The New Retro

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Last week, David Pierce of The Verge delivered the details and backstory on the Natural Collection, a series of real wood options that can be special ordered for the back of the new Moto X phone.

Readers of The Bevy may recall that we love the concept of a wood-backed iPhone. And while our real wood stickers are clever and actually look pretty good, we'd love to see Jony Ive one day steer the ship toward incorporating some hardwoods into the real thing. However, the word from the Motorola camp is that creating a wood phone involves clearing a few tough hurdles:

Wood is the enemy of mass production: no two pieces are alike. And Motorola’s process isn’t exactly basic, either, Osterloh says. “Making the holes for the camera and the flash, that requires a step to laser cut and actually create these holes without burning or scarring the material. And then you’ve got another step to put our logo on there, and any regulatory requirements on there, all that printing work.” All that comes after the wood is cut into thin slices and rounded into the phone’s shape.

Pierce's experience of carrying the wood Moto X has yielded mixed results. Like us, he is moved by the organic, warm experience of a phone with wooden accents. Still, there may be no good way to realize this result without making other concessions.

But when it’s done right, there’s something uniquely comfortable about the result, a device that feels somehow more personal than most smartphones. My bamboo Moto X already has a scuff or two, and a dark spot from when I spilled coffee on it, but it doesn’t feel scuffed or dirty. It just feels weathered. Like a good pair of jeans, the more I use my phone the more it feels mine.

That said, it’s clear Motorola’s still learning how to do this. It’s only the back of my X Phone that’s made of wood: it still looks and feels mostly like any other. And I’m more than a little worried about the occasional flaking of the bamboo I’ve noticed, or the seam around its edges that may grow over time. There’s the slightest green discoloration that appeared almost immediately around the edges, too, which I don’t particularly care for.

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I'm glad to see Motorola taking a stab at this. Apple- and their millions of phones sold each quarter- could probably never be testing ground for this kind of volatile raw material. In all likelihood, the wood-backed phone concept that may not end up being viable for mass production. So let's give credit to the Motorola team for giving it a shot.