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Monday Poll: Does a Smartphone Design Need to Contain Metal?

htc one m8 metal

I don’t know who we should put more of the blame on – Apple for their chamfered edges and metal design choices with the iPhone, or Samsung for using the cheapest feeling plastics on the planet to build their smartphones with, but people seem to refer to all plastic embodied phones as “cheap” these days. The Nexus 5 certainly doesn’t feel cheap, neither do the G3 or Moto X or OnePlus One, yet they are all made of plastic. But here we are today, talking about Samsung’s new Galaxy Alpha with its metal banding, chamfered edges, and “premium” design, because metal means premium, or something.

I can tell you one thing I know for sure about metal phones – they can be insanely slippery and frustrating to deal with. I spent more than enough time with HTC’s last two flagship phones, the One (M7) and One (M8), both of which were unusable at times because of their lack of grip. Apple could have worked some different metal magic with the iPhone to make it less slippery, but I sort of doubt it. iPhones just happen to be small smartphones that are easily held, whereas Android phones are all oversized and at times tough to hold anyway.

You also have to worry about radio issues with metal phones, wear and tear, weight, etc. In my opinion, metal isn’t exactly the greatest material available for building smartphones.

So I’m curious about this metal thing. Is a metal phone or design that includes metal a requirement when you buy a phone? Is this whole “metal is premium” thing overblown by Apple-leaning tech journos? Feel free to vote below, then hit up the comments.

Does a Smartphone Design Need to Contain Metal?

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  • Metal isn’t as durable as some people would like to believe. It dents and scratches fairly easily but isn’t as resilient as plastic or scratch resistant as glass or ceramics. And the big downside of making a phone case out of metal is that it functions like a giant faraday cage making antenna placement difficult and attenuating the radio signal, Metal can make a phone feel premium, but other materials can feel just as premium in my opinion. Motorola phones often feel very sturdy due to having rigid constructions and soft touch exteriors. I agree that kevlar coatings are underutilized. The Droid Razer MAXX HD is pretty much my ideal form factor phone. A Droid RAZR MAXX HD with a modern X8 computing system and a removable back cover would pretty much be my perfect phone.

  • HarvesterX

    Everyone needs to educate themselves some more and avoid “plastic is cheap” assumptions. You’re so wrong.

  • speed4evr

    I’m not concerned with it being metal or plastic, usually have a case protecting it. I think iPhones metal design is a justification to charge a higher premium for the device

  • Justin Latham

    I’m never going to not buy a phone because it doesn’t have metal but if it is made of metal it is definitely a plus.

  • 1966CAH

    For me it comes down to the question of “Do you want wireless charging?”

  • John Kitchen

    Metal bands should be a must. The Lumia Icon feels and looks amazing and its a metal band with a plastic back.

    As for radio issues with metal phones, my M8 beats out my wifes S5 every time we enter a low service area. No contest.

  • I vote that it needs to feel premium. Plastic is fine. The G2 feels great in hand. The s5 on the other hand feels plastic. The note 2 felt more premium than the more 3.

  • Droidrazr

    I always use either a bumper case (currently on a Droid maxx) or a clear gel case that’s slim (used it on htc one M7) which keeps the premium looks of the phone visible. BTW never used a case or screen protector on my RAZR Maxx and the Maxx HD which I owned for six months each prior to the M7 and barely any marks on either and screen always perfect as new. Never a problem with Motorola quality.

  • Lakerzz

    I like metal, but LG hit it out of the park with the G3. So as long as the plastic is implemented like it is on the G3, then I don’t mind it NOT being metal. Otherwise, (at least some) metal please. It is a tough one though. Not really a deal breaker.

  • TR1

    It’s all about the feel. Samsung phones feel (and even look) cheap. Nokia, 1+1, MotoX, plastic HTC look and feel awesome. I’d rather have good plastic but I don’t mind metal either

  • Chuck Peebles

    My Benz has many plastic parts and my beer comes in aluminum cans. I don’t give a rat’s ass what my phone is made of.

  • RaptorOO7

    Who cares if its metal or plastic I put every phone in a case and a metal phone is just more prone to damage and it will look like crap after a month of normal use. Plastic can achieve better form factors, allows for NFC, Wireless charging and better reception (Antenna Gate anyone).

  • Trevor

    I just want the phone to feel solid, be it plastic or metal. I also really like the rubbery/matte finish to the back of a phone. I prefer that over anything else material-wise.

  • needa

    whatever the material is protecting the glass of the gs2 should be on each and every phone produced. it is some sort of metal blend that has taken an extreme beating without ever failing. the thicker glass helps also.

  • BOB Dudek

    I use this (SUPCASE Hybrid Protective Bumper Case) on my M8 (and old M7) and leaves the metal device very un-slippery,easy to one hand(le), and well protected.


  • dizel123

    Don’t want metal, don’t want plastic…Kevlar or GTFO

  • SoCalPaul

    I love my Bamboo phone!!!

  • Chris

    Lots of samsung plastic fans here….. Shame…

  • Danny

    When I’m paying for a phone I rather it be premium than it have plastic I like how Iphones have always been premium and not cheap like gay galaxys

    • MicroNix

      You mean when daddy buys you an iPhone?

