Samsung’s next design decision: plastic or metal for the Galaxy line


Since what seems like the beginning of time, Samsung has been criticized for the plastic, low-end feel of its devices. Notice that the build quality of these devices isn’t necessarily criticized, just the fact that the plastics – however durable – just don’t have the high quality feel that you would expect from a $500 smartphone.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Samsung might switch to a metal construction for the next Galaxy Note, a rumor that prompted a mixed reaction from users. A metal design reminiscent of the HTC One would certainly give Samsung’s devices a higher quality feel, but would also increase the weight of the device and potentially cause signal problems.

Now, more rumors say that the Galaxy S5 will also be released with a new metal construction, which does jive with rumors that the design wasn’t quite ready for the Galaxy S4. This is supposedly all a part of Samsung’s Design 3.0 initiative, which will eventually result in new design materials for almost all of Samsung’s products.

Of course, one of the main arguments for Samsung’s plastic smartphones is the increased durability afforded by the material. In regards to these rumors, Samsung just released an aptly-timed video that highlights the durability of the Galaxy S4’s design, and shows some of the stress tests that the device must undergo and pass before being shipped.

While this could simply be a coincidence, it does seem to highlight Samsung’s dedication to its current smartphone hardware designs, even if they do feel cheap. It is certainly clear that Samsung’s smartphones are fairly durable. From the anecdotal evidence I hear from friends, it does seem that Samsung’s devices will stand up to more punishment, at least in general, than other devices (especially iPhones). Then again, the HTC One X seems to make a decent hammer in this video, so perhaps smartphones are simply becoming more durable all around.

Personally, although I quite like the HTC One’s unibody construcion, I don’t see any desperate need for Samsung to switch to a metal construction for devices, or even stop using plastics. While I have complained about the feel of the Galaxy S line in the past, the devices are at least as durable as other smartphones on the market, and plastic construction has its advantages such as weight, flexibility, and even removable battery covers.

The bottom line, then, is that each approach has its advantages, but the nice thing about Android devices coming from multiple manufacturers is that the consumers can choose whichever design they prefer. With that in mind, although it would certainly be interesting to see Samsung switch to metal construction for the new Galaxy Note III and Galaxy S5, there is no desperate need for the company to change its ways in order to survive.

Still, I’m also interested in the opinions of other consumers, so feel free to leave your opinions on plastic versus metal/polycarbonate/unibody construction in the comments section.

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Aaron Orquia

Aaron Orquia is an associate editor at Pocketables. He has been using Android and Linux since he bought his first computer years ago, and his interest in technology, software, and tweaking both to work just right has only grown stronger since then. His current gadgets include a OnePlus One, a Pebble smartwatch, and an Acer C720 Chromebook.

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7 thoughts on “Samsung’s next design decision: plastic or metal for the Galaxy line

  • June 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I care less about feel and more about function. I have an Evo LTE right now and I can say I really couldn’t care less about the aluminum chassis. In fact, I think I would prefer plastic due to how frequently I drop/slide my phone. My LTE now has raw aluminum showing on the front and a couple of burrs around the edges. My original evo only had issues with paint chipping off revealing the red undercoating. So what I am trying to say is, I like plastic.

  • June 14, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Although I have a spare battery for my Note2 (I play ingress which is a terrible battery hog) I don’t change unless I am desperate because I worry about breaking or wearing the clips on the battery cover.

    I would like to see a hybrid approach, I am certain is possible to use a mix of metal and polymers to make a really robust device which also looks good AND has great radio performance.

  • June 14, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I am just going to put a case on it…
    That said, I still want durable construction, and a robust removeable back.
    I like the front facing speakers, but the metal unibody I imagine is less flexible and would send more shock to the glass in a drop.
    I have not lost a device due to a drop in the more than 10 years I have been using “Pocket PCs” and Smartphones. Though I have dropped them several times.
    Luck of the drop.

  • June 14, 2013 at 10:07 am

    This is why I have not bought a Galaxy I don’t like plastic phones.I have the Evo LTE with a case that gives it a fighting chance if dropped.They could use some composite that would be the best,get rid of the cheap plastic.

  • June 14, 2013 at 10:27 am

    This is retarded. People hold their phone vertically and when dropped it lands on a corner much more often than landing on its face or back.

  • June 14, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I haven’t had a smartphone in the last several years that didn’t immediately go into an otterbox defender.

    What I want to see is cordless charging or something external… Damaged MicroUSB connectors are the bane of most devices.


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