Last month, Motorola made one of the most oft-rumored smartphones of this year official, the Moto X. Along with the new phone, Motorola announced Moto Maker, an online design center where you can customize your phone, have it engraved, and setup to your liking before it’s assembled.
Until late November, AT&T has exclusive rights to Moto Maker, and on Thursday, Michael Fisher and I had the opportunity to design our own Moto Xs with custom color schemes. Thanks to this early access, we’re able to share the experience of crafting our custom smartphones before the service becomes publicly available.
To access Moto Maker, you must have a card, which you would get from your carrier store (remember, it’s AT&T-only for the first few months). Once you pick up the card, you take it home, where you will scratch to get your unique code, navigate to the website, and enter it into the requested field to gain access to the site.
Once inside, it’s time to design your phone. Click Get Started.
First, you are prompted to choose a back color, of which you can currently choose between 18 different colors – six cool tones, five neutral, and seven warm. This is likely where you will spend the brunt of your time in Moto Maker, flipping back and forth between your two or three favorite colors.
Next you will choose between either a white or black front color, and seven metallic accent colors.
Michael ultimately honed in on the royal blue back, metallic yellow accents, and white front color. Unknowingly, I initially chose the same exact scheme, so I mixed it up a bit. After about 30 minutes of back and forth, I settled on the cement back color with the metallic orange accent and a black front color.
The next step is optional: choose a signature to be used as the rear engraving. With this, there are several blocked words, such as brands and profanity. Before jumping to the Features section, eventually, you will also be able to choose a snap-on Incase case, but that feature has not yet been enabled.
Under the features, you can choose between either 16GB or 32GB for $50 more. You can also set a custom signature for the boot process, as well as the preset wallpaper. Finally, you can choose to have your phone already setup with your Google account when it arrives.
In the final section, Accessories, you have the option to choose between a white or black power block and microUSB cable. And you can add a matching pair of SOL REPUBLIC JAX headphones to your order for $39.95. From there, you proceed to checkout and go through the standard motions of entering payment information, billing and shipping addresses, and adding a Moto Care plan to your order.
So what do we think of the process? It’s certainly simple to understand and a considerable amount of fun to use. It’s an entirely new offering – customizing your own phone before it’s ever assembled. And that in itself creates a new experience and an air of excitement – a feeling rarely captured these days.
That excitement isn’t entirely without worry, though. Remember: you’re customizing the look and feel of a smartphone you’re going to carry for two years. This isn’t an accessory case you’re custom painting in an art class, or a stick-on skin you can always peel off later. The customizations you’re adding will stay with you for your entire time with the phone. So you better be damn sure you’re still going to like that neon-green-and-magenta color combination after two years of looking at it.
Ultimately, though, Moto Maker is a big step forward, and we wonder why it’s taken so long to get to this point. The whole shebang is a fairly straightforward and simple process. So why haven’t other companies already jumped on board? We saw indications that HTC was planning a similar customization approach with its 8XT for Sprint – given what we know now, it probably would have been quite a hit. Is there some sort of rocket science that goes into the manufacturing and assembly of the exact same parts in various colors? Obviously it’s very expensive to serve specific markets – Motorola’s assembly plant in Forth Worth, TX employs 2,000 American workers – but we highly doubt there’s any sort of magic that goes into offering various colors of the same product, especially mixing and matching a handful of options.
Whatever the reason for the hesitancy of its competitors, it doesn’t really matter: Motorola got there first, and we commend the company for it. Not only is it the first to offer such in-depth tweaking, but it does so with an experience that’s easy, friendly, and most importantly, fun. We’ll circle back on the end result when our customized units come in next week, but for now, we think Motorola has a winner on its hands with Moto Maker.
Michael Fisher contributed to this post.