The curious case of Samsung Galaxy's plastic material

The curious case of Samsung Galaxy’s plastic material

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has just been announced, and while a part of the internet was impressed, most were ranting about the company’s use of polycarbonate materials. We’d like to share the different perspectives on how we should look at Samsung’s use of plastic on their high-end phones.

samsung plastic

Most phones nowadays are either made out of plastic, metal (aluminum) or glass. Where does polycarbonate in this? Well, polycarbonate is a type of plastic. For example, the Nokia Lumia 800 uses plastic, the HTC One X is also made of plastic while the iPhone 5 is made out of aluminum and glass. The list goes on. But, why are people complaining about Samsung’s use of plastic? And why do we feel like Samsung won’t listen?

The feel and the looks of the device are pretty subjective – but most people are labeling glossy plastics as cheap. Is there any truth to this? The Lumia phones mostly had matte finish designs, along with phones like the HTC One X. HTC’s design went as far as going aluminum this time with the HTC One, and that definitely has no gloss to it.


When Apple abandoned the design of the iPhone 3G (glossy polycarbonate) to the iPhone 4 (glass & metal), it did them a great thing.  The Galaxy S3 is made out of polycarbonate, but just like now – upon announcement – I’ve seen comments, posts and all the geeks in the internet complaining about the glossy “hyperglaze” finish. The predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S2, featured less plastic in its body and the Galaxy S3 was often compared to it for not having lived up to its design standards.

So why didn’t Samsung stick with the design schemes they used on phones like the Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy Nexus? Well, we’re not entirely sure, but the reason could be something close to the Apple-Samsung lawsuit.


Another point to consider is, glossy Lumia phones exist too, although they only came in recently. This proves glossy phones can be beautiful too, depending on the execution.

Nokia Lumia 920

Let’s not forget Samsung doesn’t do plastic on all their phones; Wave, Omnia and other lines utilized different materials. So if it’s not all about the material and it’s not all about the glossy cheap feel, then what angers mobile fans from Samsung’s use of plastic on their Galaxy phones? Why can’t Samsung just change it then?

Probably, the answer lies in brand recognition. Samsung has heavily invested in the design language they are using now for the Galaxy and it’s trying to be iconic. The design is trying to stand out, be it in a bad way or a good way, among other competitors – and from that perspective, it’s a good thing.

Samsung Brand

HTC, Nokia and Apple have all established a unique design language through time while companies like LG are still quite inconsistent. Samsung will most likely continue on this design pattern for years to come with only a little improvements along the way. The matter of whether you like the design or not is slowly turning irrelevant; what matters for Samsung is that you recognize it, and all that is Samsung brand marketing – something they might have taken from Apple’s book of tricks.

Regardless of if the tech community likes the design & construction or not, it won’t stop the Galaxy from making sales, as the Galaxy S3, while being made out of glossy polycarbonate, still sold by the millions (43 million to be more precise).

Bob Freking occasionally contributes articles to the website. He is a UST Graduate of Commerce & Business Administration, Major in Marketing Management, and a full-time Sith Lord with three dragons.

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45 Responses

  1. plastic says:

    puro ka-plastikan!

  2. tarush says:

    They sold millions of plasticky S3 so they know they will be fine with S4.

    By doing so, they will be able to maximize their profits by minimizing the expenses.Besides, if you take into account their advertising expenses of more than half a billiion dollars plus their impending payment for their loss thrown against them by Apple, kailangan talaga nilang makabenta nang super dami.

    Samsung knows that if their critics take a jab on their plasticky designs, buyers of the S3 and the S4 are also criticized with their purchase indirectly. They’re criticized for having a bad taste in the looks of their phone.

    You can’t blame the critics. How can a flagship phone use the material which the low and mid range also use?

    The S4 is like a Ferrari inside the hood encased in a body of Toyota Vios.

    • Gov.Motors says:

      It is not a Ferrari… It’s a Corvette…

      A Probably Modded one…

      It may be Plastic,It may even have Leaf Springs…

      But it’s still fucking fast… Even around corners…

      That is the S4.

  3. ecaps24 says:

    What’s more important is under the hood.

    Anyway, here some aspect they might have considered for using polycarbonate.

