Poll: Do you prefer glass or plastic backs on smartphones?

Google Pixel 6 vs Galaxy S21 Hero
Google Pixel 6 vs Galaxy S21 Hero (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

In the smartphone world, one of the main differentiators between lower- and higher-end devices is the material they're made from. While aluminum used to run rampant across smartphones of yore, these days, the battle is mainly between two materials: plastic and glass.

While there are benefits and tradeoffs to both, we're curious about what material our readers prefer on the back of their smartphones.

When it comes to the best Android phones, you're likely to find glass on the back of the device. While glass has the unfortunate characteristic of being prone to scratches, fingerprints, and, of course, the dreaded crack, it often provides smartphones with a more premium look and feel while adding a certain heft that users may appreciate. Plus, the use of Corning's Gorilla Glass makes these phones much less prone to this sort of damage (at least on paper), which should provide users with some semblance of relief.

Still, if your phone has a glass back, we always recommend checking out some wonderful cases to protect your investment.

Then there are the phones with plastic backs. This is usually found on lower-end models, but even some higher-end smartphones couldn't resist the benefits of plastic. That includes less weight and, of course, a back that's more durable and less prone to cracking. Higher-end phones also tend to go the "glasstic" route by making it look like it's frosted glass, like the base Galaxy Note 20 or the Galaxy S21.

Samsung is rumored to ditch the glasstic back for the base Galaxy S22 in favor of a glass back, which some may appreciate (and others, of course, won't).

There's also the aluminum route that Google uses on the Pixel 5, but a thick layer of plastic covers it, so you'll likely never feel the aluminum. Of course, it would be nice if every smartphone OEM had some Moto Maker type customization so we could bring back rubber, wood, and leather.

Derrek Lee
News Editor

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.

