Give me metal!

Give me metal!

So we now know what they iPhone 5 looks like, and its a very pretty thing, with its precision machined aluminium back and sides. Indeed a masterpiece of engineering for iOS fans.


We’ve also a plethora of Windows Phone 8 devices launched by Nokia, Samsung and HTC to name a few, as well as new Android devices from Motorola. Lets also not forget the Galaxy SIII and HTC One Series Android devices that were launched earlier in the year.

However, the launch of iPhone has highlighted something to me – other than the iPhone, everything else was plastic. Ok, not entirely plastic – a mixture of polycarbonate and carbon fibre shells as well, which are all very high tech, strong and lightweight. But for me, they just don’t have that quality feel that metal does.  Don’t get me wrong, I actually own an HTC One X, and I think its fabulous, but I’d love it so much more if it was made of metal. It feels a little cheap to me, which is a complaint often levelled at Android devices. There are lots of clever designs, but for me the materials feel sub-standard compared some of the phones of old.

Give me metal!

I’m looking fairly squarely at Nokia here, who have been justly renowned for their industrial design, and have given us some fantastic looking devices over the years. But now they’ve been bitten by the plastic bug. All the Lumia designs so far have been made of polycarbonate and well designed, but really don’t shout “premium device” to me, which is how they are being priced and marketed. Where are the shiny metal designs of old that were so iconic?

Give me metal!
I’d happily shell out a bit more for a really premium feeling Android (or possibly WP8) device – something that looks like the Surface Phone concept pictured above – but so far no-one seems to want to make one. Both Android and Windows Phone have lacked a standout premium design, which frankly has given them an unfair perception as being cheap iPhone alternatives.

Android and Windows Phone 8 have become truly modern mobile operating systems, and make iOS look quite dated by comparison, but no-one has matched that with commensurate hardware in my mind. Sure the cameras and internals are a match, but they still look cheap.

So come on phone companies – give us some metal designs please!
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  • Why though? You are only gonna chuck a case on it so it doesn’t get scratched / damaged.

    • That’s a good point. I abandoned using cases when I got my HTC Desire, as I couldn’t find a case that wasn’t unwieldy. As phones got thinner, I objected more and more to cases, until I couldn’t stand to use them any more.
      I do use a skin currently though – it adds grip and a bit of scratch resistance without adding bulk of weight.

  • Trevor

    You mention Samsung, but have failed to notice the ATIV S has a metal back. The edges are plastic, although that might be good for clumsy people like me since the phone will bounce rather than bend/deform. ;-)

    • Silent Shark

      There’s a video on YouTube of some russians who got some access to the device behind the scenes and they found the back was actually plastic (and quite bendy as it appeared!).

      Having said that, the Omnia 7 I have is mostly metal (apart from small areas for the antenna and such), so perhaps it was just this pre-production version. And to reply to the guy below, I’ve never put a case on mine and it’s 100% scratch free, 19 months later.

      • Yes its described as “metallised cmf”, which seems to be a form of polycarbonate, but the information is a bit sketchy at the moment.
        It is a reasonable attempt by Samsung though, and they’re marketing it as “premium”, so they’ve got the concept and presumably agree there’s a market for that.
        For me it all falls down when you turn it over though – front looks like an iPhone 3GS clone!! (from Samsung, surely not I hear you cry!!!)

  • everyone have a right to his own opinion, about what looks more “premium” “classy” and so on. I tend to differ, to me metal is like really old fashion like steampunk…
    new plastics are the new forward, always..

    and looking at my almost 2 years old desire z, I never saw that metal part as an advantage of any kind. (I can’t wait for my new plastiky phone to arrive )

  • Moo Moo Head

    On the point of premium, can anyone tell me why the Nokia 920 weighs in at 6.52oz vs the iphone 5 at 3.95oz and the SGIII at 4.7oz?

    • We’d need to see a break down, but the wireless charging seems to add some extra weight.

  • give me a new gen phone with the build quality of the Nexus 1 and i’d be happy…….only phone that’s felt ‘premium’ to me in a long time……if that concept surface phone was released i’d buy it in a heart beat!

  • Anonymous

    Well… and when you get one you will start complaining about poor reception or Wifi issues?

    • Well that’s the challenge for manufactures – its got to work.
      Granted WiFi wasn’t prevalent with some of the metal designs of old, phone reception was managed just fine.
      We will be looking at the best way to hold my wife’s iPhone 5 when it arrives though ;-)

  • Snitch

    I couldn’t agree with this article more. Poly carbonate or plastic has not got the same premium feel as glass and metal. When HTC talked about unibody frames years ago it meant milled alloy. When apple went from unibody to plastic with the ip3 they new they messed up and returned to form with the ip4. Yes, most of the phones will be covered by a case but its nice to have a well engineered piece of art to hold from time to time. HTC lead the (android)way with phones like the Legend and lately the Desire S. What happened? We’re paying the same money for plastic as we did for metal! Would you accept an all plastic car regardless of the benefits? No. Part plastic, glass and metal chassis cannot be replicated by plastic.

    • DutchDDL

      There is one material that I would like to see being used on handsets- and that is carbon fibre. By making the phone lightweight, you also make it more resistant to scratches. Motorola are nearly there with the idea of using novel materials by using kevlar (so if someone shoots you, you mught have a chance of survival if it hits your mobile!). They have also gone down the right path by making the phone waterproof – which realy shouldn’t be that hard for other manufacturers to achieve. Just how annoying is it to have your phone stop working because steam from the bathroom has corroded the contacts (as has happened to me with my iPhone4). The quality feel of the iPhone5 is its main (last?) redeming point over the other handsets. If Samsung were to bring out the S3 or Note2 with carbon fibre body (and make it submersible), then if you still have them, I would suggest you sell your Apple stock pretty quickly!