When it comes to smartphones, we all have our preference when it comes to design, size and even the materials the device is made of. Some prefer plastic, others tend to err on the side of metal and one of the most popular phones to date comes wrapped in two sheets of hardened glass. In short, they're all fragile. But which holds up the best?
Over the past four years, I have owned phones of nearly every make, shape, size and of every different material. I've owned phones that were mostly made of cheap, wobbly plastic; cold and rigid metal; and delicate, unforgiving glass. While I can't say that I've dropped and completely ruined a phone since my very first BlackBerry, I have put them through their paces and some of them managed to accrue some pretty serious scars over the short period I had them all.
Personally, I hate a phone that feels too light in the hand. While a lighter phone may be more comfortable your jeans pocket, the phone itself just tends to feel flimsy and ... cheap. I've flamed Samsung countless times for their senseless overuse of plastic. Every phone that I can recall ever coming from Samsung in recent years has been composed of cheap, super lightweight plastic. The Nexus S wasn't so bad, but when you consider phones like the original Galaxy S line or the original Focus, it makes you question why Samsung doesn't consider giving their phones a little more heft.
A little extra weight gives the owner an assured feeling that the phone is sturdy and durable. The use of metals and glass in a phone usually only comes in high-end models and thus many of us have begun to believe that these are better materials that we are paying extra for. It should go without saying that this is not necessarily true.
Although it's pretty obvious that metal is easily stronger than plastic or glass, it doesn't protect you any better from the damage a sidewalk or parking lot will bring from a waist-high drop. In fact, Samsung's lightweight phones have managed to earn a name for themselves in the durability department, despite their cheap, lightweight build. Apple's glass iPhone is the cause of many trips to the Apple store for replacement screens and back panels. And even metal phones are susceptible to the unforgiving asphalt.
While at my favorite local coffee shop this weekend for Fresh Brewed Comedy Open Mic, I was sitting next to a friend of mine named Alex. She had laid her phone, a HTC Incredible 2, on the table, in all its battered glory. All it took, apparently, was one drop and the metal trim was twisted out of shape. In case you were unaware, it's the phone shown in the pictures above.
I don't know how she does it. Having to use a phone with the metal jutting out like that would slowly eat away at my soul. I would have to look for housing replacements or maybe try to get another phone.
In my experience, an even blend of materials usually works the best – some metal, some plastic and of course, glass to cover the display. Too much or not enough metal leads to carnage as seen above. Matte finished, rubberized plastic as used in almost all HTC phones should fill in the rest of the space. But there are some materials that have been used more recently, like Kevlar fiber in the DROID RAZR, that I would love to see manufacturers adopt more widely. If that means the price of phones goes up a tiny bit, I'm okay with that. At least it could help fight those tiny nicks and other damage from bumps and drops.
In truth, though, there is no one material that will prevent scratches, dents, dings or even shattered glass from those unexpected drops. The best thing way to prevent such things from happening is to hold on to your phone with a death grip and to put it in a protective case. Even after all of these precautions, however, my phones still manage to acquire inexplicable scratches and bruises with time.
What say you, folks? What materials do you prefer your phone to be made of? Is lightweight plastic the ticket? Or do more rigid metals and glass serve you well? Have you ever dropped a phone and it lose its natural shape because of the drop? Who makes the best phones, in terms of quality, in your opinion?