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Flagship phones in 2018 will all have glass backs, whether we like it or not

Flagship phones in 2018 will all have glass backs, whether we like it or not


A practical and luxurious consideration

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iPhone X
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Glass has become the material of choice for premium mobile phones, and it looks like that’s set to remain in vogue this year. As my colleague Vlad Savov notes on Twitter, most of the 2018 flagship phones will feature glass from front to back.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 devices, Sony’s Xperia XZ2, ZTE’s latest Blade V9, and the Asus Zenfone 5 all feature glass backs. Last year’s LG V30 and Huawei’s Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro devices used glass, and those companies are expected to announce new phones this year featuring more of that reflective material.

It looks like all the upcoming flagships from major phone companies will feature glass backs. LG revealed the G7 phone at MWC last week with a glass back, while leaked photos of upcoming phones from Huawei and OnePlus suggest the same. HTC is also due to announce a new flagship and we can expect the company to feature a glass back on the new device, given that the company has been producing phones with that feature since the beginning of 2017. Blackberry might prove the exception, but it’s hardly a “major” phone brand in 2018.

Glass is pretty, sure, but it’s also fragile compared to aluminum. So why has the material become so ubiquitous and popular in phones? Well, glass looks great, and the heavier feel gives it a sense of luxury — and everyone desires luxury, especially on a device that can cost more than $1,000. It’s also a practical consideration because phones with aluminum backs aren’t compatible with wireless charging, a key feature of flagship phones now. Using glass also means signals like Wi-Fi, LTE, and Bluetooth are stronger without the need for clunky antenna lines embedded into the frames.

Companies, of course, will be charging substantial fees for replacement glass if you drop your phone and shatter it. Apple charges $549 to replace the iPhone X’s glass back without AppleCare+, and $279 for the front screen. For the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus without AppleCare+, the back panel will cost you $349 and $399, respectively, which makes the glass back on those devices more expensive to replace than the front screen. Samsung, meanwhile, charges $199 for a front screen repair on an S8 Plus device or $75 for the back panel. So it’s a good idea to use a cover, despite what anyone says, and treat your phone like a precious newborn.

So if you’re looking for a new flagship smartphone in 2018, you’d better be content with glass or glass. But that’s nowhere near as controversial as the other inescapable and divisive trend: notches.