Galaxy S22: Samsung, stop making plastic $800 phones, how they feel matters

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Galaxy S22: Samsung, stop making plastic $800 phones, how they feel matters
Last year Samsung switched to an odd new trend, which the company seems to be bent on sticking with to this day – releasing expensive phones that don't feel expensive.

In our Galaxy Note 20 review we called it "plastic jewelry", as you would a $1000 smartphone with a plastic back. Lo and behold – afterwards came the $800 Galaxy S21, also with a back made out of plastic.

And now, by some accounts, the S21's successor – the upcoming Galaxy S22 is also going to skimp on better build materials such as glass, those being reserved for the more expensive S22+ and S22 Ultra, like it was with the S21 series.

But in a shrinking smartphone market, with phones built better than ever and people willing to use them for longer than ever, is releasing $800 and $1000 plastic phones really a good idea? I believe not, and here's why…

You hold your phone all the time! Its build quality matters more than you may realize

Researchers have said that the average person picks up their phone well beyond 100 times a day. And even if you aren't aware of it (or you're always using plastic cases), holding a smartphone that actually feels nice and premium can make all the difference in the world.

I'll share a personal experience and maybe you can relate. I actually stopped using a flagship smartphone that had by far my favorite feature, because the phone felt like greasy cheap plastic, despite being an expensive flagship. That phone was the Asus ROG Phone 5 – a power beast with arguably the best speakers on the market. But for its price, its back felt cheap and plasticky, sounded a bit hollow when tapped and quickly got greasy fingerprint smudges.

I'm sure many of us have owned one or several phones like this, and you know how most, or all of those anti-features can impair your enjoyment of using that phone.

You may now be thinking "but not all plastics are equal", and that expression is true – some plastic feels cheap, some can feel softer and more premium, but regardless – in most cases, it all feels like plastic. The Galaxy S21 did have a good quality matte plastic back, but it wasn't on par with glass or aluminum nonetheless.

And if Samsung wants to deliver a premium experience, skimping on a glass back again for the Galaxy S22, and perhaps even the S22+ according to some rumors, is a bad idea. Buyers deserve a premium experience, and those who plan on using the S22 for the long run should settle for nothing less.

The competition isn't plastic

In my experience, Apple's iPhone 13 feels infinitely more premium than a plastic phone ever could. And note that even Apple's budget phones like the $400 iPhone SE 2 feature a glass build, not plastic.

In fact, I was a diehard Android user until Apple went back to releasing flagship flat-edge iPhones with an aluminum frame and glass back, starting with the iPhone 12. And by many accounts, Apple will keep this trend not just with this year's iPhone 13 but with next year's iPhone 14.

So I switched to iPhone purely because of this design that I find so appealing, and my expectations were correct – it feels very nice and premium in the hand. Compared to the Asus ROG Phone 5 I mentioned earlier, it's night and day.

So I switched to what I consider a more limited software experience purely for the better hardware experience, and be honest with yourself – it's not as outlandish as it sounds. No regrets so far.

Of course, Apple's not the only competition to Samsung. Google is fighting a good fight establishing itself on the smartphone market, and its Pixel flagships feature aluminum or glass backs. The Pixel 5 and the brand new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro – not plastic, yet cheaper than the Galaxy S-series too.

And what about Xiaomi – the third largest smartphone brand in the world after Apple and Samsung? Well this Chinese giant has been releasing high-quality budget, midrange and flagship smartphones for what seems like forever now. The recently-released Xiaomi 11T, for example, is glass on the front and back, as you'd expect from a 2021 flagship, or even a midranger.

Of course, it's all up to what the consumers are willing to accept

While I'm certain that build quality matters to most smartphone users even if they haven't realized it yet, surely some people just want a powerful smartphone that does things well, regardless of how it feels. That's totally fine, and the Galaxy S22 will likely not disappoint.

But to everyone else – what smartphone manufacturers prioritize depends on what you're willing to accept, and what seemingly matters to you the most. Currently, it appears that the focus is on cameras, so we can guess where Apple, Xiaomi and Samsung's priorities lie.

Things like good speakers, extra software features and premium build quality are sometimes left in the background, but whether this continues is mostly in our hands, as we – the users – are voting for what we want with our hard-earned cash.

If build quality is important to you – make sure to double-check the design materials of the phone you're buying. Don't let marketing trick you – it's not just the software and the camera quality that matters in the long run. If you buy the upcoming Galaxy S22, you deserve to get a premium built phone for that price, not plastic.

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