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Would the Moto X be as big as it is without Moto Maker?

By Hayato Huseman July 24, 2015, 3:24 am

The Moto X is one of the most universally liked smartphones in the tech space. It’s affordable, the software is close to stock with some compelling added features, and it’s the most customizable phone money can buy (at least, until Project Ara hits the market). You can choose your own backing and accent colors, add a message to the boot screen, engrave your name or favorite phrase onto the back, and even train it to answer to your own voice or launch phrase. All of this makes the Moto X feel tailor-made just for you, but it makes you wonder … would the Moto X still receive all of its praise and fanfare if Moto Maker weren’t around to customize it?
url: public://2015/03/moto-x-red-leather.jpg alt: moto-x-red-leather align: left

For clarification, it’s important to keep in mind that as popular as the Moto X is amongst tech enthusiasts, it hasn’t sold terribly well with general consumers. Despite its constant price drops and bundles, it hasn’t exactly seen the heaviest ad campaigns, and it’s difficult to market stock Android and contextual actions — even harder to market a phone that has to be delivered at a later time to customers that want everything now. But despite underperforming sales compared to some of the heavier hitters in the market, the Moto X is still one of nearly every Android lover’s recommendations, and for good reason. Few phones offer the level of hands-free control and automation that the Moto X has, and Moto Maker is a terrific feature that gives everybody a way to stylize their phone before it ever touches a case or a skin … but what if there was no Moto Maker?

Before the first Moto X launched in 2013, there were talks of a much more grandiose custom shop. Choose your own SoC, your own camera module, your own display … those rumors didn’t end up happening, but the options we did end up seeing were still more than enough to make the phone compelling and unique. Despite most cases offering similar levels of protection, customers will often go out of their way and spend double the cost of a plain case for a more stylish one, one that makes a statement. So why not cut out the middle man and offer that same kind of choice directly from the get-go? Moto Maker makes perfect sense, and from the day the service was announced, we’ve dreamed of a time when all phone OEMs would offer something like it.

Moto G Moto Maker
A smorgasbord of options from Moto Maker for the alleged 2015 Moto G.

Looking around at my colleagues in the tech space, it’s almost hard to find someone in this business that doesn’t have a Moto X, and in almost every case, it’s a custom job. Here’s the thing about that: you can find the simple black or white models directly in stores, and review units were given out to the press with both black and wooden backings, but every custom model had to be bought. There are no freebies or special deals for the tech media here, each and every owner of a custom Moto X bought that phone with their own hard-earned money. When you work in a field where you’re given nearly any phone you could possibly ask for, that’s quite a statement, isn’t it? But that statement is exactly what makes me wonder if the Moto X would’ve seen the relative success it’s had without its custom shop.

Motorola’s midrange phone, the Moto G, is the company’s best selling phone ever, and we’re starting to see some pretty heavy rumors and leaks of the next-generation model. One of those rumors is that Motorola will finally be expanding Moto Maker to the Moto G this year, letting even consumers on a budget order a phone that’s truly made just for them. The current generation Moto G is already selling like hotcakes, thanks to its great performance relative to its price, but you can mark my words now: with the introduction of Moto Maker, this year’s Moto G is going to sell like no other before it, for the same reason the Moto X picked up so much traction, despite coming from a company that until then hadn’t had too many terribly compelling offerings on the market. Because we people are superficial. Because we love to place a higher importance on custom designs. Because we love choice, and having the freedom to make a device as personal as our smartphones match our lifestyle.

The Moto X offers a terrific feature list that’s still hard to match in today’s best flagships (I still try to launch the camera on my M9 with a screwdriver gesture, and I miss the active display any time I take my phone out of my pocket), but I firmly believe that it owes much of its success to Moto Maker. It’s hard to explain in an ad just how useful the phone’s features can be without a physical demonstration, but a design-your-own-phone approach can instantly click with just about anyone. But what do you think? Is Moto Maker the Moto X’s saving grace, or would it still be just fine if the phone were only offered in a few standard colors? Sound off in the comments below!

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