So I think everyone can agree that glass backed phones are prone to more breaks than a metal or plastic phone. The new nexus 4 and the old iPhone 4/4S all look stunning but their have always been horror stories about easy they shatter. The biggest question I have is why has no one tried to do a polyurethane based back.
The other two options we commonly see for phone backs include metal or plastic. These options both have their pros and cons including increased durability but are can also feel less “premium” than the glass. Metal has a similar premium quality that glass has but limits signal strength. This trade off is exemplified in the iPhone 5 and the two tone back. This decision, in my opinion was one based on function over form. The other alternative that is commonly utilized is plastic. Samsung is a key example of a manufacturer utilizing plastic. In my humble opinion feels cheap. The issue with signal quality is avoided but the durability is of a lower quality than metal but significantly greater than glass.
Looking at the options I will rank the three options currently on the market and then propose my “new” material.
I like this material for its durability and design but do not like it for the reduction of signal quality.
Very brittle and bad I’d you ever drop your phone. But this material can be stunning a great example is the new nexus 4 with the amazing quality it has when rotating it in sunlight.
My least favorite material. The durability and signal quality is great but it can easily make a premium product feel cheap. An example of this is the Samsung Galaxy S III; while this is purely subjective, I find the phone feels horrible in my hands. The new HTC 8X on the other hand feels great in your hand.
Looking at all of the options, to me it is apparent you want a material that has the look of glass with the durability of plastic or metal. Having a phone’s back finished in polyurethane would be highly durable. It is a common material for table and floor finishes and feels nice. Like plastic it would do little to impede signal quality and makes it easy to stylize it. By using a solid black piece of plastic and then adding flashes of color one could easily recreate the nexus 4′s finish and even create something new and exciting.
I am sure there are many reasons why this material hasn’t been introduced to the phone market but if we stop innovating and experimenting we will stagnate and go back to the age of every phone looking the same. I would love to hear your thoughts and have you suggest any different materials that might be even better.