Editorials

Moto Maker could become a troublemaker with its label options

Moto Maker has become the software for Motorola customers who want to customize their devices, particularly the company’s flagship, the Moto X. From the beginning, Moto Maker was designed as an AT&T-exclusive software opportunity for the first month (when the device was introduced in 2013), followed by the other American carriers (at least the additional major 3: Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) being allowed to use it after the exclusive timeframe had dissolved.

While it seemed like a good idea at the time for Android consumers who couldn’t get enough customization on their devices (the trademark appeal for Android), there were those within the industry who disagreed with Motorola’s strategy as a whole. One such opponent was Apple’s design star, Sir Jony Ive, who said in an interview that Motorola had relinquished its responsibility as the device designer by offering options of color, leather/Kevlar/wood/ebony/other build materials for its back covers. Apple clearly disagrees with Motorola’s strategy, which seems interesting in light of rumors that the company intends to bring a Rose Gold color option for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus on September 9th.

In any case, tech site Android Central wrote a post this week concerning the problems with Moto Maker, particularly the fact that, with some exceptions, you can put any words on the back of the device that you want to — offensive or not. Whereas Moto Maker was once permitted for only the Moto X, Motorola has now made its label customization options available for its mid-range flagship, the Moto G.

Previously, you were limited as far as what Motorola would print on the back of your Moto X. No 4-letter words. Nothing offensive. No mucking about with trademarked names and brands. All common sense stuff. That’s changed slightly, for the good and the not-so-good.

Things have changed a little now that Moto Maker is available for the Moto G. You can fill the 14 letter slot for engraving with almost anything you can think of. Swear words, at least in English (I was able to sneak plenty of German vulgarities through) are still forbidden. Words that denigrate people, like racial slurs, are banned. The word Android is allowed, but you can’t add any letters or numbers before or after it. That’s likely a Google trademark thing Android vendors and developers have to agree with, though. In short, you can’t curse or have anything offensive printed on the back of your Moto G.

But there is a problem. Because a computer decides what’s vulgar or offensive, and someone had to sit and program all those words and phrases in there, plenty of stuff can make it through. And some things are banned that maybe shouldn’t be.

In other words, while some things are banned, there are still labels that are permitted despite their morally offensive nature. Android Central goes on to name some things that are still permitted that shouldn’t be: “…meanwhile, ‘Hitler,’ ‘Nazi,’ ‘Murder’ and ‘Genocide’ are all fine things to have printed right on the back of your phone. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Hitler hurt more people than sex ever did. That’s a problem with censorship — you’re having someone else decide what is and isn’t acceptable to you.”

I agree. No, you can’t put the word “sex” on your Moto G or Moto X, but why should Moto Maker even allow you to have “Hitler” or “Nazi” on the back, for example? And, if murder is illegal and a crime punishable in this country, then “Murder” shouldn’t be allowed on the back, either. It is no less offensive than a woman or man who has the label “prostitute” on the back of her or his Moto G; it wouldn’t be any more acceptable than “murder” as a label, even if she or he decides to prostitute themselves for a living.

It’s important that Moto Maker solve these problems before they get out of hand. After all, what’s next? “Confederate flag,” a noun that incites racism and fear? Where will it end? Unfortunately, with the amount of depravity we have in our world, it won’t. And, when you’re Motorola, and you make Moto Maker available for customization, you have to put boundaries and borders in place.

Moto Maker isn’t a nuisance, nor is it a major problem for most individuals, but it is true that some customers like to see how far they can push the limits and publicly offend others. If these individuals feel they can get away with something offensive on their phone, they’ll put an offensive label on the Moto G just to “make a statement.” Such is the problem with Moto Maker labels or customization in general. Sometimes, as Apple’s Jony Ive believes, it pays to limit customization to the look and feel of the device — and leave it at that.

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