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Samsung ditching plastic phones for metal? Not quite

With four metal-framed phones under its belt, it looks like Samsung's preparing to upgrade its lineup to aluminum. That isn't exactly the case.

The all-metal Samsung Galaxy A5 embraces the trend. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Four aluminum-ribbed smartphones in quick succession are enough to send the message that Samsung is embarking on a sea change in its smartphone design.

The high-end, metal-framed Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4 were just the beginning, with the newly unveiled midrange Galaxy A3 and A5 staking Samsung's first claim in all-metal backings to match the aluminum edging.

Surely if Samsung is dressing up a couple of midrange devices, other all-metal high-end phones will follow.

Not so fast.

"Each product has its own design concept," a Samsung representative told CNET at an early hands-on briefing, citing that metal is the top material that trendy young people -- who are nevertheless on a budget -- want in a phone.

On the other hand, the design team's restriction of metal elements to the Galaxy Note 4's perimeter was intentional. As Samsung concept designer Sungho Lee explained to CNET, Samsung wanted to keep the identity of the leather look and stitching consistent from the Note 3 to the Note 4. "The leather pattern is a very important thing," he said.

Not only does the Note 4's leatherlike backing carry on the Note 3's design, it also continues a larger arc of evoking the soft backing of a real-world leather folio, the very item upon which the Note series is based.

There's likewise no current plan to replace the Galaxy S5 's plastic backing, Samsung said. Nevertheless, it's clear that the company's metal ambitions have only just begun.