58 Comments
  • plastic is better..
  • Plastic is better than glass. Rubberized, ruggedized, grip textured surf is better than plastic.
  • A very few years ago I would have said that plastic was the only material that made sense. After having several phones with glass I actually prefer that and so far I've never shattered one. With a case they are adequately tough. I'm not against plastic but the glass is a bit nicer.
  • A honest question... If you use a case, why does the glass back matters? You'll not feel it and probably not see it as well...
  • I like the weight of the glass. Feels more substantial and less like a toy.
  • Polycarbonate is equally weighty. And, if done right, feels better and more usable than glass.
  • That's just the thing though. It's all in theory, because no one did it right.
  • It's still more breakable, period.
  • I've shattered two. So.
  • Always have a case so I don't mind either. But would love to have a plastic removable back with a removable battery.
  • I feel you. I loved my Lumias.
  • Metal (if you're not doing wireless charging), otherwise I prefer glass, but it doesn't really matter since most users like me put them into cases.
  • ditto (and more words so I can reply)
  • Yes, metal or glass. Plastic scratches up like crazy, and in my collection of former phones, the plastic ones look the worst.
  • Count me in on removable.
  • Me too! Replaceable battery, and rubberized, ruggedized construction.
  • I always have my phone in a wallet case. My P6P is way too slippery without a case.
  • I have a 'flagship' (S20 FE) with a plastic back and a 'budget' phone (Redmi Note 9S) with Gorilla Glass 5 on the back. Both are fine and scratch free because I use a case on both. But the plastic is a little lighter.
  • It's going to be inside a wallet case so I don't see why this would be a factor. The cheaper and lighter the better.
  • Aluminum. Loved the HTC One M8
  • Bring back that Lumia 920 thick plastic. But my phone sits in a case now so I don't have a strong opinion either way
  • I voted plastic. To me, a glass back is the worst idea that these companies just can't let go of. My wife had an iPhone 4, and it spent its life in a case. When she upgrade 2 years later, we took the case off thinking we'd sell it, and found the back had shattered with tiny glass pieces falling out. We never knew when that happened. I always put my phones in cases, so that expense could go to something better internally - like providing an SD card slot.
  • Either will put case
  • I like glass and it looks great but I prefer plastic since it is not as slippery so really do not need a case. Why buy a phone in a specific color if you are going to cover it up? even clear cases hide the true color especially when they start yellowing.
  • Glass. If I am paying $1000 plus for a phone I want it to feel premium not like a plastic toy
  • I loved the ceramic back the essential phone had. Wish more phone adapted that.
  • Glass has a more premium feel in my opinion... Love the look and feel of my Duo...
  • Don't care as it's always in a case
  • Correct. But it shouldn't have to be in a case. Phones should be designed to be rugged and grippy, so they are MORE rugged than inside a heat holding (and therefore battery destroying) case. The slipperiness of current phones is intentional. It is to make sure you drop them. Either they will break, or if inside a case they will burn out the battery (which you cannot change anymore) from heat retention. This is bald-faced planned obsolescence at its worst.
  • I always use a case on my phone so I don't really care what the back is like!
  • It shouldn't have to be in a case. Phones should be designed to be rugged and grippy, so they are MORE rugged than inside a heat holding (and therefore battery destroying) case. The slipperiness of current phones is intentional. It is to make sure you drop them. Either they will break, or if inside a case they will burn out the battery (which you cannot change anymore) from heat retention. This is bald-faced planned obsolescence at its worst.
  • A lightweight and removable plastic back, like the one on the Lumia 730 which was my long time favourite phone. The plastic back also protected the sides of the display panel like a cover. When it was scratched up or You wanted to change the colour You could replace it for a few Euros.
  • Rubberized, ruggedized full surround. With grippy texture. Plastic and glass exist exclusively to be slippery. Which is an aid to the major OEM design goal of imposed fragility. When the customer INEVITABLY drops it, they are expected to consider it THEIR fault. Rather than the result of a cynical design choice. Alternatively, if you put a grippy, rubberized protective case on it, you GREATLY advance the time when the battery burns out due to heat retention. Which cannot be replaced by the customer anymore, due to "planned obsolescence" as a design goal. They think they have you either way. And as long as you will put up with it...they are right. Off to the dump your expensive phone and its rare earth metals goes...just because either you dropped it or the battery burns out. Do you REALLY want a phone that is DESIGNED on purpose to be as slippery as a wet bar of soap? And one you can't even change your own battery in without special knowledge and equipment? I don't.
  • I personally prefer the glass and metal on flagships. Apple figured that out years ago. Then android OEMs finally switched on their premium priced offerings. I believe most android OEMS offer plastic back on their mid tier and budget phones still. Good to have choices. Cheers
  • I don't use cases. ever. I vote plastic. The back on the S21 felt great. My Pixel 5 feels awesome (not glass), less weight. all around better than glass. I have glass on my iPhone 13 Pro; it's too heavy. Wish it had a plastic back.
  • I prefer ceramic that's used on my Essential PH-1 .
  • Rubberized plastic. Phones should designed to be held ergonomically and not slippery. Glass is horrible but great for the case business.
  • I like glass, but if you are a dropper of phones, then possibly plastic is better bet. But phone manufacturers could easily bring back plastic (or rubberized metal) and make all happy, if that included a replaceable battery. (Granted, that could affect water intrusion, unless a new gasket was included with every new battery.
  • Great comment. However, it won't affect water intrusion at all. They used to make ALL phones with replaceable batteries. They knew well how to do it then, and they have FAR better waterproofing technology now. The best thing that has come along is the waterproof nano coatings that the OEMs can put on every component, so that if water even gets in, it can't hurt anything. The dust and water thing is just their excuse, which they HOPE everyone will accept. Why? Because they don't WANT to let you change your own battery. They want you to be conditioned to change the whole phone instead. When people started getting smartphones, which broke far easier than flip phones, carriers got used to a quicker replacement cycle. And with warranties training people to just replace the phone, they didn't want to give up the shorter replacement cycle. Then people discovered cases. Because they didn't want to replace these increasingly more expensive phones every time they inevitably broke. Warranty or no warranty. So approximately the year that people en masses started putting cases on phones, the OEMs started locking in the batteries so you couldn't change them yourself. The dirty little secret is that the cases hold in the HEAT like putting a fur coat on the phone. So if you stymie their replacement cycle by putting a case on the "thin and light phone", the new plan is to break the phone with excessive heat...because of that case. They figure they've got you one way or the other. Well not me! I used to buy ONLY high-end phones. Two of them every couple of years or so, and I put a case on them. Although I never dropped or broke any of them. Because I'm careful. And also I don't take the phones with me much. But since I can't get a high-end phone with a replaceable battery, I don't buy high-end phones anymore. Sure, I can take it to a shop and have it replaced. But I won't reward them for their treachery. It is MY money, and if I'm buying a new high-end phone, it has to have EVERY high-end feature I'm used to. Including a replaceable battery...that I can replace. And I want a ruggedized design, and a rubbery grip, so I don't drop it. I want the quality of a good case built in to the phone. I don't think I should have buy that case separately at an even greater expense. Thin and light means nothing to me. Especially if I'm putting a case on it anyway. And I won't spend $1500 apiece on two separate phones, and then COOK them inside an $80 case. I'll get a couple of ~$300 phones, and put cases on each of them instead. They'll be better than the best phones of a few years ago anyway. And when the batteries get cooked from the case, I'll take it to a shop and pay $70 for them to put in their $40 battery. And I WON'T get a warranty on either phone. I'll just put on a $80 case, and pay to replace the battery as needed, and SCREW the OEMs for not building a high-end ruggedized, rubberized phone with a replaceable battery.
