July 24, 2014

What is it like to use Moto Maker?

moto_maker_colors
moto_x_cherry_lemonade

Yesterday I had the privilege of designing my own Moto X smartphone using Motorola’s new Moto Maker tool. Was the process simple, streamlined, and full of awesomesauce magic? Maybe not so much the latter stuff, but it was definitely simple and streamlined.

To be clear, the system I used was not final and could change before it goes live for the general public. Consider it a beta experience.

As a quick reminder, or for those who don’t know, the Moto Maker is the online tool that Motorola gives customers who wish to design a custom smartphone. AT&T, for now, has the exclusive rights to building a Moto X however all of the major carriers should be good to go by the end of 2013. It’s Moto Maker that allows you to go beyond the standard black, silver, or white of most phones and into colors like Blush or Aquamarine.

Logging in is rather straightforward; you use an 8-digit code and a Captcha to get started. Once in, the main part of the screen shows a generic design Moto X with features and options to the right. Grouped into three categories (styling, features, and accessories), this is where you pick and choose how the Moto X looks and feels when you receive it.

[pullquote4 align="center" bgColor="#FFFFFF" textColor="#db08ba"]The overall experience is grouped into three categories: styling, features, and accessories[/pullquote4]

Styling

Much of my time was spent floating back and forth with choosing colors and accents, or in styling. You’ll find that there are 18 total colors to choose for the back and they are grouped in cool (blues to greens), warm (reds to yellows), and neutral (blacks to whites).

The front side options were much more limited and only include black or white. So, in essence you might think there are 36 different ways to go about designing the overall look of the Moto X. Nope, there’s more!  You can pick the color options for your power and volume buttons as well as the ring around the rear camera. There are seven of these accent colors and they do make quite a difference.

moto_maker_colors

Suffice it to say, I ran into some decision paralysis as there were now considerably more designs to create and some of them really look great together. Going in, I had no idea what colors I would pick from and it changed a couple of times throughout. In the end, I chose a Cherry back, white front, and black accents. To me, at least, this looks like an Ohio State Buckeyes-like color scheme and that was pretty cool. Besides, it’s not often that you see someone whip out a bright cherry colored phone.

You’ll also find that in designing the color of the phone that you can put a custom message or name on the back side. I tried to put “AndroidGuys” on the phone but it prompted a message that said, “We’d rather not…” Perhaps the word Android or various outlets are flagged? Nevertheless it was no problem tossing in names. For what it’s worth, these names appear right around 1/4 of the way up the rear of the device and by ordering a custom etch you could delay the arrival of the phone.

I should also point out that at any time you can zoom in and look at a 360-degree representation of your phone. It’s not an actual smartphone and the render can be a little tough to imagine in the real world. Does cherry look more like a generic red or will it have more of a pop to it? I’ll find out in but a few days.

Features

Moving inside of the Moto X, this is where you get to pick from things like storage capacity (16GB or 32GB) as well as what wallpaper you would like to see when you power up the device.

It’s here where you can put another message, say a name or greeting for when the phone turns on. Yes, I had my name put in here just for the added customization. I just hope the finished result doesn’t look like those throwback feature phones with a really basic font and splash screen.

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I can imagine that companies or organizations might like to put a project name or some sort of thank you for team members. The outside could have the employees name on the back and the inside could say “Tops in TPS Reports 2013″.

Keep in mind that since the Moto X does not feature a microSD expansion card slot, you’ll be stuck with whatever capacity you choose. For a difference of $50 you can go from 16GB to 32GB. Do it if you can afford to.

There are roughly two dozen wallpapers to select from in the features section and it will load randomly based on the color scheme you select for the case. Don’t like the close up of piano keys? Pick whatever you like, it’s your phone!  It really doesn’t matter much, I’m still gonna change mine on day one.

Another key feature option is the ability to tie your Google account to the device. A simple authorization through the website and you can tell the Moto X which Gmail or account you want to load upon turning on the phone the first time. You’ll still need to put the password in before going anywhere else, but I appreciate them taking the first steps for me.

moto_x_what_can_be_customized

Accessories

The third and final categories of accessories was the most limited in my experience. This was where I could select from SOL Republic headphones ($39.95) or pick up Bluetooth or over-the-ear headphones as well. It’s also here where you can choose from a black or white power cord for your Moto X.

I can imagine that this area will continue to evolve over time and fold on new Motorola accessories as they are released. It’s possible that we’ll see gel skins, cases, chargers, speakers, and more once this goes fully live but I am only speculating.

Room for improvement

I would really like to see textures incorporated into the rear design. Woven patterns should not be relegated to black and white only. I can imagine that any of these colors would look awesome with a bit of texture or patterns. Yes, I know it’s early and that there are other designs coming like wood, but I was hoping for more in the beta experience.

A third or fourth color for the front side would go a long way as well; perhaps a silver or brushed aluminum design. And, I know I am being a little bit nitpicky, but I would have appreciated being able to choose a different accent for the camera than used for the buttons. My suggestion here is to have the standard Moto Maker experience load for everyone by default, with an “advanced” option.

When it comes to etching or stenciling names on the back, I think readers might appreciate some font options, even a second one. Likewise, I wouldn’t be opposed to selecting from a library of approved artwork or highlights. You know, just something to make it stand out even more.

I do understand that giving customers too many options could confuse them and could put certain delays on receiving the phone. If anything, maybe Motorola can slowly roll out new features every quarter or semi-annually. Then again, I would be upset if six months from now the entire experience is so much better and provides way more options.

Conclusion

I think that the general consumer will really come to appreciate the way Moto Maker works. It;s not rocket science nor is it overwhelming.  There were no kinks in the system and even as a beta, I found it to work well. Outside of my ideas for improving the system it’s already the kind of tool that will make for a fun experience. It’s hard to imagine an average person taking issue with the Moto Maker.

I’ll make sure to update this post with pictures of the actual Moto X once it arrives so that you can get a sense for how accurate the colors!