These days a lot of flagship smartphones are made out of metal. But is that a smart material to use?

Microsoft launched the Lumia 950 and 950 XL with polycarbonate backs. There have been mixed reactions to this approach to phone design but let’s explore why it may be better.

Of course Microsoft’s mobile heritage comes from Nokia. With the N9 Nokia struck gold with the use of high quality polycarbonate. Since then we’ve seen it in equally as beautiful products like the 800, 900, 920, 1020, 1520, and 2520, among others.

So just why is it better?

  1. Better signal: Metal blocks signals. Fact. For a phone, that isn’t too great. It will explain why Ofcom recently found that some modern flagship smartphones need 10 times more signal than old feature phones just to make a call. On average they needed 7 times more signal. They directly pointed the finger at the use of metal and glass in phone designs. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL’s polycarbonate is RF transparent meaning their bodies will let signals pass straight through. Also, they have two adaptive antennas so that they can switch between the two in order to find the best mobile signal in any given location.
  2. Wireless charging: As polycarbonate lets signals pass straight through you also get wireless charging built in. That will explain why the iPhone 6S has to be plugged in to charge.
  3. Durability: Microsoft uses the same high quality polycarbonate that Nokia pioneered and it’s tough stuff: it can be found in ice hockey helmets protecting people’s heads. Let’s just say it’s not going to be bending in the back of your favourite skinnies. Another quality of Microsoft’s polycarbonate is its colour is inherent to the material. This means if you scratch or knock it around, your phone won’t look so much like it’s been through the wars. Polycarbonate is also less slippery in the hand than aluminium and glass, so the chances you’ll drop your phone are reduced.
  4. Natural feel: Nokia used to talk about human design and how natural something feels in your hand. Thanks to the warmth of polycarbonate and the carefully designed ergonomics of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, they really do feel great.
  5. Lightness: Despite being durable and feeling good, polycarbonate is lighter than aluminium, which helps explain why the Lumia 950 and 950 XL are 150 g and 165 g respectively. The 950 XL is lighter than all of it’s large screened competition without cutting down on battery size.
  6. Exchangeability: Thanks to the design of the polycarbonate backs you can simply take them off. This gives you access to expandable storage and a removable battery. Furthermore, you can swap the backs out for anything of your choosing such as grabbing a lovely leather back from Mozo or nabbing a vibrantly colourful back.
  7. Environmental impact: Starting with the Lumia 920 and 820 Nokia made some of their phones 100% recyclable. The black and green models of the Lumia 1520 also used the same recycled bio-plastics to make the polycarbonate body. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are 100% recoverable as materials and energy.

So there we have it. Instead of exuding a false pretense of quality like some metal and glass smartphones, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL are genuinely smart.