    1. Manufacturing – they didn’t run out of stock for the S3.
    2. Durability – try dropping a glass or metal and see what’s gonna happen.

    • mang kanor says:

      well.. isa sa mga reason kung bakit kilala ang galaxy phones eh dahil sa removable battery and sd card kahit na high-end siya.. ibang brand kasi sobrang focused sa mga aesthetics na for me is useless compared sa removable batt at sd. bakit epic fail ang htc one x? maganda naman ang design. di daw cheap na polycarbonate. pero dahil pangit ang battery life, non-expandable storage at so-so na software, ayun nganga… haha

    • ecaps24 says:

      I agree. I am also looking to what’s in the inside and what a smartphone can do. Kaya nga smart diba?hehe

      I really looking forward to get my hands on this piece but I am not rich to buy a new handset.

  4. ThisIsLumia says:

    Black, Cyan, and Gray Lumia 920’s are MATTE :)

    • thecorrescode says:

      Kahit matte pa yan, kung di naman gusto ng tao wala pa rin. Ilang Nokia Lumia 920 na ba nabenta sa kabuuan. Umabot na ba ng 50Million?

  5. magicflakes says:

    Plastic allows for better signal reception.

  6. DDD says:

    “Nokia 920 is glossy plastic as well.”

    Tangina wala bang editor tong techsite na to. Lagi na lang kapag si Bob Freking nagsusulat. Haha.

    • mang kanor says:

      di ba obvious sa iyo na nokia lumia 920 ang tinutukoy nya?

    • to Mang Kanor says:

      Malamang obvious no. Anong point ng comment mo? Sinasabi ko lang ay caption siya ng isang photo. Sana mas maganda ang sentence construction. Di ka ba tinuruan magsulat ng article nung college? Kaloka.

  7. Jimmy says:

    I think the reason for choosing plastics by Samsung is having more of FUNCTIONALITY instead of aesthetics.

    Polycarbonate plastic is more durable than the fragile glass of iPhone. It also does not interfere with the signals of the phone’s antennae (2G, 3G, wifi, gps), unlike what has plagued the iPhone (Antenna-gate) and the all-aluminum casing of HTC phones.


    Mga walang pambili! manahimik! >:D

  9. hahaha says:

    mga bili ng bili para ipangporma at walang alam sa specs! manahimik!

  10. francis says:

    Experia Z!!!

  11. lol says:

    maka-angal ung iba sa aesthetics ng s4 eh wla nmn pambili…lawl, kung meron nmn kau pera manahimik nlng kau kung ayaw nyo sa phone na ito! Dalhin nyo sa hukay yang yaman nyo… sa langit kau maghanap ng galaxy s4 na aluminum at glass.

  12. Malu says:

    Ok lng yan, pag ginaya nila ung s Apple maakusahan lng n nanggaya :D

  13. BenRich says:

    Bilin lhat ng high end pra wla problema sa pagpili hehe

  14. lawrencemark says:

    yah, no problem with plastic just as long as they use it intelligently, with no compromise sa design.

    syempre, common sa isang tao na maghanap ng visual pleasure sa mga bagay, so sana pagtuunan din ng pansin ng samsung yung aspect na yun.

    tska for such price, its a natural expectation na good looking ang product. I’m not saying it’s bad, pero yung build ng s3 mas maganda pa ung quality ng lumang sony-e arc ko.

  15. elite says:

    plastic = cheap?.. duh!!

    nasa nagdadala lang yan..
    kung ako ang may hawak, even the cheapest china phones will look classy and luxurious.. =)

  16. IC DeaDPiPoL says:

    wala bang wood or ceramic ^_^

    • Bob Freking says:

      Interestingly, there are projects involving that on Kickstater. You might want to check them out. :)

  17. jAyR says:

    Okey lang yan kasi dadagsa nanaman ung mga well-designed phone cases and yan ung nakakaAdek dadamitan mo phone mo! hahaha!

  18. bobong says:

    It’s idiotic to buy a “premium” phone then use a bumper to protect it.

    I’m looking at you iTards.

    • epol says:

      darn! you nailed it.

    • GalanT says:

      You said it right.

      “Premium-looking” phones and then covers it.

