Magnesium vs aluminum, or why a Samsung Galaxy S7 made of magnesium would be awesome


It is that time of the year again – a time of leaks, speculation, estimates, and plain guessing as to what the next big Samsung Galaxy model will bring to the table. And with rumors revolving around a January announcement for the Samsung Galaxy S7, the rumor mill is already running at full steam. How big is the phone going to be? Will it have radically better specs? What is it going to be made of? Will it be capable of shooting laser beams and projecting holograms in mid-air? These are the questions on the minds of many – questions that our rich collection of Samsung Galaxy S7 rumors attempts to answer.

Among the plethora of Galaxy S7 rumors that have accumulated is one suggesting that Samsung's next flagship will be slightly different in terms of design. The new model will be built of glass and metal, just like the Galaxy S6. But instead of aluminum, a magnesium alloy will be used for the handset's exterior frame. The material will likely be found inside the device as well, as part of its internal structure. This, if true, would be pretty awesome for a number of reasons, which we're about to highlight in the paragraphs below.

What is magnesium, anyway?

Magnesium (pictured to the right) is an alkaline earth metal with an atomic number 12. It is a shiny grey solid with numerous applications, primarily in cases where a light, strong material is required. On its own, however, magnesium isn't exactly ideal for use in consumer products as it is very reactive. We don't want our gadgets to corrode easily or to combust spontaneously, do we? This is why magnesium is mixed with other elements, including aluminum or zinc, to create various alloys, which are a lot more practical. For instance, the chassis of some premium laptops, digital cameras, and even some cell phones are made of magnesium alloy. So are components inside airplanes, rockets, high-performance cars, and other machines where weight reduction is of importance. 

What makes magnesium alloys better than aluminum ones?

Several are the differences that set magnesium alloys apart from aluminum ones. Firstly, there's the lighter weight of the former. The frame of the Galaxy S6, for instance, is made of 6013-grade aluminum alloy, which has a density of 2.71 g/cm³ (0.0979 lb/in³). The density of the 7000-series aluminum used in the iPhone 6s is even greater. In comparison, magnesium alloys have densities of about 1.8 g/cm³ (0.065 lb/in³). What these confusing numbers indicate is that magnesium alloys are about 33% lighter than aluminum ones, which greatly affects the total weight of the product they're used in. Most of us wouldn't mind a lighter Galaxy S7, right? 

Despite being lighter, magnesium alloys are similar to (if not better than) aluminum ones in terms of mechanical characteristics. They can be just as strong and durable. They are also good at dissipating heat. They dampen vibrations and shock really well. They have a lesser impact on the transmission of radio waves. In addition to all this, it is easier to make structural elements, such as a phone's body or chassis, out of magnesium alloys due to the material's favorable mechanical properties and lower melting point. 

If magnesium alloys are so awesome, where have they been all along?

Historically, aluminum was quicker to gain popularity – as a metal great for making anything from soda cans to car engines. It was light, durable, recyclable, and improvements in technology made it cheap to obtain. The adoption of magnesium for commercial applications began much later, but the popularity of the material is on the rise as its cost-efficiency is nearing that of aluminum. On one hand, raw magnesium is still more expensive than aluminum, but being easier to machine makes its alloys about as cost-effective as aluminum ones. 

That magnesium Samsung Galaxy S7 is going to be sweet!

Not so fast, cowboy! A rumor is just a rumor and should be treated as such, especially when we have no physical evidence to support it. Nevertheless, the odds of seeing a Galaxy S7 made of magnesium alloy aren't slim at all. The material is far from exotic, can be produced in large quantities, and its advantages over aluminum would give the next Galaxy flagship one more thing to stand out with. Besides, it's not like we haven't seen magnesium-made gadgets already – the Microsoft Surface tablets, the OnePlus 2, and the Oppo R1 all have bodies made of magnesium alloy. Samsung is no stranger to the material either, as its NX1 digital camera boasts a sturdy magnesium body. All that said, a magnesium-made Samsung Galaxy S7 will not come as a surprise, seeing that its makes sense as the next step in the Galaxy line-up's design evolution. What such a phone might look like is depicted in the unofficial renders and leaked images below.

References: - Magnesium, Aluminum - Magnesium die casting - Aluminum alloys - Magnesium die casting

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