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Samsung Is (Finally) Ditching Plastic

But will this solve its profit problem?
Michael Cruickshank
Samsung Is (Finally) Ditching Plastic© 2017 Samsung

While there isn’t very much variation in the smartphone world, one major factor that differentiates different brands is their use of materials. Over time, the trend was established that high-priced and “premium” smartphones would favour a glass or metal construction, while cheaper smartphone offerings would come in a plastic or polycarbonate housing.

The one major exception to this pattern was Samsung. Despite its premium Galaxy S line of smartphones being one of the most popular in the world, that company has stubbornly refused to build a phone with a metal casing. Instead, it continued with a ‘cheap’ plastic finish, that while saving on weight, ended up making the phone look like a lower-end product, regardless its lofty price tag.

Image: © 2014 Samsung

Now it seems however, that Samsung is changing its mind on metal. The company has been debuting this week their first ever metal-cased smartphone, the Galaxy Alpha. This middle of the line phone features a 4.7 inch Full HD screen, octa-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a 12MP camera, however it’s the metal band which runs around the side of the phone that has everybody talking.

While many are glad that Samsung is finally opening up to the use of metal in its designs, the Alpha has been criticized as well for being too similar to the iPhone. The similarity between the phones, down to the shape of the buttons is apparent, but Samsung will of course claim that such design convergence is unintentional.  

Image: © 2014 Samsung

Despite this being possible, it is much more likely that the phone was intentionally copying the form factor of not just the iPhone, but also a highly successful, but suspiciously similar phone from Xiaomi: the Mi4. Samsung’s profits have been down in recent months, and most analysts point to increased competition in China as the reason. Competitors like Xiaomi are seeing huge success with designs which that closely mimic Apple’s, and thus Samsung’s recently refreshed design team is looking to get in on this action.

It will be interesting to see if, into the future, Samsung continues with the use of metal in its own more ‘original’ designs, such as the in-developement Galaxy S6.

 

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