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  1. Thread Author  Thread Author    #1  
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    Default Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    I got into an argument the other day with an iPhone 5S owner who claimed that his phone is superior to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, despite the size difference.

    Thinking about it, I realized that he was right - the build quality of the iPhone 5S seems to be far better. In fact, it seems that the Note 3 and almost all Android phones are made of.. plastic. Some are made of harder kinds of plastic and polycarbonate but those are still plastics.

    What made me feel odd about it, is that these phones are super high-tech gadgets and their fronts are made of the same glass material and are aesthetically equal.

    However, the sides and back of the iPhone are clearly superior.

    For instance, my Galaxy Nexus. Its front is gorgeous, but back and sides are made of a slightly cheap plastic.

    I guess I feel kind of disillusioned and I'm not sure why this never occurred to me nor bothered me before. I guess I just took Android phones for what they are, and never realized that they were plastic while iPhones are glass and metal.

    What I don't understand are why they can't be at least partially metal. I'm not talking about glass on the back, but like my Galaxy Nexus.. the sides are made of a plastic rim that could have easily been made of aluminium. It would have made the phone feel far more robust, in my mind.

    But again, this never bothered me before, so it's weird. Anyone else know why Samsung chose to use plastic?
  2. #2  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    It was likely in an effort to balance cost, quality, and function (removable back). Who knows if they'll stick with it, though: Samsung replaces head of mobile design (updated)

    Definitely take a look at the Xperia Z2 and One M8 as examples of Android built without the plastic.
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  3. #3  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    This provides a pretty good discussion of material selection


    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7984/d...ices-in-mobile

    dpham00, Android Central Moderator
    Sent from my Verizon Samsung Galaxy Note 3
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  4. #4  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Plastic doesn't always mean inferior build quality. Plastic is lightweight and can be more durable, and soft touch plastic is much easier to grip than slippery metal. There are plenty of people who dislike aluminum frames due to the easy scuffing--remember the complaints about iPhone 5 scuffs right out of the box? And glass backs sure look nice, but whoops! It slips out of your hand, falls a foot to the ground, and it don't look so pretty no more ...
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    My M8 isn't plastic. Neither was my M7. Options are good.

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  6. Thread Author  Thread Author    #6  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Schroedl View Post
    It was likely in an effort to balance cost, quality, and function (removable back). Who knows if they'll stick with it, though: Samsung replaces head of mobile design (updated)

    Definitely take a look at the Xperia Z2 and One M8 as examples of Android built without the plastic.
    Damn, so you're saying that Samsung literally decided to use plastic to save cost?

    Am I wrong here that plastic is cheap or is it that metal and glass are posh?

    I guess my point is - why did they have to go all the way down to plastic? I have an HTC Desire HD that's made of something in the middle.

    And then, I have this gorgeous Galaxy Nexus that's made of just regular old hard plastic. Though, I must admit, it's much lighter.
  7. #7  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    For me, I prefer plastic because plastic allows for a removable battery. It is still possible to have a metal back and removable battery but much more complicated and very rare. Also plastic is usually lighter.

    dpham00, Android Central Moderator
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  8. #8  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trackr View Post
    Damn, so you're saying that Samsung literally decided to use plastic to save cost?

    Am I wrong here that plastic is cheap or is it that metal and glass are posh?

    I guess my point is - why did they have to go all the way down to plastic? I have an HTC Desire HD that's made of something in the middle.

    And then, I have this gorgeous Galaxy Nexus that's made of just regular old hard plastic. Though, I must admit, it's much lighter.
    Cost is part of it but ease of manufacturing is probably a bigger concern. Samsung wants to sell high volume and it is difficult if it takes longer to manufacture

    dpham00, Android Central Moderator
    Sent from my Verizon Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  9. #9  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trackr View Post
    Damn, so you're saying that Samsung literally decided to use plastic to save cost?

    Am I wrong here that plastic is cheap or is it that metal and glass are posh?

    I guess my point is - why did they have to go all the way down to plastic? I have an HTC Desire HD that's made of something in the middle.

    And then, I have this gorgeous Galaxy Nexus that's made of just regular old hard plastic. Though, I must admit, it's much lighter.
    Doesn't the Desire HD have a non-removable back, as with essentially all HTC devices? That was probably a key factor.
  10. #10  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Personally, I'm much more interested in how a device performs and how durable it is. Looks are nice, but they're not everything to me.
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  11. Thread Author  Thread Author    #11  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by dpham00 View Post
    For me, I prefer plastic because plastic allows for a removable battery. It is still possible to have a metal back and removable battery but much more complicated and very rare. Also plastic is usually lighter.
    That's fine. I don't mind what material the back is made out of.

