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Moto X: How a Custom Motorola Phone Might Work

by Brandon Russell | July 3, 2013July 3, 2013 7:00 am PDT

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You’ll be able to design your own smartphone soon. Instead of letting a board of executives decide what your little pocket rectangle looks like, Motorola Mobility wants to hand control over to consumers. What does that mean? We don’t know yet. Motorola is already saying this approach will bring a freedom and uniqueness to the market never seen before. Is this what people want?

It depends on how many options are available. Smartphones today typically come in a few different colors, along with the flexibility for more storage. But that’s usually where things end; you can’t really choose how your device varies internally. Some companies, such as Samsung, have put emphasis on releasing multiple devices every few months, essentially compromising the lack of consumer control over design and internal components. Even still, many tech enthusiasts often wish they could tweak their device in some way. Maybe the color, or processor; if only someone would give them the opportunity.

In retail, customization is huge, especially in the apparel industry. Shoes have particularly benefited from such flexibility, and people will pay up the nose. But it extends to cars, homes, and even something as simple as a school binder. People love to customize. The mobile industry has thus far been resistant to such openness.

Motorola hasn’t revealed how it will allow buyers to design their own smartphone—are build materials part of the equation? What if, for a moment, we imagined the company’s model similarly following how someone can customize a computer? If you’ve purchased a laptop in the last few years, you know that you typically get the opportunity to configure certain aspects, including the processor, memory, storage, software add-ons and more. Someone at Motorola likely thought that same model would translate over nicely to the mobile space. Judging from reader comments following the company’s teaser recently, it sounds like people would be quite receptive to that approach in smartphones.

The average consumer might not care what components go inside a device. Specs aren’t typically part of big time marketing spiels. But give consumers the choice to decide between multiple colors, and maybe even choose the screen size, storage, and other features, and now you’ve got their attention. Design matters, big time.

Now it’s time for Motorola to deliver.

If Motorola does allow users to tweak internals, the company will likely offer pre-determined options to those who aren’t privy to quad-core processors. But for anyone who does care deeply about what specs are included, the company could let users decide between something like a dual-core or quad-core chip. Imagine if the entry-level device had a dual-core processor, for example, but with the option to add a Snapdragon 600 or Snapdragon 800 processor for a pre-determined fee. Or consumers could add a wireless charging option, choose a specific screen technology (LCD or AMOLED, maybe) and even water/dust resistance. Motorola does specifically say design, so users might just be able to choose how the phone itself looks, and not necessarily what’s on the inside, though we imagine that would be a manufacturing nightmare.

Motorola promises its design, engineering and manufacturing experience will introduce an exciting new element to the smartphone space—something badly needed in a landscape of sameness. These devices won’t merely be little pocket computers meant to be used and promptly put away. They’ll be individual statements, gadgets that reflect each user’s own personality; a person’s fashion sense, mood and more.

When someone asks what phone you’re using, you’ll be able to proudly say you designed it. That’s genuinely exciting.

Depending on how much control Motorola puts in consumer hands, this could be huge. Your dream phone might one day exist. Remember, Motorola is under Google’s guidance, a company that’s built an enormous reputation among consumers, so there is potential for a wide reach. And incredible resources. Android devices are already the more popular choice in the U.S. (and around the world); allowing consumers to be in control of the end design could attract quite a few converts.

“Nothing this exciting ever comes easily,” Motorola said. If the price is there, and enough choices are given to consumers, Motorola’s mysterious Moto X project may be what every smartphone user has been waiting for.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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