  • I prefer glass, because I have seen that on the smartphone in glastic or only plastic, the back cover also crack without falls to the ground. The problem are: the most recent smartphone are slim, so the plastic is very thin, and sand or dust particles, and little torsion like to put the smartphone in pocket can crack it; then the heat when you charge the battery doesn't help with plastic.
  • Rubberized plastic like the BlackBerry Z/Q10 or Passport. Also squared edges like the Z10 or xurrent iPhone. Tough and grippy.
    Or ceramic like the Essential. Glass and curved edges are my least favorite thing on current phones.
  • Glass is the most ridiculous and unnecessary material to use for the back of a phone..
    My gorgeous Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra was only weeks old, and carefully enclosedinside a Nilkin leather wallet case, when it fell from my trouser pocket onto the pavement..I was so relieved on picking it up that the screen, fitted with a Focus 9H Glass screen protector was unmarked, but removing the phone from the case revealed the rear glass panel to be shattered, along with the camera lens Glass cover.
    I was very disappointed and purchased a replacement Glass rear panel, which I replaced myself. What really surprised me was how thin and flimsy the glass panel actually is..No wonder they can break so easily! I wish Samsung would revert to Glasstic polycarbonate backs on all their phones..It is much stronger, practical and a more " Premium" customer experience than shatterprone Gorilla glass rear panels!
  • Same story with my Samsungs, and my conclusion is that Samsung doesn't know how to do durable glass. HTC does, but no one paid attention to that.
  • Plastic back as more durable
  • Kinda funny... Glass being premium is pure misguided perception, period. Apple created that perception. The lemmings lapped it up. Now the android mfg's had to follow suit. Dow loves it because they're the material of choice by most phones. I wouldn't be surprised if glass mfg's put the seed into an Apple exec's head to expand their own market. I'd take a plastic removable back, gasketed for waterproofing with some torx screws so it's user replaceable whether it's out of necessity or want. The people that prefer glass are the problem. Misguided industry created perception. Let's take a more fragile, more slippery substance and laminate it to a phone to make it better. But it's heavier so it feels more premium. Just shows the person has no clue because the weight of something doesn't equate to how it feels. You're pretty much saying they could shove a lead strip inside a plastic phone and these same people would think it "feels" more premium. 🙄 Good job. You're a marketer's dream.
  • Beats headphones are the same way. If you've ever seen a tear down, they have little metal weights in several places to make them heavier and feel more premium. Otherwise they are plastic and wires through and through.
  • This very website is guilty of having put "plastic" under "cons" in many a review, accelerating widespread adoption of the insane belief that glass belongs in an object you carry around in a pocket because it feels "premium", promoting bulky/ugly/otherwise unnecessary cases to protect such fragile items, and generally making the situation better for Apple and Samsung and worse for consumers.
  • Came here to say this!
  • Plastic. Glass is a terrible choice for building something durable. Plus if done right the llastic looks and feels better anyways
  • My mates Z flip 3 just slides around and has zero grip what so ever. Yeah, glass looks nicer but phones like the s21 series and Pixels make plastic look even better.
  • METAL Body is best
  • Metal back means no wireless charging.
  • Plastic, period. Glass--all glass used on phones--breaks infinitely more easily than plastic, even with a case. I find it completely laughable any time someone utters the ridiculous phrase "glass feels more premium". No, it doesn't. It feels MORE FRAGILE. Because it IS more fragile. And, quite frankly, you can do more with color on the plastic housings than you can glass, and you can avoid that horrific oily-fingerprinting that all glass bodies end up with.
  • Glass back is meaningless when it has to be hidden behind a case to protect it.
  • Thanks everyone, i've been fighting with people since the beginning about why Glass was a dumb and unecessary material for phones, and they gave a bunch of dumb responses too.
  • I'm going to take my own poll here, if you don't mind. Who prefers one or the other of the following phones? 1) Rubberized grip surface, with grip texture. Ruggedness by design, inside and out. Heat expelled BY DESIGN, using proper heat sync technologies. Internal shock mounting, and rugged motherboard. Rugged screen, "thicker than strictly necessary latest version of Gorilla Glass". Rather than being "thin as possible glass". And thickness & weight & cost being whatever it needs to be to accomplish this, while still being less than the thickness/weight/cost of a regular fragile phone, plus an extra $80 Otterbox case. Replaceable large battery. Quality back cover, with quality fasteners, and rubber seal. Along with waterproof nano coatings on every single internal component to eliminate any arguments against replaceable batteries. 2) Or do you prefer. A fragile thin and light phone. Slick as a wet bar of soap! Designed on purpose to be dropped and broken, because it is intentionally as "slick as a wet bar of soap by design." Thin edge, with no rubberized grip surface. Which means the harder you try to grip it, the more likely it will pop sideways in your hand, and fall in the floor and break itself. Plus an $80 case to protect your investment. If no case. Then you risk breaking it. Your choice. Locked in, unreplaceable battery. Which means if you put a case on it, it holds the heat inside. Which DESTROYS the battery quickly! And the life of your phone is limited to the life of just one component, the battery. Which is rapidly destroyed by the heat, held in by the protective case. Heat is not good for anything else inside your phone either. But at least it is "thin and light", somewhere inside the "thick and heavy" case! So you will definitely replace it sooner than option #1. Which option do you prefer? If no responses, I'll just assume that everyone agrees with option #1 above. 😆 (P.S. Don't tell me that option #1 will cost "a million dollars". Because rugged phones with rubberized grips have existed since the flip phone era, and cost ~$200 or so today. But they deliberately have low-end specs in order to keep them from being appealing to anyone, aside from those who absolutely must have them for their rugged occupation.)
  • Ceramic, like the Mi 11 Ultra. Because it scratches at lvl8 with deeper grooves at lvl9. And it's shatter proof.
  • I like plastic better, but I'll admit glass does look nicer. However aren't there plastic that looks premium nowadays?