    I'm just saying that the plastic rim around my Nexus could have been made of something besides cheap plastic. This wasn't a cheap phone; I didn't buy it for a teenager.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpham00 View Post
    Cost is part of it but ease of manufacturing is probably a bigger concern. Samsung wants to sell high volume and it is difficult if it takes longer to manufacture
    But Apple sells even higher volumes and it can take the time to fabricate the glass/metal chasis on the iPhone 5S.

    Event he 5C has a glass/metal chasis, while only the highest-end Android phones are made of anything but plastic.

    It just kind of feels like Samsung is treating us like kids.. why so much plastic? I mean, people say that Apple fanboys would buy anything made by Apply, but Android users are perfectly okay with drastically inferior materials and build quality.

    This goes for laptops too, now that I think of it. Compare a Macbook Pro Retina with ANY PC laptop.. metal vs. plastic.

    Do I have this backwards? Is plastic great and metal/glass just excellent?

    Then why care about it? If you already have such high standards that you will only buy a phone with the best materials, you're cornering yourself to buying only Apple.. whose design I am sick of.

    So, I suppose I am angry with Samsung for not giving us the same materials because then I'm forced to buy Apple.

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Schroedl View Post
    Doesn't the Desire HD have a non-removable back, as with essentially all HTC devices? That was probably a key factor.
    The Desire HD has a removable bottom where the SD card and SIM card can be easily accessed, as well a removable side where the battery can be removed.

    Though, of course, both of those openings are plastic.

    Quote Originally Posted by B. Diddy View Post
    Personally, I'm much more interested in how a device performs and how durable it is. Looks are nice, but they're not everything to me.
    No, I agree. Going from a 3.5" iPhone 4 to a 4.7" Galaxy Nexus.. I can't even describe the difference.

    But now, envisioning my next phone, likely the Note 4.. I just feel like an ***** not demanding better materials.
  12. #12  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    A lot of great responses already. Only thing I can add is: it sounds like that iPhone user got into your head a bit about something that's purely subjective (since it didn't bother you before).
  13. Thread Author  Thread Author    #13  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Synycalwon View Post
    A lot of great responses already. Only thing I can add is: it sounds like that iPhone user got into your head a bit about something that's purely subjective (since it didn't bother you before).
    Well.. how is it subjective? Metal/glass are clearly superior to cheap plastic.

    I mean, for the battery door.. okay. But why make the rest of the phone out of the same material?

    Couldn't someone in the design team have gotten up and said "Hey, Apple have us beat hand down in build quality.. but why don't we just add a little aluminium to the sides to make it feel like a gadget worth spending 600$ for instead of a kid's toy?"
  14. #14  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trackr View Post
    Well.. how is it subjective? Metal/glass are clearly superior to cheap plastic.

    I mean, for the battery door.. okay. But why make the rest of the phone out of the same material?

    Couldn't someone in the design team have gotten up and said "Hey, Apple have us beat hand down in build quality.. but why don't we just add a little aluminium to the sides to make it feel like a gadget worth spending 600$ for instead of a kid's toy?"
    It's subjective because not everyone feels that way to say that metal or glass are superior or that plastic makes a device feel like a kid's toy.
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  15. #15  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    It's a great topic and one that the debate will have no end as some prefer lightweight plastic, whilst others prefer that premium build.

    Many pro's and cons for both, I having owned mainly all Samsung's and then moving to the Nexus 5 and now the Z2.

    The Z2 is amazing and does feel very premium and it does give that impression that time and dedication went into it, rather than yup that will do.

    That said the experience of the note 3 with the faux leather back is great and it retains the removable battery.

    Tbh I like both perhaps if I'm honest not equally, the Z2 is just that good for me anyway.

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  16. #16  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trackr View Post
    That's fine. I don't mind what material the back is made out of.

    I'm just saying that the plastic rim around my Nexus could have been made of something besides cheap plastic. This wasn't a cheap phone; I didn't buy it for a teenager.



    But Apple sells even higher volumes and it can take the time to fabricate the glass/metal chasis on the iPhone 5S.

    Event he 5C has a glass/metal chasis, while only the highest-end Android phones are made of anything but plastic.

    It just kind of feels like Samsung is treating us like kids.. why so much plastic? I mean, people say that Apple fanboys would buy anything made by Apply, but Android users are perfectly okay with drastically inferior materials and build quality.

    This goes for laptops too, now that I think of it. Compare a Macbook Pro Retina with ANY PC laptop.. metal vs. plastic.

    Do I have this backwards? Is plastic great and metal/glass just excellent?

    Then why care about it? If you already have such high standards that you will only buy a phone with the best materials, you're cornering yourself to buying only Apple.. whose design I am sick of.

    So, I suppose I am angry with Samsung for not giving us the same materials because then I'm forced to buy Apple.



