Why bother making a glass phone without wireless charging?

I don't always have the most popular opinions on smartphone design; I've been arguing in favor of the display notch for some time now, and I firmly believe that every phone should have a quick switch for audio profiles like the OnePlus 5T and iPhone X. But one thing that everybody can seem to agree on is that glass backings just don't seem like a good idea — at least, not without some kind of added benefit.

In most cases, that benefit is wireless charging. While it may not be quite as fast as traditional charging through a cable, wireless charging is a convenient way to top up your battery without wearing down your phone's USB port — and if your phone's gotten wet recently, it's likely your only option until the port has time to dry. I still love the fit and finish of an aluminum phone, but wireless charging can't work through a metal chassis (or at least not as easily), so manufacturers are left to choose between other materials like plastic and glass.

So why not use plastic instead? It's much less fragile than glass, after all, and it's cheaper as an added bonus. There's a long list of reasons manufacturers aren't using plastic in their flagships anymore, but the most applicable here is that glass just looks and feels better in a store. As superficial as it may be, when customers walk into a carrier store to buy a new phone, they're going to notice the shiniest, prettiest phone first — and when they pick it up and feel the solid build quality, it'll be all the more enticing.

Love it or hate it, glass back phones are here to stay. As a big fan of wireless charging, I'm not too upset about it, but despite the claims of "shatter-resistant" Gorilla Glass panels, the phone repair business has been booming lately. Everywhere you turn, there's a phone in someone's hand with a cracked corner or a totally shattered backing that could practically be considered a weapon. Wireless charging is great, but let's face it — this is a bad tradeoff, made even worse when your all-glass phone still doesn't support wireless charging.

They don't make 'em like they used to.

But what are the alternatives? It's easy enough to slap a case onto your phone for some added protection, and wireless charging still works just fine through all but the thickest of cases, but that shouldn't have to be the only option. While glass isn't going away any time soon, that doesn't mean manufacturers can't at least dabble in other materials. What if we revisited the polycarbonate backings we used to see on phones like the HTC One X and the Nokia Lumia 920? The latter was one of the first phones to support wireless charging, and it felt great in the hand. I'd love to see a modern take on that same design.

When an all-glass phone doesn't support wireless charging, it just feels like an accident waiting to happen with no real justification. Sure, it looks better in a shop, but most everyone knows that, one way or another, glass breaks. It's a liability, and especially on a device costing anywhere from a few hundred up to a thousand dollars, the fewer liabilities the better.

Do you use wireless charging every day like I do? Is it justification enough for a glass backing? And do you like all-glass phones, or would you prefer a more durable material like polycarbonate or metal, regardless of wireless charging capabilities? Let us know in the comments below!

