Dear Samsung, please don’t mess up usability in favor of making metallic phones
Samsung’s smartphones have always been heavy-hitters in the market when it comes to sales figures, with millions of consumers preferring to buy the company’s phones over the competition. Whether that is because they have been blinded by Samsung’s galactically powerful marketing machine, or whether they simply like using Galaxy phones and feel familiar with them, is something that can be argued all day long without anyone reaching any conclusion.
However, while millions have taken a liking (or a habit) to Samsung smartphones, quite a few have taken to criticizing the company for using plastic on their devices every chance they get. With devices like the HTC One and, of course, Apple’s iPhone, people have been clamoring for Samsung to start making smartphones that have a premium feel, constantly arguing that the company needs to start using metal, at least on its flagship phones. Samsung hasn’t yet listened, instead opting for a fake leather material on the Galaxy Note 3 and, since the Galaxy S5, a similar material with a dotted pattern that makes the back of the device look like a golf ball.
However, rumors of a Galaxy S5 Prime have been indicating for months that Samsung is finally going to cave in and bring out a metallic smartphone, fulfilling the wishes (and addressing the hatred and criticism) of many out there that have grown tired of the company’s continued use of cheap-feeling plastic and, since last year, fake leather-like material.
Well, while I certainly can understand why people would metal on their phone and that Samsung’s phones need to feel more premium, I actually hope that making metallic devices doesn’t become a thing with the world’s largest mobile manufacturer.
Why? Well, it all begins with my purchase of the Sony Xperia Z1 (after someone nicked my beloved Galaxy Note 3), and subsequently the HTC One M8. Right off the bat, the M8 was amongst the most attractive smartphones I had ever seen, and I was staring it for a couple of seconds when the shopkeeper was unpacking the box (to put in my SIM card and to show me that everything was okay inside.)
Then I picked up the phone in my hands, and it all went wrong.
I had been expecting to find out why people were almost unanimously enamored by how premium and awesome the HTC One M8 feels in the hand, like a luxury item that has no equal. Instead, what I realized as soon as I held the phone in one hand was that it was the most slippery smartphone I had ever come across. Almost instantly it started slipping from my hand as I was going over it, with my reflexes kicking in and making me hold it up with two hands.
There was literally zero feeling of premium-ness there, and with the huge size of the phone, I was almost regretting my decision to buy it (here in India, once you buy it, only then you can open the box, and you can’t exchange it right there without losing at least 5 percent of the phone’s value.)
I mean, I can’t use the phone without a case, as I am almost always fearful that I will drop it and damage it, with even two-handed usage an exercise in making sure I was holding on to it safely. What made it worse was the fact that I was moving on to the M8 from a phone that was equally bad at ergonomics – the Xperia Z1. Thanks to the glass on the back, the Z1 (and the new Xperia Z2) is as bad as the M8 when it comes to ergonomics, and is actually worse in some cases thanks to the blocky, squarish build.
With the Galaxy Note 3, while the phone was big, I was never afraid of damaging it. With one-hand usage, that 5.7-inch screen should have been impossible to handle, but it wasn’t. The faux leather back, which many criticized, helped considerably, and while I can see why people wouldn’t like it, it was a big factor when it came to ergonomics. The dimpled back on the Galaxy S5 is even better, making it one of the most easy-to-handle devices despite its big size.
With all that metal on the HTC One M8, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want Samsung to change its choice of material for its devices. Sure, I want them to adopt a new design since the current one is the most boring among the big name manufacturers, but switching to metal isn’t something I think they should be doing.
A better solution is taking a page out of Nokia’s book (or Apple’s iPhone 5C) and using better-quality plastic (if you’ve used the Nokia N9 or the Lumia 800 and other premium Nokia phones, you know what I’m talking about), even if that makes the phone a bit heavy. Metal simply isn’t the answer to a great smartphone, but only serves to make the phone look (and feel) premium while making it extremely tricky in terms of usability.
So please Samsung, stop listening to those who only wish to use their phones as a fashion statement (against whom I hold no grudges, but I just feel they care about the wrong part of a phone’s design.) No, don’t just carry on with your design and build aesthetics as they are now – by all means, make your phones look better and feel better, but please don’t bring in metal unless you can ensure the top-notch ergonomics of your smartphones aren’t affected in any way.