, and I cracked the back...from being in my front pocket. My case arrived the next day. Could care less about wireless charging. I will take plastic over glass any day.
  • Let's have a return to good quality plastic and flat screens. While I'm on my soap box.... A return to sensible pricing would be good too!
  • I would rather a small ding in a metal back than a cracked piece of glass. Phones have doubled and tripled in price, while being housed in a more fragile body that shatters. Yes i realize the technology is what drives the price up but remember this.. Plastic was fine until we kept being told it wasn't. My note4 was one the most beautiful phones made (in my opinion) but we kept being told how plastic was cheap. I rarely see a cellphone out in the wild that doesn't have some kind of case on it, so the "feel" of the phone or even the look becomes a mute point to an extent. Same goes with little or no bezels, my note9 has this rounded screen that is supposed to look like the bezels just don't exist... but i have to put a case on it because it's so slippery. Guess what a case does to a bezeless screen, it gives it bezels.. It's marketing hype, it is part of what drives the cost up, and makes phone repairs expensive. Several years ago 5 or 6 hundred dollars was expensive for a premium phone, however that phone was made from a more "sturdy" material. One day we were told plastic was cheap, and that became the sermon that was preached to us. I am beyond ready for someone to come up with a new "cool" name for plastic so we can start using it again. I remember being able to carry my note4 or my moto turbo without worrying so much about a case. I remember when iphone was made fun of for having a glass back. My opinion, yours may vary.
  • Glass or sapphire front with polycarbonate or plastic body. No need for anything else. Nokia had the right idea, but Microsoft did it best with the 950XL. Very thin, light, and strong. The only thing they could have done better is make the back covers interchangeable for different colors.
  • Plastic, and most people put a cover on the cell. If you had a plastic back you would not need to.
  • Plastic 99% of people put a case on their phone so go with the cheapest least likely to break material.
  • just plastic, everything else is just for metrosexuals without IQ....no reason to have other than plastic with removable battery and IP protection
  • Plastic and Kevlar
  • Even though I have never broken the front or back of a phone, and I couldn't care less about fingerprints, I don't like glass very much. I like plastic most, because it makes it easy to repair/replace if I want to do it myself. But if not plastic, then ceramic. Metal is a no go. I want wireless charging.
  • They all have their pros and cons as Jerry laid out. I like plastic, if it's done very well (Lumina, HTC 8X, etc.). But when plastic is not done well, it comes across as pure garbage. The iPhone 5C in particular was garbage. Felt like a toy and scratched no matter how hard you babied it, and broke at the slightest drop because it had the structural integrity of a dead fish. We had six of them, and they are why I'm on a first name basis with the owner of the repair shop. Metal is far more durable, but, a radio device made from material that blocks radio has it's obvious drawbacks. And although it's good at surviving, I still had over thirty nicks, dings, and scratches. Glass? Yes, glass is glass, but depending on the brand, it can be tougher than you think. I've had all three, and the one that looked best after a year of hard use? Glass. The plastic looked like crap after a few weeks, with scratches and scuffs covering it. The metal phone was strong, but I counted 32 dents, dings, and nicks. My first glass phone was the S7 Edge, and it shattered on the first drop. Then I foolishly bought the U11, and it has survived better than my plastic or metal phones. Over a dozen drops, including on onto steel without a case, and no drop damage. The screen did scratch eventually, when it was set face down on a table with cement dust on it, but it was minor and the phone's second owner has not even noticed the tiny scratches near the bottom edge. I unfortunately proved glass is stronger than expected when I fell off a stage and hit the edge of a wall. What took the impact from the wall? The U11 in my pocket, and it was hit so hard that the phone injured my leg and left a rectangular bruise, but the phone was fine. Just yesterday I fell onto concrete, this time the U12 Plus taking the impact. I looked over the phone three times, stunned that it was not bent or cracked. So, I disagree that glass automatically means fragile. I also disagree that it means slippery. Glass sticks to the skin unless your hands are dry. I've also spent an entire day in the rain with the U11 in my hand, and not once did it feel insecure in the hand, but I think the phone design may play a part in that. I do agree that glass feels nice, but again that depends on how it's made. The U12 feels like a carved and polished emerald slab, and is so nice in the hand that it makes the iPhone XS Max feel kinda clunky and inexpensive.
  • My favorite is plastic, but to really take advantage of its toughness the battery needs to be removable. Remember the days when if you dropped your phone the back would go one direction, the battery another, and the rest of the phone yet another? That's the force of the drop being dispersed away from your poor screen. I think those days are long gone.
  • Plastic is best. I wish someone would put out essentially the exact same phone as the Nexus 6 with new internals.