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I miss Moto Maker

Moto Mods are cool, but Moto Maker was a way to make your phone truly yours. So are Moto Mods a step forward, or a huge step back?

Published onAugust 9, 2017

Motorola is one of those iconic, feel-good phone brands that makes you want to cheer for it – if you’re a geek. Don’t get me wrong, non-geeks know about Motorola in that they’re aware that they make those Droid phones, but Motorola is right up there with Nokia, Palm, and BlackBerry as pioneers of the smartphone space. Ever since the Lenovo acquisition, Motorola has been making some fine phones, but too often, they’re coming across as “me too” phones when compared to the likes of Samsung, LG, HTC, and others.

Even Moto Mods – the snap-on accessories that make a really good argument for modular phone parts – allow your phone to stand out. But they don’t do the job as effectively as something that Motorola released to the masses four years ago – Moto Maker. I mean, sure Moto Maker is still available, allowing you to pick a Mod for your Moto Z Play – but you basically have to trick the Motorola website into showing itself. Plus, it’s a shell of its former self, and that makes me a little sad.

Moto Z2 Force review: A force to be reckoned with?

We can build it – we have the technology

There was a time that Motorola wanted you to really make your phone yours. You could build a phone practically from the ground up and design it to your own specifications. You could pick from many different materials and colors, and just in case there was any doubt, you could engrave custom text onto the back of your phone. I admit, I’m still a little disappointed I never got the option to make the back out of feathers. But if you wanted leather for instance, you could have leather. If you dreamed of taking a belt sander to your phone, you could have wood.

These days, Moto Mods are the best way you can hope to make your Motorola phone your own. Don’t get me wrong – Moto Mods are cool. But not in the way that Moto Maker was, at least from a customization perspective. Designing every aspect of your phone from the start gave your phone personality. These days, the only way you can do that is with a phone case or a skin, but isn’t that just a cover for the phone? What’s funny is that the Moto Z2 Force, with its five-layer ShatterShield technology doesn’t even need a case, except a third-party screen protector, which is an entirely different editorial.

Designing every aspect of your phone from the start gave your phone personality

With a phone like the Z2 Force around, customizing it would make the most sense in the world since you don’t have to cover it. Moto Mods are nice and all, but if I could design my own phone from the ground up and be confident that it could survive whatever life threw at it (I’m why I can’t have nice things after all), that would be such a win in my book.

Not everything was grand

Customized phones take time

But, it’s not like Moto Maker was without its problems. Most notably, customized phones take time. When ordering a Moto-made phone, your wait time could have been up to a week or more. Motorola built a factory in Texas just to produce Moto Maker phones, and that helped considerably. But at the end of the day, if you walked into a store (well, the one store in Chicago) and ordered a phone, you did not leave the store with that phone. That was a little weird. Maybe we’re all just spoiled by Amazon Prime now, but anything more than two days is a lifetime.

Plus, customized phones didn’t help resale. You may want a phone that says “Bad Mother Effer” on it, but that’s going to be a tough Craigslist ad to write, unless Samuel L. Jackson happens to be in the market for a used phone. Making your phone yours necessarily made it not for anyone else. Of course, these are both problems that Moto Mods solved.

Paying for the privilege

But the really nice thing about Moto Maker was that it didn’t cost anything extra to make your phone your own. And isn’t that what it really comes down to? If you want to bring a new concept to the table, you cannot expect people to pay for experience. People fear change enough, and asking folks to plunk down $300 for a 360-degree camera that only works with one phone is a huge ask.

Moto Z2 Force is skinnier than ever, but why?

Meanwhile, Moto Maker didn’t charge anything extra for its customizations. Sure, some of the backs cost a little more – $25 and $50 if memory serves – but you didn’t have to spend that extra money on a premium back if you didn’t want to. You do have to put a Moto Mod on a Moto Z phone, lest it look like parts are missing.

Ulterior motive?

I get what Lenovo is trying to do – solve the problems of Moto Maker and sell some accessories on the side. Truth be told, it’s probably the latter far more than the former, but Moto Mods are an expensive risk for consumers to take. Moto Mods are pretty cool for what they are, but they don’t go nearly as far in allowing a customer to truly personalize a very personal piece of tech. And the fact that they cost extra, when Moto Maker was free, is almost a little insulting. I know that Moto Mods aren’t supposed to be the de-facto replacement for Moto Maker; they’re entirely different things. But when Lenovo axes Moto Maker at the same time it introduces Moto Mods, it’s hard not to miss the good ol’ days.

Moreover, at a time when Lenovo is trying to make Motorola as approachable and relatable as possible, perhaps Moto Maker could have been the company’s answer to that problem.

But maybe that’s just me. What do you think? Do Moto Mods go far enough to personalize your phone? Would you even bother with a Moto Maker-made phone if you still could? Are you sick of the Black/White/Gold options that pretty much every phone comes in now? Leave us a comment down below with your thoughts.

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