Hot take: smartphones should not have a mirror finish

Poco F3 Review Fingerprint stains on the mirror surface

Recognition: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Hot take: smartphones should not have a mirror finish 2

Opinion from

C. Scott Brown

I checked that recently Poco F3 for Android Authority. The phone is great build, especially considering it only costs € 349. The display quality by far exceeds the price range, the cutout of the selfie camera is tiny and the plastic rails around the phone feel almost as good as metal.

However, the entire back of the phone is highly polished. I don’t know about you, but for me, that pretty much ruins all of the other good design elements on the phone.

The problem with mirror backs on phones is that we keep touching them – after all, they’re smartphones. Every time we touch them, we leave a fingerprint stain. It is inevitable. Even with a fingerprint stain, a phone’s beauty instantly diminishes. A lot of fingerprint stains have the problem you see in the image at the top of this article.

It’s not just the Poco F3 either. The OnePlus 9 Pro has a highly polished version, as does the Oppo Find X3 Pro and the TCL 10L. Even the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have polished stainless steel rails that are fingerprint magnets. We highlighted this in our review as well as several other publications.

See also: Here’s how to clean and disinfect your phone to keep germs from spreading

In all honesty, it doesn’t make sense for designers to create phones that look worse the instant the second user touches them. If this is going to be a new trend in the phone world, I hope it will die out very quickly.

Spiegelende: So many better alternatives

Google pixel 5 back camras macro 1

Smartphones have to undergo rigorous testing to move from concept to final retail product. It’s hard to believe that, for example, no one on the Apple team pointed out how ugly the $ 1,000 iPhone 12 Pro looks smeared with fingerprints. Sure, the phone looks great in product photographs, but promoting a smartphone is like online dating: you want to look better in real life than in the photos.

What makes this even more confusing is that there are so many better alternatives to the highly polished design. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, for example, has a variant that is matt black everywhere. It’s next to impossible for this to look bad no matter how hard you touch it.

Connected: Can someone please incorporate the style back into the smartphone design?

The Google Pixel 5 also has a gorgeous back. This design not only prevents fingerprint stains, but also feels good thanks to its textured finish. When you combine that with the metal construction of the back, you have something that is a joy to hold.

Let’s not forget the OnePlus One with its sandstone base. Many of us remember this phone because it is structured on its own. Why don’t companies replicate this? Why do our smartphones have to be shiny mirrors?

The only reason I can figure this out is to help with selfies with rear cameras. If you can see your face on the back of your phone, you don’t have to rely on the inferior front camera for your selfies. That makes sense, but even then your face will look like a fingerprint smudge! That doesn’t seem ideal to me.

“Well, you’re only going to put one case on it.”

Samsung Galaxy S21 flip cover case with pin out

Recognition: David Imel / Android Authority

I’ll be the first to admit I have some smartphone pet sleeves. Outside of ugly mirror surfaces, another thing that irritates me a lot is huge, off-center camera bumps. These annoy me because making calls while lying flat on a table is a problem shaky, uncomfortable experience.

The answer I hear a lot when I complain about poor smartphone design is, “Well, you’re only going to put one case on it.” This is usually delivered with a smug “gotcha” attitude or even an eye roll emoji. The thing is, however, I hate putting my smartphone in a pocket. Lots of people put their phones in cases, which is not a free pass for smartphone OEMs to wise or ill with their designs.

See also: Our guide to choosing the best case for your new phone

Let me put it this way: would you buy a glossy, glass-coated laptop? I suspect you wouldn’t because glass laptops are not very durable and the glossy finish would look ugly right away. But I think that would be fine, right, because you could just stick it in a case.

If you’ve made fun of it, why not mock glass smartphones with mirror surfaces? They are very similar products that we use in very similar ways. The only difference is that most people don’t put their laptops in cases, so they probably wouldn’t consider such a poorly designed product. As simple as that.

Good design also means practical design

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra back in hand 2

Recognition: David Imel / Android Authority

When it comes to design, there are reasons why certain elements of a product stand the test of time. Coffee cups have handles because the cup itself gets very hot. Computer mice aren’t square because our hands are curvy. Cars have four wheels because three would put the vehicle in danger of turning around.

For some reason, smartphone OEMs don’t believe such rules apply to phones. Instead of long-lasting devices that look and feel great in the hand, we get glass-covered fingerprint magnets that are as slippery as a fish. It doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

See also: These are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

I’m not going to win the war on bad smartphone design overnight, but I hope this mirror-smooth trend burns out quickly. I know the fan reaction to the aforementioned Galaxy S21 Ultra design has been very positive. There’s even a rumor that Apple is investigating to offer a similar design with the next iteration of iPhones. That makes me hopeful that the high gloss finish will be a fast trend. Until then, I’ll let out an audible moan every time I take a shiny fingerprint magnet out of the box.


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