      • Danny

        Not really… I’m 18 and have a job I bought my HTC one and galaxy nexus… My Droid 2 was bought by my parents though oh and I’m buying myself the g3 this month thank you very much.

      • Danny

        No I mean when IM paying for a phone did you not read? Are you stupid or something or are you just trolling? I’m 17 and bought myself my galaxy s2, g-nexus, HTC one, nexus 7 and coming up the lg g3 once best buy ships home so I can keep my unlimited

  • Stang88

    When the rubber actually meets the road, a “good, high quality plastic” material would be more durable than most “metal” materials. When they want to make a space helmet what do they use, “plastic or in other words polycarbonate”, when they want to the best protective motorcycle helmet what do they use, “plastic or in other words polycarbonate”, when they want to protect our children’s heads in football, what do they use, “plastic or in other words polycarbonate”.

    Metal bends, plastic doesn’t; metal dents, plastic doesn’t, etc etc. I have had a “plastic” corvette for years and I don’t have the dings and dents I would have if it were metal. Besides, plastics do not have radio interference like some metals do. Not sure why people have gotten the Medal is good, plastics are bad feelings.

    Finale word; It’s how it’s made, NOT what it is made of!

  • HotInEER

    If a company uses plastic or poly-carbonate it just needs to feel solid in the hands. For example my Nexus 5 and LG G3 feel great in the hands. Even my G2 felt nice. It shouldn’t look cheap either like Samsung phones with that fake plastic metal going around the phone. If I’m paying $600 for a phone it better look like it and perform like it.

  • Patrick Smithopolis

    In my opinion the G3 looks better than the M8.

  • Higher_Ground

    I voted no, because I’m looking for a moto x+1 with wood back (and hoping it’s not trimmed in aluminum). I don’t think metal adds anything to the phone, but a generic metal body is probably nicer than a generic plastic body. The point is don’t be generic.

    • HarvesterX

      Your phone isn’t a wood phone because of that. The X is a mix of metals in certain areas and plastics in others. Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages depending on where and how it’s implemented. This is a pretty bad poll.

  • Al-Burrit0

    Its doesn’t matter really but if i had the option to have the m8 build quality onto my moto x i would!:D

  • ClickFire_

    Build quality is important but it doesn’t have to be metal. I for One think the Moto X, Nexus 5, LG G3, and Nexus 7 2013 are proof you can have good looking and feeling devices without having to have metal.

  • Kevin

    doesn’t have to be metal but i’d prefer no high gloss plastic

  • jmsbwmn

    Man, what’s up with the polls lately? You have two polarized extremes, plus an apathetic third option. I can’t participate because I very rarely find myself on the extreme side of an argument, but I always have some sort of opinion.

    I’d suggest 5 options. Extremely A, Moderately A, Neither, Moderately B, and Extremely B.

    • BOB Dudek

      What He said.

  • Dwayne Jordan

    Performance, camera, battery life and lite skin are what’s important to me – LG G3 is a good example.

    • guest

      LaG3 & Performance, lol

  • JBForum

    Why are you people looking at the back of your phone anyway. Is something on it I’m missing, besides a giant ass otterbox? Is the bottom of your keyboard ugly?
    The back of your fridge? The inside of your Skinny Jeans?

    So many people care too much about how other people see them I think. (People looking at you with your phone see the back).

  • Mark Aaron Collado

    Im happy with my G3. Got the best of both worlds.

  • Mikrobe

    Don’t forget about ceramics!

  • Jason B

    When you go to buy a car, the last thing you want to feel is cheap, hollow sounding, Fischer-Price plastics for the interior. The same is true for phones.

    There’s nothing wrong with metal or plastic, but if the phone creaks when pressed in certain areas or feels so brittle the plastic could break at any moment, well, it’s a cheaply built phone with cheap materials.

    The OG Droid was a metal phone. I swore you could break a window with that thing.

  • Dave

    After 14 years of composite mold manufacturing, I realize how many people don’t really know what “plastic” means. There are so many different types. Once metal gets down to a thin enough gauge (about the gauge of phone shells) equal gauge campsites are technically stronger and resist damage much better. Stranded HDPE is stronger than aluminum up to ⅛”, then the tables turn. You’ll never find a ⅛” thick casing for a mobile device.

  • Jason Kahn

    Thank you someone gets its, plastic does not mean cheap. Just the poor quality stuff Samsung has been using on its phones exteriors.

  • Sqube

    It doesn’t have to be metal. It just has to feel like I paid a decent amount of money for it.

    This has been the only thing keeping me from purchasing a Samsung smartphone. I don’t worry so much about their software because, for me, rooting and ROMing is a foregone conclusion.

  • James Steven Handshoe

    I’ve seen just my dry hands leave micro-scratches on cheap plastic phones (and they weren’t all THAT dry really). Metal does go a long way in my mind to protect a phone from some scratches, if nothing else.

  • Nikuliai

    Well I didn’t actually vote on this and the site voted for me rofl :S (not the option I wanted btw)

  • schoat333

    My phones are always in a case, so I don’t care what its made out of.

  • WestFiasco

    No, it just needs not be considerably cheap looking as compared to its flagship smartphone brethren.