Maybe it's because phones are becoming more fragile as they become larger and more advanced, but I've been compelled to focus on the durability of phones, or how to better protect your phone, lately. Cell phones are extremely important in our day to day lives – our lifelines, in some cases – and whether it be through insurance, a case or a full body wrap, protecting your phone is important. The first step, before insurance or cases, however, is to choose what your phone is made of.

Phones now come in a multitude of sizes and form factors, and every manufacturer has their own preference when it comes to build materials and what they believe is the most durable. Some phones are equipped with a cheaper, more lightweight plastic while others sport heavy, (somewhat) more protective metal. And some even come wrapped in sheets of chemically hardened glass.

All of these different materials not only determine how well the device feels in the hand, by adding or subtracting weight, they also determine how sturdy the device will be over time. The rigidness and strength of the material establish how the phone will hold up against keys and change in your pocket, how it will resist damage when dropped on asphalt or even how the hardware maintains its sturdiness (hinges and physical buttons) through the test of abuse and time.

As reviewers, we here at PhoneDog accrue a lot of hands-on time with different phones, all of different materials and make. We examine the hardware, top to bottom, note any questionable features and call attention to any highlights in a phone's design. But since a lot of the phones we receive are only review units and have to be sent back in working order, we rarely get the chance to put the hardware to the test.

Luckily, there are some people who are willing to pit devices against one another in very unscientific (not that they really need to be) drop tests. Phil over at Android Central shared a video of a drop test today, done by SquareTrade, where the Galaxy S II and new iPhone 4S faced-off against their mutual enemy, pavement. (It was actually pretty hard to watch through all of the cringing and eye-squinting I was doing.) The results were pretty obvious and expected – the iPhone suffered some extensive damage and shattered front and back glass. But I was sincerely surprised at how well the Galaxy S II held up against the ground. As far as I could tell and the video showed, it only suffered from a few scuffs after three drops – two from waist-high and one from shoulder-high.

If you were to ask someone who the top hardware maker is in the smartphone game today, you would probably be met with one of two answers: HTC or Apple. HTC tends to use a lot of accent metals in their devices along with matte finish plastics. This gives the phone a sturdy feel and induces a bit of comfort in a user. Apple, on the other hand, loves that elegant glass with metal trim. It should go without saying that although the device is built extremely well, a single drop from waist-high can leave you without a working phone. Obviously, "best" doesn't always account for durability.

Personally, I prefer a phone with a more "solid" feel to it. While I am currently carrying an iPhone as my personal device, I'm always afraid of what might happen if and when I drop it, even with a case on. I have to pay close attention every time I pocket the iPhone. I prefer peace of mind and tend to lean towards phones with more metal, although I had how the paint begins to chip away after several months of use. There is just something about the weight and sturdiness of a metal frame that puts me at ease.

With some phones obviously a little more rugged than others, do you choose durability over design? What material do you prefer? Lightweight plastic, sturdy metal, or the luxurious, smooth feel of glass? Do you wish more high-end phones were built with extra durability? Chime in with your thoughts below!

