Plastic has a bad rap. We deceive ourselves into thinking that plastic phones are cheap and ugly, but they are as good as a glass-covered and aluminum unit. In fact, you may prefer a lightweight and durable plastic phone over the oily ice cream sandwich that weighs down your pocket.
Ice cream sandwiches are heavy and fragile
I currently use a Pixel 3a, and for all its excellent features, I am constantly impressed by its weightlessness. It is one of the lightest smartphones I have ever used, and far from the important giant glass phones that Samsung and Apple are releasing today.
Some people may argue that the Pixel 3a is lightweight due to its small 5.6-inch footprint. But size is not everything; The weightlessness of the pixel depends on the plastic! Just look at the new Pixel 4a, which weighs 5.04 ounces despite its 5.8-inch screen. It’s significantly less weight than the new 4.7-inch iPhone SE, which pushes the scale to 5.22 ounces and feels like a shiny $ 400 bludgeon.
Not that I would use the iPhone SE as a weapon – it’s too fragile! It is not possible to land on your feet with a glass-backed telephone. If it drops hard enough, you will end up with a cracked screen or a split back (or both). A plastic phone that lands on the back probably needs no repairs, although it may come out with a scuff or a scar.
Lots of plastic … Looks great!
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 marks a turning point for phone design. Not because it was particularly attractive or ambitious in appearance, but because critics thought its sunken plastic backing looked cheap. Complaints were so bad that Samsung replaced its design manager and spat out the S6 and S6 Edge, two phones that set today’s design standard for glass backs and curved screens.
Phone critics were probably jealous of the aluminum-wrapped iPhone 6, which looks futuristic next to the Galaxy S5. But complaints about plastic were suddenly extended to all devices from 2014. Even phones that look modern today, such as the Nexus 6 from 2014, were criticized for their “cheap” plastic look.
But we both know that plastic looks good. Ugly phones do not look like that because they are made of plastic; they look like that because of poor design choices. Lots of phones rock in the plastic look, and even year-old devices like the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact look futuristic thanks to a satin finish and smart color design.
Speaking of satin finishes, don’t you hate fingerprints and stains on your glass phone? Plastic phones are perfect for people who like to walk without a phone case, as they are (mostly) fingerprint-proof and resistant to ugly cracks or stains. (And if you use a phone case … why do you care what the back of your phone looks like?)
Plastic does not interfere with 5G or wireless charging
One of the difficult things about 5G phones and wireless charging technology is that they do not have much range. They are also easy to block, which is just one reason why manufacturers like to make their phones from glass instead of aluminum. But it just so happens that plastic is perfect for wireless charging, and it may be better suited for 5G than glass.
Do you know the white or gray lines that go on the top and bottom edges of the phone? These are antenna bands – even if they are not antennas. Instead, they are plastic strips that allow your cell phone’s antenna signal to slide past the metal frame that holds all the glass together.
But plastic is virtually invisible to radio waves. Phone manufacturers do not have to worry about antenna band or signal strength when working on plastic phones, which makes it much easier to handle sensitive 5G technology. That’s also (perhaps) the reason why both the $ 1000 Galaxy Note 20 5G and the under $ 500 Moto G 5G Plus rock our favorite material – plastic! It turns out that it’s not just budget phones, not even 2020.
Repairs are a breeze! (Quite)
When the lead designer behind Samsung’s Galaxy S5 was asked why the company stuck with plastic, he replied that it facilitates battery replacement and repairs. You can open the back of an S5 and replace the battery with just your nail, which is far from the hour-long process of replacing the glass-backed Galaxy S6 battery.
While plastic phones cannot be repaired as they used to, they are easier to fix than their glass-backed counterparts. Take Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a – two phones that are easy to open and protected with easy-to-handle glue. The newer Pixel 4a is also known for its accordion design, which allows you to quickly navigate the internal parts of the phone by removing the screen and removing a single center frame screw.
Repairing a plastic phone is still a frustratingly time consuming process that most people do not care about (or do not). But hey, at least you know your Pixel 4a will be refurbished and resold when you’re done with it. Phones that are more difficult to repair do not always have the same fate.
You can not judge a book by its cover, and you should not buy a phone based on its back. Plastic phones have a lot to offer. They look great with satin or matte finish, they do not screw with 5G signals, they are practically weightless and they are a little easier to repair than your average glass phone.