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Question of the Day: What’s Wrong With Plastic Smartphones?

Samsung Galaxy S4

I have a completely honest question to ask the DL community as we head into the weekend that has to do with smartphone build quality. Over the years, we’ve seen devices built from aluminum, fancy micro arc oxidation processes, glass, kevlar, and of course, plastic. All have clearly had their own sets of issues, but one in particular always gets more negative feedback than the others and that is plastic. I’m just curious, what exactly is your reasoning for not wanting a plastic phone? 

Whenever Samsung announces their new smartphone, since it is always made of plastic, we hear the same groans and complaints almost simultaneously:

  • “Nice internals, but it’s made of cheap plastic.”
  • “It just feels cheap because of the plastic.”
  • “Why can’t they use premium materials like aluminum or glass?”

I’m just not sure I understand the hatred here. Plastic, is probably more durable than most of the other materials I mentioned above, for one. It’s not like the all-aluminum iPhone 5 or HTC One can last through a drop test anymore than a Galaxy S3 (go search “iPhone 5 drop test” on YouTube). Sure, it might take an extra drop (if it’s lucky) before the screen spiderwebs, but it’ll still crack like none other should you drop it a certain way. And let’s not forget the chipping paint and finish issues since these fancy aluminum devices are also starting to get paint jobs.

Aluminum and glass also scratch just as easy as something made from plastic (maybe even easier). All you have to do is ask me and my opinion on the Optimus G and Nexus 4’s glass panels. After terrible experiences with both, I’ve had to wrap my entire new Nexus 4 in a plastic case to make sure it survives more than a week.

And that brings me to my next point – don’t most people put a plastic case on their phones anyway? Or are you aluminum and glass lovers finding cases made of the same materials?

I’m trying to wrap my brain around this idea as I sit here on a plane back to Portland and am struggling to fully understand it. Is it because you pay an arm and a leg for a smartphone that you expect it to be made of the finest materials? Do you want some sort of piece of mind, knowing that the most powerful device in your life isn’t made from the same material as your child’s Legos? Or is it simply an excuse to find fault?

Hit up the comments with your thoughts.

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