Hayato Huseman

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

  • No wireless charging in an all-glass phone is the stupidest thing ever.
  • I have to agree on this.
    As someone who has been using wireless charging on phones since 2012 and who refuses to go back to cable charging under any circumstances, seeing the likes of Huawei release a glass back phone without wireless charging is just baffling. I actually like glass back phones (mainly because I like skins). But I also wouldn't be against a well made polycarbonate back like the old Nokia 930 had.
    And the thing is...glass doesn't always feel premium. Again, take the Huawei P20 Pro as an example. That thing feels cheap as hell. When you hold the phone, it feels like a cheap glass-knock of. In fact, it feels more like plastic than glass. Not at all the feeling you get from a Samsung, an LG V30 or an iPhone. So when you release a phone with a cheap glass back, no wireless charging and you still have the nerve to ask 900€ for it...I mean...seriously?
    And the same goes for phones that are actually more premium but still lack wireless charging like that Essential Phone (which lacked all essentials) or the HTC U11 or the Xperia XZ1 Compact, XZ2 Compact or any Xperia Z phone until the Z3+. (And I'm even skipping over the more egregious defect of the P20P which is the f*cking idiotic notch...and yes, Hayato, notches are God damn stupid, no matter how much you try to defend them :P)
  • I don't really care about the material on the backside if it's going to be prone to scratching, because I'm almost certainly going to put a case on it. I think Motorola missed an opportunity with their modular system. Instead of expensive (and often goofy) MotoMods, they should have focused more on inexpensive backplates: metal, glass, leather, cloth, carbon fibre, polycarbonate, rubber, ceramic, Lego, etc. Let users decide what they want their phones to feel like in hand, and make it easy and cheap to change things up. The accessory companies would have been all over that.
  • I suspect that you, like me, were spoilt by the earlier Lumia devices. Amazing, distinctive covers and designs. My 920 has never had a cracked screen, still has an intact back, and you could have hammered nails with it. I used regularly get asked, and still do, "why don't you get an iPhone?" Id usually respond along the lines of them being fragile, and weak, and that most people looked like paupers carrying around smashed devices. That question was pit to me once whilst I was sat with 5 iPhone users. All had their phones in their pockets. 3 had currently broken screens, the other two were on their second screens. Premium to me is not glass, premium is the most tough. Look at the ikimobile devices, stunning devices that look better than a glass phone. It is cork that they use, and it is beautiful.
  • I don't care about wireless charging. But I feel if you're using glass, it should be a feature b/c what is the point of glass?
  • There are more premium "plastic" aerospace composite materials out there, no Idea why the mobile phone industry ignores them. My 2014 motorola has wireless charging with a Kevlar back which feels very solid and premium. What about other composites with carbon fiber, etc.
  • Yes, it's odd that carbon fiber is good enough to build car parts (not just the bodies), but hasn't impacted the smartphone market. I gather that CF can interfere with radio signals, but I'd be surprised if it's worse than metal backs. I don't think Blackberry and BB Mobile get enough credit for avoiding glass and metal and trying out different materials on their phones. I loved the feel of the rubberized backing on my Z10. It felt so secure that I never needed a case for it. I didn't buy a KEYone, but it also felt very reassuring in hand.
  • That's because Blackberry has (almost) always been function over form, but the rest of the industry has gone in the opposite direction, lead by Apple. And the public has spoken and by and large prefers form over function.
  • I disagree. Glass looks and feels better then metal. I don't have a wireless charger. Probably never will. I plug my S8 in once or twice per 24 hours so the argument about wearing out the USB port is ridiculous. Usbc ports will last a decade.
  • What do you do if the port doesn't last?
  • Spurious question. But get it replaced under warranty or on insurance.
    Same thing I would do even if I could still charge it.
  • Do you care about the scratches? Glass phones always get so scratched up.
  • "Glass looks and feels better..." until it's all scratched up and/or broken; it's not durable. So put it in a case, right? Well, that kind of throws your "looks and feels" right out the window.
  • Totally agree. I put a case on, even on strong ones though.
  • I wouldn't buy a glass backed phone that doesn't support wireless charging. Might as well get a metal bodied device then.
  • Wireless charging is slow & inefficient: I've never bothered to use it. Facial recognition to unlock a phone is perhaps only the more useless feature mobile manufacturers have managed to spend a fortune on, yet not get right. A third complaint would be removal of the headphone jack... Bluetooth sound is of lower quality... See the pattern among the three features I mentioned? The glass back choice was probably a cost decision. If you phone model is not at the high premium end of the spectrum, then cost pressure is the primary focus. I'd guess a carbon fibre or metal body would be more expensive than glass.