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72 Reactions to this post

"Do you choose durability and materials over design?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Travis Rector yes, because i drop a lot of things
Gabriel Cardenas I didn't have to chose I got the HTC inspire!!!!!!!!!!
Myles J. Patterson I though those were apart of design .
Evan Nakagawa I want a sexy, solid feeling phone. I don't care if it can't withstand 6' drops that well. I'm not that clumsy.
Hafis Adegun durability my mytouch 3g slide has like 2 cracks on the side of the phone .
Fernando Zelaya HTC has the best build quality around without giving up design no matter the OS.
Teron Facey @ Colin I was bored last night and kept on dropped my desire HD from a night table in its tuff case and still works fine. 45 hard drops and counting lol
Teron Facey @ Josh my bro is the type that won't listen at times stubborn and doesn't want to do it himself.
Colin Cheung Yep, drop a htc phone from about waist height and you'll be fine, drop a iphone and you're fucked.
Teron Facey @ Juan leaving to go work and dropped out his pocket didn't hear it drop cause a street sweeper.
Byktor Urvaes I prefer a phone with very fast processor and good build quality, I had never lasted more the a year with a phone, but is always good to know that my phone can last at least 2 years..
Namkell Kelly I need specs and a good UI...that's why HTC wins
Namkell Kelly I would say neither...imma put it in a case anyway
Alia Amin can't there be both? Sony Ericsson use to make beautiful strong phones.
Rumle Borgmann well im getting a experia active so that do u think :P
Kojack Sanders A very good question to post,so props for that. Most ugly phones are the ones that are durable. The mass 91% of the time chooses the design over the durability. So it's one of those things. It doesn't matter to me,but would go with durability if I'm on a contract.
Martin Hernandez Dont understand why people say iPhone 4(S). Its a glass phone, it's way to easy to crack and break.
Eliás Gómez That is the reason why I chose the Droid X. The build quality and materials are outstanding. Motorola always makes tough phones
Josh Foster Teron you can repair that phone for under 100 dollars under 50 if you use aftermarket parts if only the front and back glass shattered. I work at a repair shop and people bring in phones that have been run over and most of the time we can fix them.
Mark Fisher Jr. Durability. My g1 is still in perfect condition.
Francisco Aceves HTC "quietly brilliant", iPhone....good, but doesn't amaze me....my EVO beats the iPhone4 in most everything, and iPhone 4s, almost the same as the 4, but nothing compared to the sensation XE beats!!!
Taavi Kala speed and power over both
Juan Cuara @Teron- How did he run over it? Lol
Teron Facey Yes. My brother ran over his 4S by accident and the Apple genius told him he had to pay 250+ taxes for a phone that is still under warranty for two more months.
Anwarul Islam Shuvo I do care about material. I hate that plastic sound in battery cover.
Sintell Terry Make a phone make out of carbon fiber and I will buy it!!!
Batista Lamotray Can anyone help me I have the nexus s and I cannot get my facebook friends to connect to my contact.
Josh Foster For all the people saying samsungs build quality is crap you obviously haven't seen the drop video that was posted yesterday comparing it to the 4s.
Batista Lamotray @mark gittens iPhone 4s are nexus s
Batista Lamotray Which phone is the best iphone 4 are nexus s.
Mark Gittens Of course! but luckily for me I but only htc phones so I get tha best of both worlds!!!
Christopher Manic Johnson A good designed phone has durability complement the design. I have a Nexus S, it's entirely plastic, but usually plastic absorbs shock better than metal and glass. Plus the contorted face helps protect the screen as well as being insanely comfortable to use. So, usually I go for design, but durability and materials kinda make up a part of that design.
Chris Williams I choose 'Iphone"....... The best of both worlds :)
Rick De La Cruz @ Neil - exactly my point. Take care of your phone and buy a case.
Jabin George sure why not
James Fisher Definitely design first, but then again I suppose you do get both looks and durability/hardware with the worlds best selling phone -iPhone 4 (well technically the worlds best selling phone is a 4S, but the 4 was before the new one came out)
Jonathan Palaka Samsung has a beautiful cokor to them just like the tvs thats why they r number in the tvs and sony r crap just like the ps3
Elvis Guay Yes thats the HTC way
Gary Bowling HTC, best of all worlds.
Ed Covert My G2 barely has a scratch after a solid year of hard use w/o a case. With that kind of build quality I didn't hesitate to order the HTC Amaze. Of course I like the design so it's hardly a trade off.
Danny Casteen Build quality and os stability
Gordon Christie my galaxy s2 is not only beautiful but tough ive dropped it a few times and theres not a mark on it and yet some people moan its fragile dont know why
Joseph Alan Richardson I'm not too bothered, I'm really careful with my phone. Plus I usually buy a case for my phone, just in case.
Pierce G Hohenstein A phone should be aesthetically pleasing to hold use. The materials used to make such a phone can only be found in one phone that I can think of, the iPhone 4(s), the device feels great in the hand plus has software that works all the time no questions asked
Francisco Aceves My HTC EVO 4G can speak for itself..... Android and HTC forever!!!!
Adam Gonzalez I have a hard case over all my technology old and new
Brian Fruge Both that's why I got an I phone 4s
Daniel Kallini Durability I have a droid 3 and it looks ugly but I don't care, cause if you drop a let's say samsung fascinate and a droid 3 from the same height of 2 feet, my phone will last and the samsung wont. It's like having a Ferrari without an engine
Jared Prado Samsjng SGS2
Henrick Rawlins Even tough the GS2 is cheap plastic as much people says, it´s a very strong phone.
Frank Spicher Jr Durability and features over design. I don't care how it looks if it serves its purpose effectively. Anyone remember the iphone you held wrong? Its nice and all but useless if it won't work.
Shawn Poling No because thats what phone cases are for
Eddie Northcutt Why cant galaxy s ii's be built like htc's
BigChuck Rossetti Durability FTW... Motorola every time...
Marko Sawall Motorola Defy...that's what I have, cause I'm outdoorish :)
Ernest Marvin Esteban Both of course
Neil Leisenheimer GS2 with Otter Box, anyone? Phones aren't supposed to be disposable. The idea is that you take care of them.
Viktor B Thumperofseals i would say a meduim of all design, build quality and performance
Dave Trivino Why not both? A phone can be durable yet well designed. Of course what's considered to be well designed and beautiful is very subjective.
Ritesh Reddy Totally! That's why I have a Motorola Defy and I'm reluctant to switch to the dual core monsters yet..
Noah James Osborne Samsung Is the king. They dont mend spending money to make the best phone and they learn from mistakes.
James Patterson How about I answer in story form: Picture me, launch day, cash in hand, OG Droid on my mind. Some mercantile mumbo-jumbo later, and I'm in Android heaven. Wanting to treat my wife to something (mostly to lessen the impact of that financial blow), we head over to the local iMax. Two hours of faux 3-D later, the hustle and bustle of the clearing theater got pretty intense - bottlenecks manifesting everywhere. Suddenly, I'm bumped from behind. Pushing me into the railing dividing the seating from the pit, the Droid rocketed and fell the some 20' (?) to the bottom. It survived with nary a defect. Build quality should always win out - these phones cost far too much to be disposable.
Ronnie Boone I choose performance and features.
Jonathan Ng design 1st , hardware 2nd
Isaac Dadda Manford If samsung combined wit htc, they wud hav the best fone evr
Jozef Sakac Mostly performance design then durability.
Cory Wilson Why keep making all these phones just put out one great phone a year
Jerry Mclallen Yes that is why I have HTC
Kevin Scott Wish I could have both! I would have to say that I look at the internals before anything else!
BigBhuddah Khuddah Yes and also hardware, thats I like HTC and not Samsung.

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