As those of you who follow the site know by now, I'm a fan of the Moto X. I was sold on the device the first time I held it back in August of last year, and once the Moto Maker support extended to T-Mobile and the price dropped a bit, I traded in my Nexus 5 for the Moto X
. But, the entire time, what I've really wanted is the ebony wood version of the Moto X. Now I have it, and the TL:DR version of this article is this: the wooden back takes an already great phone and makes it even better. We always talk about glass and metal as so-called "premium" materials, but maybe we should consider wood in that same category when it comes to our mobile devices.
The thing with me is that while I have loads of patience in general, I have a hard time waiting for a piece of technology that I want, especially when the cost could be a barrier. That's why I bought the Nexus 5 first, and it's also why I jumped on the Moto X before the wooden options came out, despite the fact that the ebony model was what I really wanted. The early rumors said that a wooden back for the Moto X would cost $50 extra, which wasn't so bad, but there was no knowing when the wooden options were going to arrive. When the wooden options finally made an appearance, they cost an extra $100, which was far more than I was willing to spend. But then, the cost of the wooden back dropped to just $25 extra, and combined with the extended Valentine's deal, it meant I could get a wooden Moto X for the same amount I paid for my first Moto X back in December.
The slight delay in actually purchasing the ebony Moto X came in that I have made a rule to only buy new gadgets after selling the old one, because otherwise I would likely run myself deep into debt. I didn't try too hard to sell my original Moto X, but eventually offloaded it to my cousin who was not happy with his purchase of the Moto G. I put in my order for a new Moto X, and it just arrived today. So, on with the show!
Unboxing and impressions
First a quick unboxing video of my new Moto X:
I chose the ebony wood back with the orange accents and black front. My choice was actually pretty easy (unlike the hours I spent deciding on colors for my first Moto X). I knew I wanted a black front, so the bamboo and teak options didn't work for me because those have white edges, which would mean a black front, white edges, and the wooden back. That's too much. I wanted something cleaner. That left either the walnut or ebony, and I preferred the wood grain look of the ebony option. The orange accents are a bit of a tribute to my alma mater, Syracuse University. So far, I am very pleased with how it came out. It is still the same device, so all of the things I talked about before are there including the ergonomics and software features. It just feels more mine for some reason. Like this is the device that I should have waited for to begin with.
As you might notice from the video, I decided not to add a personalized bit of text on the back of the phone. There are actually a few reasons for that. First, I just haven't liked how it looked on the wooden backs in the other videos that I've seen. Unlike with the plastic back, the wooden ones aren't engraved, it is more just text printed on, which I don't think looks as good. On a more practical note, I mentioned before that I have a rule to always sell a device before buying a new one. I don't actually intent to sell this Moto X, but I can easily imagine handing it down to my wife towards the end of this year, so a personalized message would get more tricky. Given that I'm not sure what will happen with this device in the future, I didn't feel right personalizing it. Lastly, I have trouble in general with committing to things like that. Just like I could never imagine getting a tattoo, I would have had a lot of trouble deciding on what to get engraved on the device.
That said, this is exactly the phone that I had always wanted from when we first saw the wooden options for the Moto X. As I mentioned in the video, I was surprised at the feel of the wooden back on the Moto X. It is definitely not plastic, but I didn't quite expect it to be as smooth as it is. When you touch something wooden, it usually has a very distinctive grainy texture to it. It is rare, and a bit odd, to feel perfectly smooth wood. Even the small dimple on the back of the device is more shallow, which takes away from a distinctive feature to make the device feel more smooth.
Of course, Motorola had to do quite a bit of work to make these wooden backs. It took Motorola months to sort out the production and supply troubles that come with wood. And, each one is not made of the wood for which it is named. All of the wooden backs are made from the same material, then treated to look like the various types of wood. Perhaps because of that, you get the look of wood grain, but not the feel exactly. Even so, it is a unique feeling to have a wooden back on a smartphone. It is a warmer feel than any of the usual materials - plastic, glass, or metal. There's a reason why Motorola calls these "Natural" backing options; the wooden back really does feel more natural.
Take a look around you. The likelihood is that there are a fair number of items in your house/apartment made of wood. Maybe you have hardwood floors, a wooden table, wooden chairs, doors, the trim around your windows, or maybe just a wooden spoon or cutting board in the kitchen. Wood has always been around us, even if you live in a city that is mostly glass and concrete, there are still trees or your furniture. The first set of appliances (radios & TVs) way back in the day were made of wood. Even cars used to have wooden panels on the side. Humans generally like wood, even if you prefer glass and steel (like me), it's hard to avoid that.
One of the more interesting things about wood (and something I'm curious to see with this phone) is that we are far more likely to accept nicks or scratches when it comes to wood. Weathered wood doesn't look "broken" in any way, it has more character. But, if you scratch or nick something made of plastic, metal, or glass? That is a scar that legitimately takes away from the overall look of the item, which is why manufacturers try to use harder and harder materials that won't scratch as easily. So far, I can see that a bit with this device. Finger smudges and oil from your hand doesn't look like something need to be aware of and something to wipe away. Wood looks nice with a bit of shine to it.
If you guys want, I'll revisit my impressions of the device after a few weeks or a couple months, once it has gotten a bit of use and more scuffs and marks. I don't tend to manhandle my devices too much. I'm fairly careful, which is why I never bother with cases, but we'll see if that changes a bit with the ebony Moto X. I don't feel as worried about dropping it in a pocket with my keys. The Gorilla Glass 3 on the front will be fine if I do, and I can't imagine some scuffs on the back bugging me all that much. It might feel more like those marks will add the personalization to the device. Maybe that's just me.