Why Google and Motorola's joint smartphone is such a bummer

The Moto X is almost here. Not everybody is impressed

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ever since Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion in 2011, critics have been waiting for the company's first joint venture. This week, the big reveal came in a full-page newspaper ad: The Moto X.

The ad promised "the first smartphone that you can design yourself," which led some people to believe the Moto X would have fully customizable internal specs. If the new Motorola wanted to make a splash, the ability to custom-build your own phone — much like you can do with a PC — would certainly be a way to do it.

It turns out that is not what Motorola had in mind. Instead of letting you pick your own screen and processor, the Moto X will let you choose separate colors for the back and front trimming of the phone. Buyers will also be able to add a custom engraving.

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"These concepts aren't exactly new, but more like a hodge-podge of premium options seen on a number of other mobile devices," writes ZDNet's Rachel King, noting that iPod buyers have been able to add custom engravings for years, and that Nokia let people mix and match colors on their feature phones more than 10 years ago.

"Now that the company is owned by Google, I had hoped we'd see more of the innovation that Motorola is capable of," writes Kevin Tofel in GigaOm. "So far, however, everything points to just another Android phone in the Moto X because custom colors, wallpapers and engraving isn't something that's going to make the device stand out from the crowd in 2013."

Ultimately, however, letting people custom-build their own phones doesn't make much sense, argues TechCrunch's Matt Burns:

Smartphones are relatively inexpensive through the economics of bulk ordering — if that's removed, allowing the owner to swap different parts, the device's price will ultimately be higher. And in the end, doesn't everyone want the best option anyway? [TechCrunch]

While the Moto X might not be as revolutionary as once thought, it's still unique in that it will be made in the United States. Google has been touting the fact that 2,200 employees will be hired to manufacture the phone in its new plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Google hasn't announced a release date for the Moto X, saying only that it is "coming soon."

(image via Google/AdAge)

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