  • Nailed it. Although, I love wireless charging.
  • Glass backed phones is a direct result of the iPhone craze and darn near every tech site and reviewers laminating the good plastic panels that Android phones primarily used. The Nokia's had awesome shells and were perfect . Glass backed phones may be here to stay, but there are countless numbers of people who prefer plastic backs over anything else, myself included. I might also add I personally prefer good front facing stereo speakers, high quality dacs and amps, and a 16x9 aspect ratio screen as well as removable batteries too..... I don't use wireless charging, even though I own a couple of the chargers. I know one day people will wake up and realize how much they have given up for the sake of a cheaper quality phone... and a little convenience...............
  • Samsung sell shed loads, because they retain features. They even add some. They do that, and have the best display, easy to see why they are so popular. And that is despite having a thoroughly dire battery size. With others taking off jacks, ir blaster, wireless charging, decent battery etc, Samsung must love it. Think of an LG v30, with a Huawei battery, Samsung screen, and Pixel cameras. Game over for everyone else.
  • Samsung doesn't have an IR blaster
  • Wireless charging is still position sensitive. It still sucks. Last phone I had with wireless charging was the LG V10 and like always it works fine for overnight charging. Other than that, it's useless.
  • I found that I use my Samsung charger with my iPhone 8 plus and it charges almost anywhere I put it
  • I love it, and use it every day. Had the positioning issue once, in 5yrs. And that was because I'd fumbled with it, trying to press snooze. On my charger, the light comes on when seated right.
  • I get 5-6 hours screen on time with my HTC U11 without ever recharging during the day. Plugging the cable before going to bed is no big deal, no need for extra accesories.
  • With no jack, I'd want only headphone wear on my port. To add it, allows those who want it to use it, the others can disregard it. The inclusion is pennies, it really is.
  • Yeah, real dumb. I would love a phone built like the Nexus 5 again. Soft touch plastic, 16:9 display, headphone jack. Bezels were fine. Those were the glory days. Now it's fragile materials, notches, no headphone jack, skinny display, round corners, etc... None of those things are improvements.
  • We still have a Moto X Pure in daily use in the family. Great phone...stereo speakers that are LOUD...vibration motor that can loosen your teeth, or knock the rust off your car...headphone jack...and soft touch rubber/plastic on the back....16:9 display. I agree, those were the days. We need to GO BACK to them. Will someone please build a good phone again???
  • This. The black Nexus 5 used the best material for a phone of all time. Super grippy and felt like velvet. Even on the edges.
  • The only thing more useless on a phone than so called wireless charging is a glass back.
  • I've never liked the idea of using glass backs. I would be worried about dropping the darn phone even with a case. Luckily I use lower cost phones and i doubt glass backs will ever come to that segment. Yep let the tech snobs have their fragile finery and I'll take a rugged plastic back inside a rugged case every time.
  • I would give up the headphone port and expandable storage before I would give up wireless charging. Wireless charger on my desk at work and night stand at home. So nice to not have to unplug my phone in the morning before I do my morning routine.
  • I couldn't agree more.
  • Modern humans have become such lazy contemptible slugs.
  • Exactly!! People complaining about connecting a cable... We're doomed
  • I would have to say that the biggest benefit of using glass over metal would have to be signal reception. I don't use wireless charging even on the Galaxy phone my company gave me. I do notice a huge signal reception difference between my HTC 10 and my HTC U11.
  • I'm perfectly fine with a premium composite material on the back but no chance am I giving up wireless charging
  • I have a wireless charger, but I rarely use it because it is simply much more inefficient than using a wired charger.
    For one, the wired charger is probably about 2 time faster, and if I am trying to charge it just for a bit, that makes a huge difference.
    Second, when my phone is charging via wire, I can still pick it up and use it as long as I stay within the range of the outlet. Wireless charging has no such benefit, if you take it off it stops charging.
    Third, it takes about the same amount of time to plug the phone in via cable than to put it on the wireless charger because you have to make sure it is lined up properly.
    Fourth, I usually can stay off my phone long enough so that it just makes more sense to charge it via wired. Imagine if I am playing a video game for 30 minutes and want to charge my phone. I can plug it in and charge it about 30-40% depending on how much of a charge it already has. Wireless charging would give me maybe 15%. It just doesnt make sense for 90% of cases. .
