How much does material matter?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| Published: May 11, 2014


It wasn’t too long ago that I talked about how it feels like smartphones don’t vary too much from one to another these days. There were tons of varying designs when smartphones first started and companies were figuring out what people did and didn’t like, but lately you just see a lot of slabs. Despite that, however, there are still key differences left between smartphones, one of the most trivial being what material a phone is or isn’t made out of.


The debate seems even more prevalent lately with the release of the HTC One. While the topic of whether Samsung should keep using smooth plastic backs for their phones or not was a hot debate for a while, the topic seemed to get more heated when HTC released their metal unibody One smartphone last year. The device was widely praised for having such a unique and elegant design, something that wasn’t common in Android smartphones until that point.


And then Samsung decided to change up the material they used for their smartphones, as seen with the Galaxy Note 3 with it’s fake leather back, and the Galaxy S5 with it’s odd, but more grippable, “band-aid” design. Of course, this change sparked an outrage of its own. The debate on whether Samsung should or shouldn’t keep its traditional smooth plastic backing was just that - a debate - which meant there were people on both sides of the argument. Obviously, the people who liked the design weren’t exactly happy that Samsung changed. After all, the phones got as popular as they did with the smooth plastic back, why should there be any reason to change?


Another good material argument to spawn from time to time is the differences between the iPhone designs. You had aluminum at first, plastic after that, glass on the 4 and 4s, and back to aluminum with the 5 and 5s, with the addition of plastic again on the iPhone 5c. Apple is kind of all over the map, with the only design I think was truly ridiculous was with the glass back on the iPhone 4. Seriously, other than looking pretty it had no real reason to be designed like that, especially because most people who care about their phone covered it with a case.


Well, most people who care about their phones cover it with a case anyway, which brings me to my point: How much does the material that a phone is made out really matter?


Back in the day when flip phones and messaging phones were hip, dropping the phone didn’t seem to do a whole lot. The phones were light and didn’t have a whole lot of breakable points. Smartphones, on the other hand, have a 50/50 chance of becoming cracked and broken just by dropping it on the ground. So I would say that it’s a smart move to want to keep a case on your phone. And a case on the phone usually means that the material on the back of the phone won’t matter at all.


If you’re brave enough to use your phone as it is, then I imagine that material plays a much bigger part in the end decision than it does for people who usually go for cases. Although I like to admire a phone in all of its intended design glory without a case on, I just don’t feel comfortable picking one up if it isn’t covered by a case. It’s for this reason that I really don’t care what a phone is made out of anymore. It has zero effect on my decision in the end, and it probably always will.


Readers, do you find that you care a lot about what material your phone is made out of? Why or why not? Let us know your thoughts in the commets below!


Images via iMore, 3g