    The Desire HD has a removable bottom where the SD card and SIM card can be easily accessed, as well a removable side where the battery can be removed.

    Though, of course, both of those openings are plastic.



    No, I agree. Going from a 3.5" iPhone 4 to a 4.7" Galaxy Nexus.. I can't even describe the difference.

    But now, envisioning my next phone, likely the Note 4.. I just feel like an ***** not demanding better materials.
    Not sure what you mean by higher volume, but Samsung has a substantially larger global market share than Apple.





    dpham00, Android Central Moderator
    Sent from my Verizon Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  17. Thread Author  Thread Author    #17  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Synycalwon View Post
    It's subjective because not everyone feels that way to say that metal or glass are superior or that plastic makes a device feel like a kid's toy.
    What reason would someone think that plastic is superior to metal and glass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Duncan1982 View Post
    It's a great topic and one that the debate will have no end as some prefer lightweight plastic, whilst others prefer that premium build.

    The Z2 is amazing and does feel very premium and it does give that impression that time and dedication went into it, rather than yup that will do.
    Yeah, exactly.

    It just feels like Samsung put a "this goes to the plastic plant" sticker on my Nexus because they figured that it's 'good enough'.

    I mean, you could say that Samsung prefer to use plastic because it saves on cost, but not using ANY metal.. that just sounds cheap to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpham00 View Post
    Not sure what you mean by higher volume, but Samsung has a substantially larger global market share than Apple.



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    dpham00, Android Central Moderator
    Sent from my Verizon Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    Well, if Apple can fabricate metal and glass for 17% of the market, why can't Samsung at least something better than plastic for 32% of it?

    Also, that comparison is false. 100% of Apple's 17% are top-end because that's all they make. Samsung probably also only have 17% top-end market share, so they have even less excuse.

    But my point is, it's like they're not even trying! How about magnesium, for instance? Even a little bit. No, they're going to continue using plastic..
  18. #18  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trackr View Post
    What reason would someone think that plastic is superior to metal and glass?
    Depending on the metal, it may be heavier, or it may scuff more easily. And I think glass is an unwise material to make phone casings out of for the reason I mentioned above--crack!

    There is no question that plastic that is flimsy, glossy and easily scratched looks and feels cheap. But plastics that are sturdy and soft touch feel premium to me.
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  19. #19  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trackr View Post
    What reason would someone think that plastic is superior to metal and glass?
    Plastic is more durable. It doesn't dent or scratch as readily as metal or break as easily as glass. It's also more shock resistant.

    Edit: plastic also doesn't feel as cold to the touch as metal can or feel as warm (from using the device or from your own body heat).
  20. #20  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Wow that iPhone user really got under your skin it seems...Listen if you don't like plastic then don't freaking buy a phone with plastic. There are plenty of phones out there not made of plastic. Samsung sells millions and millions of phones every year making me think the majority of ppl could care less that the phone's are made of plastic.

    Like it's been stated before some people prefer plastic to metal frames because it's lighter and can withstand falls a hell of a lot better. Even Apple has introduced plastic to their iPhone lineup. How much is an iPhone 5c 32gb with no contract? $650.00...that's more expensive then the Galaxy S5 and $50 cheaper then the Note 3 which is a vastly superior phone then the 5c.

    If you don't like plastic then don't buy, simple as that.
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  21. #21  

    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    If there were no HTC One M8 I would never consider going Android, as an iPhone users, used in top quality.

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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    There are different qualities of plastic.... The type that samsung uses feels very cheap. But, the type that motorola uses is much more high quality. Sure metal and glass look more visually appealing, but a phone can be just as high quality if it is made of plastic(just look at the moto x/g and the lumia series).
  23. #23  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    A few things.

    The iPhone 5C is plastic and glass on the outside.

    Most phone do have a metal sub frame (usually made out of Magnesium).

    There are PC's that have a metal exterior like the MacBook line. Look at the Asus Zenbooks and Samsung Series 9 ultrabooks.

    A direct answer to your question (why are Android phones made of plastic?) is "because that's what they wanted to use". In Samsung's case, they obviously don't feel like they need to change materials in order to maintain sales. At least not yet.

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  24. #24  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Let's keep in mind that build materials do not equal build quality. I would gladly take an aluminum engine built by Audi over a Titanium engine built by Daewoo.
    Regarding plastics, there are polymers that rival many metals for heat tolerance, and strength. Now, granted, these polymers probably aren't on a cell phone.
    But then again, I would also take a phone that has a carbon fiber backing over one made of aluminum.

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  25. #25  
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    Default Re: Why are Android phones made of plastic?

    Samsung does have pretty crappy build quality. Plastic phones can be good though, Moto X is great for instance and the entire Lumia series... Amazing.
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