      How ironic…

    • mapanghusga says:

      Grabe ka naman, wag ganun, wag mong paki alaman ang trip ng ibang tao, hayaan mo nalang sila, yun ang gusto nila tsaka pera naman nila ang nilulustay nila ah, pera mo ba ang nilustay dun? Kung wala din namang sasabihing maganda eh ikimkim mo nalang sa sarili mo hindi yun naghihimutok ka jan

  19. knives809 says:

    I think the point here is that most cellphones have cases. So it really doesnt matter the look outside the phone. Some uses silicon cases, leather cases, etc…if you are using an iphone or htc one, wouldnt you buy a protective case for them. Dont judge the cellphone by its cover =p

  20. pfb says:

    plastic or no plastic, the galaxy S4 is the superphone to beat

  21. Jay says:

    Samsung is about to become the new Apple. Once they’re on top of the smartphone heap, people will now hate on them.

  22. binuhay na bangkay says:

    though made of plastic, those materials are easier to recycle, compared to aluminum unibody parts of “other” phones that are made from blocks, which needs to be machined for the hollowed out sections, resulting in more waste material than what is used in the resulting product.

  23. hal says:

    Ang mahal ng Phone pero ang dinadownload na apps ay yung mga FREE.. di mka afford ng apps.

  24. Mr. Curious says:

    why would you consider the design if you’re going to buy a case/cover for your handset? hahaha ’cause based on my experience, only few people patronize invisible shield; iShield per se. Well I really don’t know to others but, in all of my friends I’ve only seen 1 who used invisible shield. All of them (including me hehehe) used jelly/leather or any type of casing for handsets. Just an opinion thou =D

  25. garz says:

    Most people from the internet are bandwagoners. Someone will shout plastic and everyone will shout plastic. Even if they’re not making any sense. Yes, they’re plastic. But they’re sturdy plastic.

    I agree, this is already Samsung’s identity. I’m sure they’ll be sticking to plastic for the next years to come.

    What are cases for, people? You buy a phone made of metal, you put in a case. You buy a phone made of plastic, you also put it in a case. So what’s the point of your argument?

    Use the damn phone as a phone, not as a bling saying, “Hey look at my phone, a Galaxy S4! I am so mayaman! Mainggit kayo!”

  26. tmcr7 says:

    You nailed it Bob! I have the same theory in mind.

  27. goodha says:

    kung polycarbonate paguusapan, walang tatalo sa quality ng polycarbonate na ginamit ni motorola for its analogue phones and startac series. same with nokia 5110 at ericsson phones. may aangal? hehe

  28. Benchmark says:

    Plastic or not, for me, ang importante alam Mong matibay ang unit na dala mo. And yes, I wonder why some phone user with aluminum phones use plastic or rubber to protect their units?

    Parang slim phones Lang din yan, Kung magreklamo ang iba na sobrang kapal ng phone daw nila yet todo kapal naman ng protection nila sa phone, what’s the use of having slim phone di ba?

    Ako, I am happy with my Motorola Droid Razr, no bumper, no screen protector. Magas na Kung magasgas, ang importante, I can surf the net, call my parents, SMS my girl, the basics of having a mobile phone….and I believe matibay ang phone.

    • TacticalNinja says:

      I agree, ganyan din ang mindset ko sa mga phones, as long as I can use it, I’ll use it as is. Polycarbonate casings has it’s advantages din naman, like being flexible, so kahit mabagsak mo or medyo maabuse yung pagtanggal kabit ng backcover, okay parin. Aluminum and glass are prone to permanent dents and heavy scratches, and cracks. ang aluminum at glass casings once na nabagsak mo, K.O. na. at mas obvious ang mga damage kesa sa plastic casings.

    • Jake says:

      Tama nga naman. Maganda nga ang build ng phone mo, pero may casing naman, parang wala rin.

  29. zarne says:

    Re; Plastic material

    I think that the plastic back cover of the phone has something to do with the “NFC” chip. Iyong mga phones
    na may “NFC”, ang likod (back cover) ay plastic tulad ng Samsung S , Nexus 4, Blackberry Z10. The “NFC” signals work better with the Plastic, and NOT metal. Apple Iphones have back cover metal but all their phones do not have NFC chip. Pag nag lagay ng NFC chip sa bagong Iphone baka plastic material na din ang gamitin nila.

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