Phone Material: Why Glass or Metal Isn’t Necessarily the Best
September 30, 2018 Andrew Cheng

More often than not, we always expect high-end, flagship smartphones to be made of premium material like glass, metal, or even ceramic. If a phone is made from “cheap” material like plastic – even if it has flagship-tier hardware – it doesn’t sound quite as appealing.

Now, it’s not to say this expectation is unrealistic: if I’m going to shell out a lot of money for a flagship smartphone, it’s only natural to expect the phone to feel as premium as it could be. However, for the majority of consumers, they’ll usually protect their phones with casings anyway – does it even matter what material their phones are made of?

To a certain extent, yes. But let’s get into detail why smartphones with glass or metal designs aren’t necessarily the best – plastic phones have their own advantages too.

Let’s set up a scenario here: say you just bought a brand new smartphone. Chances are, the first think you’d do is slap on a screen protector on it and protect your device with a nice casing. So…whether you have a phone with a sleek glass and metal design, or a plain polycarbonate body (like the Pocophone F1), there’s virtually no difference once you put on a casing.

Unless, of course, you’re using a clear, see-through casing. In that case, you’ll still somewhat retain the appearance of the phone. But as far as the feel of the phone goes, you won’t be physically touching your phone’s actual chassis anymore. Then again, there are those of us who use their smartphones without any casing on. In that case, the build material of your phone will definitely play a role.

Aside from the actual phone material, it’s worth distinguishing between two things here: premium material does not necessarily mean premium build quality too. While most phones with metal or glass design usually feel premium, there are cases where even all-metal phones feel, well, cheap. This is especially true of mid-range smartphones.

So if build quality is your concern, it doesn’t necessarily matter what material your phone is made out of. Take the Pocophone F1: despite its polycarbonate body, it still feels solid and well-built.

And that brings us to the next point: cost. One of the major reasons why the Pocophone F1 is so affordable is the fact that it’s made out of plastic, which reduces the overall cost of the phone. While build material isn’t the only thing that impacts the price tag of a phone, it’s certainly one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of manufacturing. In fact, I imagine there will be folks who will gladly purchase a flagship smartphone made out of high-quality plastic if it is priced right.

Speaking of cost, not only are smartphones with metal or glass designs more expensive to manufacture, there are also costlier to replace – this is especially true for the latter. To make matters worse, phones with glass backs are not as durable as metal or plastic panels. In the case of a drop, the glass panel has a very high chance of shattering.

Sure, putting on a casing will lessen the possibility of this happening, but this goes back to the earlier point – if you won’t even be touching the physical chassis of your phone, what’s the use of it being made out of premium material?

Now, I personally love smartphones with glass and metal designs, but more often than not, I almost always protect my own devices with casings, screen protectors, and sometimes even skins. I baby my devices, and I do think it defeats the purpose of owning a phone made out of premium material if I’m just going to cover it up. To be frank, I’m envious of those who don’t mind using their smartphones without any form of protection; they can really enjoy all the hard work manufacturers have put into their devices’ ergonomics and design.

But until there are smartphones with a glass or metal design that are as durable as plastic phones, I’ll continue to cover up my devices with casings and skins.