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Confirmed: the Samsung Galaxy S III is polycarbonate, not plain plastic

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Confirmed: the Samsung Galaxy S III is polycarbonate, not plain plastic
Just about every article around has been giving the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III generally good reviews except for one downside: the casing. Everyone, including us, were convinced that the Galaxy S III was using a plastic case, but we just got word from Samsung that the phone is better than you think. There had been some confusion over the Samsung Galaxy S III casing, but the word straight from Samsung is that the case is in fact made of polycarbonate, not just regular plastic. 

The word that we got straight from Samsung was that the Galaxy S III casing is in fact polycarbonate, but we wanted to make sure that mean the entire case, including the battery cover, and it took a bit of time for the confirmation to come back, but here it is direct from Samsung:

Polycarbonate is used on the battery cover. Polycarbonate is lightweight, solid and is already being widely used in the mobile industry. It was chosen as the best material to represent the minimal organic design of GALAXY S III. Using three layers of high quality, pure and clear polycarbonate, not only is the phone’s aesthetic elevated, but the durability and scratch resistance is maximized.
This is a pretty big deal because once you get past the flowery marketing language given by Samsung, the basic fact is that the case is polycarbonate and not plastic. 

Polycarbonate is one of those strange "premium materials" because it's not always apparent by sight and touch that it is higher quality. With glass and metal, we know automatically that we're dealing with premium materials. But, polycarbonate can look and feel just like regular plastic, even though it is far stronger and more durable. 

From the research we've done, polycarbonate can be as much as 300 times stronger than average plastic. Unfortunately, the hardness scales and various impact resistance scales are different for plastics/polycarbonate, than things like glass or metal, so it's difficult to get measured comparisons of polycarbonate and say Gorilla Glass, aluminum, or the LiquidMetal that Apple is said to be using in the upcoming iPhone. However, we were able to get some numbers that were pretty interesting.

One material that can be measured on the same scale as polycarbonate is the Kevlar fiber that is famously used on the Motorola RAZR. Depending on the type of clear polycarbonate used in the Galaxy S III casing, it should be harder, but possibly not quite as strong as the Kevlar fiber. Clear polycarbonate can have tensile strength in the range of 10,000-10,500, flexural strength between 12,000 and 17,000, and compressive strength around 11,000; meanwhile, Kevlar fiber has a tensile strength around 12,500, flexural strength around 17,000, and compressive strength around 16,000. However, polycarbonate does rate slightly higher on the Rockwell Hardness scale at R118 compared to R115 for the Kevlar fiber, and polycarbonate is also a bit higher on IZOD impact resistance. 

Tensile strength and flexural strength are very similar, and determine how much a material can bend before developing localized deformations or breaks in the material. Compressive strength is the measure of a material's ability to withstand crushing force. It's reasonable to expect that polycarbonate won't have the compressive strength or scratch resistance of various metals that can be used in device construction, but it certainly could provide tensile/flexural strength on par with those materials. 

So, all in all it looks like the Samsung Galaxy S III will have a much stronger, durable, and scratch-resistant surface than we all expected. It may not be the strongest material available, and given that it still can look similar plastic, it may not be the most visually impressive material available, but it should be better than we expected, and certainly far better than standard plastic. Of course, we know that looks play as big a part in device construction as many other factors, so it remains to be seen if the "plasticky" look of the Galaxy S III can be overcome with the added strength of the polycarbonate casing in the eyes of consumers.

*Update* In response to the debate in the comment thread about polycarbonate, we decided to write another piece about the ideas underneath that debate. Feel free to check it out.  

125 Comments
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posted on 21 May 2012, 13:50 37

1. RamyRamz69 (Posts: 390; Member since: 12 Dec 2011)


Still, looks as ugly as hell. I would've preferred if they kept the S2 design.

posted on 21 May 2012, 13:54 24

3. sithman (banned) (Posts: 299; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Amen to that

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:09 23

11. WirelessCon (Posts: 311; Member since: 11 May 2010)


Yeah, the S III is very ugly. The phone is a disappointment.

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:32 26

31. ivanko34 (Posts: 617; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)


looks very nice classy to me
I wait 1st of june to buy when it is available here

posted on 21 May 2012, 16:45 1

76. Saamic (Posts: 119; Member since: 20 Feb 2012)


Where is it comnig out the first of June?!

posted on 21 May 2012, 23:24

111. jiasdft (Posts: 2; Member since: 21 May 2012)


ZOPO ZP200 Smart Phone Android 2.3! It to do better! The price is more cheap! http://clck.ru/15fsl

posted on 22 May 2012, 06:14

118. ivanko34 (Posts: 617; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)


in athens, greece

http://www.plaisio.gr/Cell-Phones-Internet/Mobile-Telephone/Cellular-Phones/Samsung-Galaxy-S-III-Ceramic-White-GT-I9300RWDEUR.htm

posted on 27 May 2012, 16:51

125. jeraldjamescapao (Posts: 23; Member since: 17 May 2012)


I can't wait.
Swisscom!!!

