Talking tech since 2003

You might have caught the new Moto X ad, which we wrote about yesterday. Our Jeff Weisbein called it gutsy, and in the way it uses our July 4th holiday to declare independence from cookie cutter phone designs, I guess it is. It got a lot of us thinking about what Motorola could be up to with this new device, with some speculating that Motorola might allow users to customize the phone entirely — internals and all. Unfortunately, leaks reported by ABC News’ Joanna Stern suggest that the Moto X might not be as gutsy and daring as it makes itself out to be.

moto-x-adAccording to the ABC News report, users who order a Moto X smartphone will be able to customize the colors of the device, as well as add an engraving. There are two areas on the phone where custom colors can be chosen: the back case and the trim. The engraving can be a name or a simple message, and there’s also mention of a step during the ordering process that allows the buyer to upload an image that will be used as the Moto X’s wallpaper.

There will reportedly be different storage options available for the Moto X, not unlike most other smartphones on the market. But that’s about all users will have a say in as far as the internals go. You won’t be choosing the processor, the amount of RAM or anything like that, so dude, you’re not getting a Dell-like experience when it comes to designing your smartphone. You’re simply in charge of color for two areas of the device and an optional engraving. That’s it.

Now let me tell you why I’m not impressed. All of this effort Motorola has sunk into the Moto X’s customizable exterior might not be seen by a whole lot of people. Because a lot of people already customize the exteriors of their phones. With cases.

These actually accomplish a couple of things. First and most importantly, they protect your phone. Many smartphones cost over $500 off-contract, which is what one would likely pay to replace a broken phone. So buying a case to protect that very expensive device is an intelligent move. Secondly, these cases have designs of their own. They come in solid colors or patterns with smooth or textured surfaces. When they’re installed, a lot of the phone’s original look is hidden, because as beautiful as most smartphones are on the outside, leaving the exterior exposed is just asking for trouble.

So designing your own Moto X might be cool until you realize that the device may be extremely vulnerable outside of a case. And when you put that case on, you’ve just covered up the back of the phone as well as the engraving — two out of three customizable areas. This effectively removes a major selling point of the Moto X and forces it to compete on the internals its packing and the experience of using the device. If the Moto X hardware isn’t cutting edge and the software doesn’t add anything new, why buy one?

This isn’t confirmed news by any means, and I doubt Motorola will come out and address these reports anytime soon. But if the above is truly what we’re going to get from the Moto X, Motorola may need to go back to the drawing board. The Android smartphone market is full of very good devices and, should the Moto X show up with a few customizable colors but nothing else truly groundbreaking, Motorola could find itself right back in the same place, chasing the pack.


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