Plastic and aluminum phones are making a comeback, and my clumsy fingers are thrilled about it

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

Ever since the best smartphones started getting features like wireless charging and NFC payments, manufacturers have needed to build their devices out of materials that could transmit and receive the necessary signals as efficiently as possible. For many, this meant transitioning away from more durable materials like aluminum or plastic to more fragile, albeit more signal-transparent, materials like glass.

This move to the glass slabs and sandwiches we are all familiar with today was also accompanied by some of the most dramatic price increases we’d seen in the smartphone era, with devices like the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 9 pushing up to and well-beyond the then unthinkable $1,000 price point. However, now that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic with its far-reaching economic ramifications, companies are realizing that many customers just want a good, reliable phone that won’t break the bank, nor break on impact if dropped. Enter the new golden age of plastic, “glasstic,” and aluminum-hybrid value smartphones.

I’d wager that most customers in 2020 just want a good phone that won’t break and won’t break the bank.

When Apple introduced the iPhone 5c, then SVP of Marketing Phil Schiller was mocked for saying that the device was “unapologetically plastic” when referring to its outer casing. Despite some marketing snafus and other sacrifices that Apple made with that particular device, the construction was actually really well done, and the phone looked and felt great in the hand. My daughter had the blue one at the time, and even when she dropped it in the street and shattered its screen, the polycarbonate shell came away with nary a scratch. Try that with an iPhone 11 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S20. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Lavender

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that for as nice as the upper-tier, ultra-premium flagships are, I just don’t want to spend a ton of money to get what is essentially a disposable piece of jewelry. The top-end SoCs like Apple’s A14 Bionic or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865+ are amazing, to be sure, but they’re more than even I need in my daily life. I also don’t relish the thought of babying the computer that I carry around with me literally all the time, or being forced to use a case.

Needless to say, I’ve been thrilled with the crop of mid-tier and value flagships that have burst onto the scene in 2020 to offer customers all the performance and…

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