  • Fair in your use case.
    For me I have chargers in the house, car and office so I typically don't get down low enough to worry about needing a quick top up charge.
    Largely if the phone is at rest, it's on a charger.
  • The other 10% is hell of good reason. Personally, I won't buy a phone without it. Wireless use case scenario is likely over night, or whilst it sits, u used on your desk at work. For then, ideal.
  • Can't believe people here actually complaining about wireless charging. I'd rather have a phone with it than without it that's for sure. It's nowhere near as fast as wired charging but it's definitely easier to plop it on a wireless charging plate/stand than it is to plug in and you're not constrained by the type of usb cable available. Great for public areas, restaurant's and stores that provide them for a quick top up. You don't even need to use it if you don't want to and you still have a USB port on the phone for the majority of the time you want to fast charge etc. For me you can't beat going to bed and just placing it on the charging stand in pitch black without having to fumble around for the end of a charging cable. Back to the original topic though and having a fragile glass backed phone for no reason other than aesthetics is just pointless. My Mate 10 Pro fits right into that category too and it still annoys me.
  • I guess for me, I don't view plugging in a cable as complicated enough to want to own a device that has to be fragile for the feature to function, invest money in chargers to take advantage of that feature, all the while said feature is half as fast. I got my first smartphone in 2010, and since that time there have been 2 standards changes (miniUSB > microUSB > USB-C), and coming from flipphones that for years changed the charging connector with every model, 3 standards in almost 10 years isn't bad. And with USB-C being a reversible and stronger connector, I wouldn't be as worried about charging ports wearing out vs microUSB ports. Now I don't begrudge anyone from using wireless charging, I did for a time, but I had issues with placement (took 15-30 seconds to finally get it situated correctly). If it were up to me, I'd remove the hardware and instead put a larger battery in its place.
  • I really don't see the point of wireless charging.
    I see the same wire just with a pad on the end instead of a USBC connection.
    Is the one second it takes to plug in really worth all the limitations wireless charging gives you to save about 2 seconds a day?
  • Ah! I remember the days long ago when every phone review and comment was how plastic back phones weren't premium enough. lol
  • Instinctively glass to me means fragile - Gorilla glass is an exception and is nice for the screen - plastic arguably is more flexible, impact resistant. Regardless, I always use a case on my phones. Always. Wireless charging is a very nice addition. I certainly miss it to some extent. A necessity - no. An argument that if a phone has a glass back means it should have wireless charging - is ... Personally I'll take anything other than metal.
  • Where I live electrical supply is so erratic wireless charging is plain stupid. Fortunately, I also dislike glass phones. In everyday usage metallic unibody mid-range phones with ~SD 821 performance meet my needs satisfactorily. Thank you HMD for the Nokia 7 Plus.
  • I never carry my phone in my pocket so I've always used a belt clip case. I don't find it all that intrusive. I charge wirelessly and have for years. Neither my S8+ or S9+ have ever seen a USB charge. I do it for convenience, period. Love wireless and would not buy a phone that doesn't offer it.
  • They should find a better way. Aesthetlcs aside, glass shouldn't be the only way. Maybe a metal back, with charging strips? I'm not a engineer, but mfgrs aren't listening to damage reports, as long as their phone sells.
  • We don't need glass backs on any phone
  • People who complain about Wireless charging, and there's always a bunch, don't seem to understand the use case. If you've got a wireless charging stand on your nightstand and/or work desk, you won't even think about the charging process anymore. It becomes a non-issue.
  • We understand....we just don't think it's all that.
    I swore that I would never get one without it after the Droid Maxx but rapid charging changed that for me.
  • When you sleep, it is a non issue whether its wireless or not ;) Seriously, some of us just don't need to recharge during the day. I understand the use of it, had a device that wirelessly charged but almost never used it. To me, it is much more important that the device I own can handle a full day without charging than having wireless.
  • I have chargers on my desk by my bed and my car.
    I can use the phone while it's charging and it's twice as fast.
    Also I don't need a glass backed phone.
    Well worth the one second to plug in.
  • Glass is nice if you have wireless charging. The P20 has a glass back with no wireless. So why bother, that's a design feature I like about the ph-1 ceramic & titanium build is definitely much better if you don't have wireless. No matter what glass is more fragile & prone to cracking especially when dropped!
