A customizable phone is a nice dream, but it probably is just that – a dream.

With all the X phone stuff going around right now, I just have to add in this tidbit about all the “build your own phone” rumors. I will say this: I’d believe RAM options before I’d believe build material choices.

Apple – the number one single-model smartphone manufacturer on earth – offers its phone in two colors, and with the iPhone 4, it couldn’t even get the white one right for six months. Believe it or not, building a device that goes in and out of your pocket on a daily basis for a year+ that doesn’t look like complete shit or crack after a few weeks is fairly difficult in and of itself, even if it’s just plastic.

The thought that Motorola – a company with comparatively little capital goods and supply chain connections to work with – will be able to offer a phone in dozens of colors, let alone frames made of multiple materials, is ridiculous. R&D costs aside, tooling factories to build the near-endless combinations of phone designs would be stratospherically expensive. Motorola would never get its money back – it simply wouldn’t be profitable.

The only way such “customization” would be possible is if the exteriors were little more than glorified snap-on cases, meaning they would never fit perfectly, and would substantially increase the bulk of the phone, as well as reduce its overall rigidity as compared to an integrated chassis design.

The reason car manufacturers can offer you 20 colors is because you’re buying a product that costs tens of thousands of dollars. And sure, they’ll paint it any color you like, if you cough up $3000 more. Leather? $1500. 

My point is this: customization of mass-market, high-tech products built on assembly lines products is not about the cost of the materials to customize, it’s about the cost of having an assembly line that can do that sort of thing and still meet volume requirements, and thus maintain profitability for the business. 

Tl;dr – Samsung would probably offer you a Galaxy S4 made of wood if they thought they’d make any money on it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s