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:57 5

44. Mario1017 (Posts: 336; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)


-This is to all who dislike this comment-
The phone is amazing, we all know that. but when the phone came out there where tons of comments exclaming how ugly the phone is, and the comments got liked. Now (still the same phone) comments like these are getting disliked, i dont really get it, and yes i think this phone is lacking in design.

posted on 21 May 2012, 16:16 21

64. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)


I kind of like the design if for no other reason than it's something a bit different. It's not just another vaguely rectangular black/grey slab.

posted on 21 May 2012, 17:51 9

90. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5498; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)


"the Samsung Galaxy S III is polycarbonate, not plastic"

Polycarbonate is thermoplastic polymer but it is still kind of plastic. :)

posted on 21 May 2012, 17:45 1

89. GENARAL.LEVY (banned) (Posts: 93; Member since: 17 Apr 2012)


Tottaly agree

posted on 21 May 2012, 13:53 28

2. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


This is pretty cool info, Phonearena. Thanks!

Waiting for Taco to comment in 3...2...1....

posted on 21 May 2012, 13:54 17

4. danwatson (Posts: 117; Member since: 03 Jan 2012)


It still looks like crappy glossy plastic, it still feels like crappy glossy plastic, and it still shows fingerprints like crappy glossy plastic. The biggest issues with the Nexus & the GSII were the plastic build quality. How did Sammy miss this. Too many engineers in the software department designing toy features that we will all use for a couple days to show off and then never use again. No one is asking for more software and yet they keep adding it. Need to move some of those jobs to the materials department focusing on build quality and hardware improvements and let Google handle the software

posted on 21 May 2012, 13:59 29

7. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)


When and where did you get a chance to see and feel this as yet unreleased device in order to make this statement?

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:11 22

14. shadowcell (Posts: 300; Member since: 28 Mar 2012)


Dan Watson, time-travelling visionary.

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:55 6

39. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)


he doesnt even know what he is talking about. probably dint even care to read the article. btw thanx for this article. now people can stop crying about premium materials not being used by samsung.

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:55 6

41. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)


his an obvious hater micheal no point even wasting your time on him...he doesnt realise that theres a big diiferent from seeing an image and actually holding a device..many people who badmouthed the s3 on photos alone have changed there tunes when actually holding the device in person.

posted on 21 May 2012, 16:14 5

63. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)


Thanks, but I've found that other commenters will tend to either directly attack the person, so make a joke rather than point out the flaw in the statement, so I prefer to respond directly.

Also, Michael is never spelled "eal", it's always always "ael".

posted on 22 May 2012, 08:11

121. SonyFTW2020 (Posts: 311; Member since: 03 May 2012)


I'll tell why they change there minds when "holding the phone in person" because that 4.8 inch screen probably seems to blow your mind when you first hold and look at it! Removing all other complaints that could possibly come into play.... But when you hold it JUST A LITTLE BIT LONGER and you start using the phone and swipping through it, You find out how UNCOMFORTABLE AN ALMOST FIVE INCH PHONE REALLY IS!! and i say this cause I have a 4.3 inch atrix 2 and it seems to fit my hand WHOLE, and yes I have AVERAGE size hands not iphone 4S girl size hands....So I couldnt imagine using a 4.8 inch "Phablet" or phone/tablet..

posted on 22 May 2012, 08:59

122. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)


I dont disagree that its too big for some but for many the added benefit of having a bigger screen is worth the sacrifice...hey I wish it was the same size as my s2 but considering the massive screen the s3 is only a cm taller and half a cm wider and for me that extra hieght and with is no issue because I use my s2 and ip4 when I had it with 2 hands as for me using a touch phone is natural to hold with 1 hand and navigate with the other..considering by the pre orders in the UK it seems like many may agree with me...but like I said I woulf have been happier if it was smaller but I can see the benefit of the bigger display...

posted on 21 May 2012, 15:13 1

52. paulyyd (Posts: 338; Member since: 08 Jan 2011)


@heller there are countless video reviews showing what crappy glossy plastic looks and feels like. thats where he got the information to make that statement.

posted on 21 May 2012, 16:49 9

77. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)


I must see these videos that allow you to know and understand the feel of an item. That sounds magical.

posted on 21 May 2012, 20:56 4

99. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


michael,
these trolls only buy magical things.

posted on 22 May 2012, 06:52

120. danwatson (Posts: 117; Member since: 03 Jan 2012)


True, I have never felt this device but it is the same feel as the GSII and Nexus from what I have read and I have handled the Nexus extensively and I own the GSII (epic) though I have the new Evo LTE on preorder. I also am an mech engineer and use polycarbonate all the time and thus i'm very familiar with the material. I was really hoping samsung would kill it this time but I just feel that they punted on the hardware and went all out on the software. Since ICS though, most everyone is satisfied (finally) with the software so I want the manufactures to focus more on the hardware. Not sure what is wrong with that.

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:15 10

17. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4857; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)


WHAT?!?

Hey can I please take a ride in your time machine? I want to see my favorite dinosaur the stegosaurus! lol

posted on 21 May 2012, 13:55 19

5. 1ceTr0n (Posts: 549; Member since: 20 May 2012)


Damn, S3 haters are in full force still. Hopefully iphone 5 launchs soon and they will all go away and shut up

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:22 5

25. Galen20K (Posts: 541; Member since: 26 Dec 2008)


Seriously! lol AMen to that brother

posted on 21 May 2012, 13:59 13

6. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


whatta ya know. all of our cries of "quit calling it cheap plastic" were completely accurate. yaaay.

I'll take the plastic Samsung has been using or the new Poly any day over metal and glass. you can keep your "premium" wanna be BS, ill take a phone that can stand up to life.

posted on 21 May 2012, 14:10 14

13. WirelessCon (Posts: 311; Member since: 11 May 2010)


remixfa has a good point.

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