Cheap plastic comments

Like many with an interest in mobile devices I am curious about what the new Samsung Galaxy S3 will be like. I have viewed may rumour blogs and posts with interest, but I have noticed that a large number of users make the same comment, along the lines of

Same old cheap plastic design...
 When I first purchased my Samsung Galaxy S (one) phone I loved the plastic backing.

  • The plastic is not cheap, in the sense that it is highly resilient and does not mark easily as numerous accidental drops can attest to.
  • The plastic is very light, leading to my phone being nearly 20% lighter than an iPhone despite the large screen.
  • Being a plastic design it allows for easy removal for replacement batteries etc.

The plastic being used is certainly stronger than you see on many cases, and the durability suggests to me that the plastic choice is a more expensive version than they could choose to use.

Many people seem to love the ceramic One X or Glass iPhone, or perhaps the aluminium of various other devices, and assume plastic is a choice purely on cost. While obviously cost is an element as I am yet to see a mostly magnesium alloy design (which I would love :) ) there are plenty of other factors which are extremely important in the design choice.

I feel that plastic is a very good choice of material as any material has its issues, and plastic is one of the few which does not necessarily suffer

  • Cost is higher, resulting in lower spec device or higher price
  • Durability is often compromised, see iPhone or One X drop tests compared to Galaxy SII
  • Various metals they can interfere with the signal, see the original transformer tablet for wi-fi signal problems caused through the aluminium backing interfering with the signal.
However, Samsung does not seem to want to "sell" their plastic design choice as improved signal, durability, which makes people think that the design choice is purely about cost. These comments potentially have a small impact on sales which could be removed with some more transparency in the design decisions.

Some plastics such as the ones used on Sony's NEX-C3 and other mid to high end cameras that you would probably have assumed you were picking up some paint coated metal. When ever I see the comment about Samsung and cheap plastic I wonder if they appreciate the trade off in durability, weight and signal strength that they are demanding. I for one hope that Samsung only change their use of "cheap plastics" if they find a material which is lighter more durable and does not effect the signal strength of the contained components and does not have a significant impact on price.


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