  •  a totally shattered backing that could practically be considered a weapon.... I spit my coffee reading this. Nice view. Lol I think the manufacturer use glass so they can charge more
  • I had the lumia 920. Thing was a tank. To this day one of the best phones I've ever owned. Also got me hooked on wireless charging.
  • There literally isn't a good reason besides shiny. This is what you all wanted, that's what you got.
  • Have Hauwaei Mate 9. Love look, feel of Aluminum. How lazy do we need to be? Who cares about wireless charging. In any case my Mate 9 battery last all day, with minimum 40% at end of the day & I'm power user. CHECK Apple MBP with all aluminum. Bring it back for phones.
  • Bottom line: Apple started with glass backs & every other manufacturer HAD to follow suit. Just like the awful notch, everyone is now copying - no android manufacturer has the scrotes to stick to their own laurels anymore.
    Then you have websites like this one who constantly use dopey buzz words like "premium feel" for... GLASS.
    But hey - it's great for manufacturers - you drop your fragile phone & immediately go buy another one or have insurance buy it. It's a win win for them.
    Keep drinking the kool-aid folks.
  • Exactly! We ll see if the Pixel 3 follows suit like everyone else this far
  • Very well said.
  • Hayato, a glass backed phone without wireless charging is an accident waiting to happen, but a glass backed phone WITH wireless charging is not? I'm having a bit of a logic kerfuffle... does wireless charging make the back stronger? I completely agree that your perspective is a bit different! I assume you have a case on both your glass backed phones, especially your iPhone which has been proven to break quite easily. And regarding "the phone repair business has been booming lately" can you share the source of your data? Because the local repair shops around here (I know the owners personally) were doing a booming business before glass backs became popular. The hardness of plastic is 2.5, aluminum is 3 to 4, and glass is 6. So glass will be the last to scratch, but plastic and aluminum hide it better. Usually. This was not the case for my iPhone 5C which was babied and placed delicately on tissue paper when not in my pocket. It looked like it had been though a war. At the other end of the spectrum, our U11 has not been babied and has been tossed to the floor on purpose, in addition to being dropped onto hardwood and metal surfaces with no damage. Yes, glass will indeed break depending on the drop, but presenting it as something that will shatter with the slightest bump is incorrect. Each material has it's drawbacks and advantages. But if I had to choose between a glass back, lame battery life, slow performance, and weak headphone performance... then I'll stick with the glass back. And by the way, wireless charging is bad for your battery, and a LOT slower.
  • Phones stopped being practical ages ago. Now they're all in a rat race to look good and stand out.
    It started with people thinning out batteries to make slim phones, then the headphone jack, bezels etc.
  • .. something I haven't seen mentioned in the comments yet, are glass backs any easier to recycle than plastic ones? I mean, is there any environmental advantage to any of the materials that manufacturer's use currently?
  • They're well sandwiched with polymer film. Not well enough to protect them, but just enough to keep you from cutting your fingers clean off. That makes them harder and more costly to recycle than plain glass.
  • All-glass phones, with or without wireless charging, are stupid anyway. Element has the right idea, using hard and durable ceramic instead. Most people use cases tonsome degree anyway. When Android first became popular, plastic was the norm. No reason why advanced polymers and composites can't continue. Glass-reinforced polycarbonate is what power tools are made of. My Pixel has a half-glass back and it cracked inside an OtterBox Defender. Ridiculous.
  • Function must come first, glass is bad enough on the screen, let alone all around a device that is very prone to damage. We should be seeing design based around protection, but it's all going aesthetics first... surely we can now merge these after a number of years since smartphones became the norm...
  • Glass back with no Qi is incredibly stupid. Glass back with Qi is still stupid. Glass back is stupid, period.
  • This.
    Glass has always been the week point in a smartphone so why double that?
    Wireless charging is like removing the headphone jack. Pointless.
    Less efficient and convenient than standard charging.
  • « don't always have the most popular opinions on smartphone design; I've been arguing in favor of the display notch for some time now » I think it’s more popular than you think, since the iPhone is the best selling phone... And as more Android phone are following suit
  • I only started using wireless charging with my Note8. It's convenient, but not essential. If I lost it, I don't think I'd miss it too much. Like it was mentioned above, unless it interferes with wireless charging, carbon fibre - whether a weave or forged - it would look and feel much more premium and high-tech then glass or plastic.
  • I Will not consider any phone,
    without wireless charging.
    Use wireless image transfer, and never plug phone in again... Ever!