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Samsung Rethinks Smartphone Build Quality

Samsung considers an overhaul of the Galaxy Note III's design to counter its "cheap" image.

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Samsung may be confident that its Android user interface is better than the competitions', but it is beginning to worry about its hardware. The company was chided again for its cheap plastic smartphones after debuting the Galaxy S 4 last month. The S 4's build quality isn't even remotely close to that of the HTC One, which has won accolades from reviewers across the Web for its incredible hardware.

Samsung insiders tell SamMobile that the reaction to the HTC One has perhaps changed the company's thinking with respect to hardware design.

Samsung has long favored plastic designs for its smartphones and tablets. Every generation of the Galaxy S smartphone has had a flimsy plastic battery cover and no eternal parts made of metal. Plastic has several benefits over metal: it is cheaper and faster to manufacture, and it weighs less.

[ Google has the edge on apps, but Apple wins on revenue. Read Google Leads App Downloads, Apple Cashes In. ]

Many users had hoped Samsung would change directions with the Galaxy S 4, but it didn't. The S 4, like the S III, S II, and S before it, uses a cheap-feeling plastic shell. Samsung used a similar approach for the Note and Note II. Keep in mind, these are Samsung's flagship devices -- its most prominent and most important smartphones.

(Apparently one of the Galaxy S 4 prototypes under consideration was made of metal and was very popular within Samsung's ranks. However, due to cost and manufacturing considerations, Samsung chose plastic instead.)

In contrast, there's the HTC One. It is made of aluminum, and the quality is among the best ever for a smartphone. Nearly every review of the device has called it "the Android smartphone to beat" and lavished its metallic design with praise. HTC paid dearly for that aluminum shell, though. It is more expensive and harder to make, which delayed the device's launch date by several weeks. The positive reviews made Samsung sit up straight and do some thinking.

The HTC One isn't the only device competing with the GS4. It is also going up against the iPhone 5, which has also been lauded for its metallic design. Samsung may be selling more smartphones in total than its rival Apple, but the iPhone 5 itself still outsells each of Samsung's models individually.

SamMobile's source says that the forthcoming Galaxy Note III will not use the design of the Galaxy S 4 and will instead use a new higher-quality design that should help quell some of the quality complaints. There's no word on whether Samsung will switch materials to something other than plastic. The Note III, which hasn't been announced by Samsung, is expected to offer a 6-inch full HD display, Exynos 5 eight-core CPU, LTE, 13-megapixel camera, and Android 5.0.

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