More phones could use a Design Studio

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: August 17, 2013

The design of a phone is important. How it feels in the hand, how much eye candy it has, the material it's made out of and even the color of it are all important things that many consider before purchasing a phone for what's likely to be the next two or so years. Sure, you might make the exception to get that one really ugly phone or that phone made out of the material that you really wish it wasn't made out of, but ideally you want your phone to be wholly perfect, design and all. And sometimes we're lucky, and a phone is just made perfectly for us. For instance, design-wise I probably wouldn't change anything about the HTC One except for the placement of the power button, but otherwise it feels good in the hand and the aluminum body feels.. well, nice. But I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would have preferred that the One was made out of something other than easily-dented aluminum.

Motorola's Moto X was announced a couple of weeks ago, and despite the amount of hype the device received not a whole lot of what we wished for was actually granted. However, one thing that Moto X promised to deliver on did happen, which was being able to customize a lot of areas of the device through Motorola's Design Studio... as long as you were an AT&T customer. To loosely quote one of my favorite books, "This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." The specs might not have been exactly what we planned on seeing, but for goodness' sake Motorola, if we're all going to be paying the same $199 for this device can we all at least get in on some of that sweet Design Studio action? Please?

Although Motorola was the first to fall through with this, we've recently seen that our own pride and joy as of lately, HTC, kind of dropped the bomb on us too - and we didn't even really know about it. The HTC 8XT was recently released on Sprint, making it the first and only Windows Phone 8 device so far to be available for the Now Network. That's great. It's wonderful, even. I've been waiting for a Windows Phone 8 device to show up on Sprint for about 10 months now, and it's finally here. And it couldn't have possibly come in an uglier color than "California Blue". I'm sure a lot of people dig it, but that color is just not that versatile.

And the bad thing is that it didn't have to be this way. Not only could HTC have just released one other color (perhaps a nice neutral color?) alongside this eccentric color choice, but there was something similar to Moto X's Design Studio in the works for the 8XT... and it was scrapped. According to a report from our own news editor Alex and The Verge, the plans were scrapped due to costs and "over its complexity". I can understand cost being an issue, if it was really an issue, but by adding in the whole "complexity" bit, they're assuming that people couldn't handle it because it was too complicated. Newsflash: These phones are complicated. This technology is complicated. Modern times are complicated! And if complicated means that I can turn that ugly California Blue (which is apparently what we're calling purple now-a-days) device into a nice solid black device or even a clean white one then by all means, complicate my life.

I really think that manufacturers and carriers are underestimating the appeal that this whole "design studio" concept really is to people. Or maybe they aren't and they just don't get how awesome it would be for a phone to be known as "the phone you can design" and not "the phone you can design as long as you're on AT&T" or "the phone you were almost able to design". It just seems like a really cool concept that's able to be done but either carriers or manufacturers are being too selective about where you're able to do so, if at all. I don't want to see what could have been, or what should have been. I want to see it happen. It want to see some phones come out that allow you to design it just the way you like it without the carrier exclusives. I don't know a single phone that couldn't benefit from utilizing more options.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the design studio concept? Do you think that it would be a waste of money for companies, or do you think that a good number of customers would actually utilize the tool to design their phone before they can even call it "theirs"? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Images via The Verge, Android Guys

Products mentioned