As smartphones find their way to market, we can usually tell how the device will stack up, in terms of its designation as a high-end, mid-range, or entry-level handset without even seeing the specs list. The material, or materials, that a company uses with its hardware is typically all we need. But it all depends on the timing, and where the market is in terms of other comparable products.
We've seen the market shift multiple times over the years. Plastic smartphones were all the rage for a long time, and that's probably when devices were probably at their most hardware parity across brands and operating systems. Plastic for days. And then eventually we started seeing metal smartphones, which led to a variety of different think pieces about how some "flagship, high-end" smartphones could still be considered as such when they were plastic shells, and the competition was launching metal offerings.
Of course, a high-end phone isn't defined only by its hardware. At least, they shouldn't be.
Of course, no phones were all metal. Even in today's day-and-age. Technical reasons abound for this, and that's why we've got devices that have design decisions that have glass sections. The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are perfect examples of this, and you can see similar ideas in the Apple iPad lineup, the models equipped with a cellular connection.
But we have been watching a subtle shift towards "all-glass" designs since 2015. Samsung effectively kicked things off (which is noteworthy, considering this is the company being called out for plastic phones), opting to go with a glass-backed smartphone rather than go down the metal route.
It should be noted that Apple had a glass-backed iPhone in 2010, with the iPhone 4. It would eventually drop this idea and opt for metal smartphones pretty soon after that, though.
And now there appears to be a definitive movement to go with all-glass designs. OnePlus, for instance, confirmed recently that the upcoming OnePlus 6 is going to be the company's first all-glass design. So we may be saying goodbye to metal phones on the high-end market, which means we may see them flourish in the mid-range.
Or we may be watching the manufacturers simply bending to the will of a specific feature, one that is definitely requested by plenty of would-be smartphone buyers. That's wireless charging. Having a glass-back phone means your device can support it. The aforementioned Pixel 2 XL doesn't offer that particular feature.
But we will probably see that change with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, which means we are probably going to see Google announce its own all-glass design.
I'm curious, though. Where do you stand between these two device designs? Do you prefer metal over glass? Or are you all-in with all-glass smartphones? Let me know!