OPINION: More and more, it seems that smartphone manufacturers are turning away from making glossy-backed devices. Is this a good thing?
No-one could deny that the Oppo Find X5 Pro looks strikingly beautiful. The smooth contours are very easy on the eye, and the shimmering metallic finish is just dazzling, reflecting all the light that falls upon it like a perfect mirror. However, this beauty comes at a price; the minute that you touch it, it’s ruined.
This may sound like a curse, some sort of strange inversion of the Midas touch, but it’s true. The surface is so incredibly glossy that as soon as a finger comes near it, the gorgeous sheen is smudged and disfigured, retaining only a fraction of the appeal that it does for that brief moment you take it out of the box for the first time. And just imagine what it looks like when you’re carried it around for a full day!
For this reason, more and more manufacturers are eschewing the glossy look in favour of a matte finish on the back panels of their phones. Just take a look at the OnePlus 10 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, and the Xiaomi 12 Pro for instance. All of these top-class flagships have dull backs that don’t catch the light at all, yet they’re highly practical and stay looking the same no matter how many greasy chips you’ve been snacking on during your lunch break.
To me, this kind of design also embodies a feeling of self-confidence; these phones don’t need to shout aloud how good they are or draw attention to themselves with flashiness, but rather they just let their performance speak for itself.
Not only that, but a switch away from shininess does not by any means necessitate an end to dramatic designs, just take a look at the rather ingenious Realme GT 2 Pro.
The rear panel of this handset is made of a “bio-based polymer” (i.e. plastic), and normally this would be a disappointing substitute for glass on a premium phone. However, it certainly doesn’t have the cheap look that this kind of material can often engender, because in conjunction with the Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa it has been given a finish that feels exactly like paper to the touch.
It doesn’t just feel like that, but if you’re brave enough to take a pencil to your new phone then you can even write or doodle on it, before erasing it just as you would on a real pad of paper – just see the tweet below.
Generally speaking it’s always good to have a wide diversity of choice in the market, and different designs will naturally appeal to different audiences who have unique tastes. However, I do think that the Oppo Find X5 Pro could well be the nail in the coffin for shiny smartphones for quite some time, especially coming as it does during a time period where matte options are rapidly gaining in currency.
A phone that only looks good when you don’t have your hands on it seems to utterly defeat its own purpose, evoking that Shakespearean metaphor of a gilded butterfly. Many of today’s flagships prove that phones can look good and be practical at the same time, while Realme has already take this concept to a new level of intriguing innovation. I think it’s time to wave goodbye to gloss, and instead roll out the welcome matte.