It looks very likely to be the case that Motorola will be charging a little extra for the wooden backs on the Moto X, and by a little, I mean in the neighborhood of $50 compared to the plastic X. Is there $50 of wood, workmanship, and assembly there to justify this premium? Of course not. It's an option that, like most "premium" add-ons for everything from cars to kitchen appliances, is there for those people willing to pay to get it. No one needs a phone made of wood, aluminum, or rich Corinthian leather. It's an upsell, and if you think you're generally going to get a "fair" price on an option that isn't included with the base model product, you're probably deluding yourself. That's just a reality of buying stuff generally. Look at the cost of bumping a phone's storage to the next tier, even $50 is a ludicrous increase compared to the actual cost of the added memory.


Image via TNW

But, of course, people will buy the Moto X with wood backings, and they probably won't lose any sleep over the extra $50 it's going to cost them. They may even think it's a reasonable markup. Those that don't may call them suckers, fanboys, or hipsters, but it doesn't really matter, does it? If it sells, it sells. If it doesn't, maybe Moto will drop the price of the option.

Me, personally? I readily admit that I will pay too much for something if I decide I really want it. If Samsung offered the Galaxy S4 in a premium Kevlar or hard polycarbonate shell for $50 more, and I was buying one, I'd shell out the extra cash almost unquestioningly. Does that make me a bit foolish? I guess that's a matter of opinion.

The point is this: some people clearly will happily pay more for something they want. Whether it be a matter of exclusivity, perceived superiority of the product, or simple fashion sense, many of us pay more for things we want simply because we have decided that we want them and that's the end of the matter. Some people revile the idea of being "ripped off" for a feature or add-on that doesn't add any functional value to the product or that is simply overpriced. It's a polarizing set of personal philosophies that can really heat up the comments section of any blog in a heartbeat.

So what say you? Is it worth the markup for unique, exclusive, even premium construction materials on a smartphone? Answer in the poll and express your feelings in the comments below.

Would you pay more for the option to have all or part of your phone made out of a premium material (wood, glass, kevlar, etc.)?

View Results

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David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Kenny O

    I have no interest in a wood phone, but it's cool that the choice is there. I'd like a phone with the same back as the the new Nexus 7.

    • TylerChappell

      I've thought this too. It's amazing there's not really any out there. The back of my Droid DNA is just about as close as it gets I guess.

  • http://www.smsnetwork.org/ Mikael Jakobsson

    dropped his glas Iphone and broke into 1000 pieces so damn useless.

  • rdeleonp

    Nexus 4 spoiled me... it came with a glass back, and actually costs a lot less than the competition.

    So... No.

    • anywherehome

      Easily breakable without battery swap= not a real smartphone
      I enjoy my SGS4

      • ReturnOfTheMack

        Lack of on-screen buttons=not a real smartphone.

        Chill dude, everyone has their opinions. We can do this all day.

        • ProductFRED

          You can add on-screen buttons to any ROM lol.

          • Dylan Patel

            You can remove the battery of the N4......

          • http://gplus.to/bdbplatano M. Puente

            Yup! ...and you can't take away hardware buttons. I think the all black front of the last two Nexus phones are soo sexy! I would much rather have on screen buttons than hardware buttons. They take up "screen real estate", yes, but when you need them to be gone (watching videos/playing games) they are gone. Can't say the same for hardware buttons. They are customizable. They rotate with the screen. They change as needed. So many reasons why I prefer on-screen vs hardware buttons. But everyone is entitled to their own opinions.. I guess

          • PA_ROM_User(Vardan Nazaretyan)

            But you can't remove physical buttons by flashing ROMs.

      • Dmitri Smirnov

        How often do you swap your battery? Nexus 4 battery is not soldered into place. Sure, it takes some tinkering to do that, but it can be done, no big deal. Besides, I didn't get a new battery for 15 years now. Changed 3 phones, on all of them the battery was still in OK shape, when I changed the phone.

  • http://www.linuxdistroreview.com/ Bo

    LOL, I would not consider a phone made out of wood to be "premium" material.

  • Liam Higgins

    I think it's interesting that the majority of people in the survey said that they would absolutely not pay more for premium materials, even *if it made the phone more durable*. I think if you had the option of sapphire crystal instead of glass on your display, making it harder to damage (pun intended), almost all of us would jump at the chance.

  • Ivan Myring

    Only up to £20. But for aesthetics, more than durability. Phone insurance MOFO

  • Danny365

    Anodized aluminium. ♥

  • howitzerr

    Durability may lead to aesthetic also, my Galaxy Nexus is scratched all around, with a more durable materials it could look better today

  • Unknown2124

    No, because a case can hidden that beautiful finish...

  • Deltaechoe

    Well I did just buy an HTC one which is a pretty premium phone so I said yes

  • TY

    I would like to have a phone that looks OK, with thin side bezels (up/down bezel doesn't matter much) and can survive a 1.5m drop to concrete without any cases.

    • Bradley Goulding

      Sony xperia Z...I've done it

      • TY

        Indeed, I've seen a picture claiming that a Xperia Z was thrown out of a fast moving motorbike and guess what... serious damage on the bumper, screen still fine. The material choice (glass fiber polyamide?) certainly contributes to its durability.
        The upcoming Honami looks to be durable with its metal bumper too. Unfortunately I am a Nexus warrior :(

    • Cerberus_tm

      This! My next phone will have one of those flexible-glass screens that Samsung and others are making. The fact that phones break so easily should in my opinion be the number-one priority for phone manufacturers; but, alas, they sell more if their phones break, so they have something of an interest to keep them fragile. Luckily, this interests doesn't seem to be extremely powerful, since they're already developing flexible screens. I suppose they will sell the latest phone anyway, because many people just *have* to have the latest phone.

  • dextersgenius

    As a current owner of a Nexus 4, I think glass is a poor material, not premium. It's a stupid design idea.

    • lewishnl

      It depends on how you look at it and how it's built.

      Glass tends to be much more aesthetically pleasing.

      • dextersgenius

        Aesthetically pleasing perhaps, but as far as a smartphone is concerned, a "premium" material is (or should be) something that's very durable and long-lasting, while being thin and reasonably light-weight at the same time (The HTC One's body is a good example). Heck one of the main purpose of the body of a phone is to provide protection to the weak internals - what's the point if the external body of the phone is weaker than the insides?

        Or on the other end of the scale, premium could mean something that's exclusive to certain buyers and/or expensive for no practical reason but to raise the value and exclusivity of the device (eg. Vertu phones - which are made of gold and diamonds.)

        Glass doesn't fall in any of the above definitions. It's pleasing to touch, yes, but lets see, it's heavy, brittle, fingerprint prone, prone to scratches, slippery (so prone to more falls), and even dangerous (when it breaks), and to top it off, it's a really cheap material. I wouldn't call it premium in any sense of the word.

    • Chris

      who wats a glitter back anyway?

  • GraveUypo

    i would pay more for a saphire screen instead of glass, but since the pool seems to be focusing on body materials, i voted no.

  • ty

    That phone is way over priced

  • Toinou

    My Xperia Z has a glass back, didn't cost more than a Galaxy S4. The Nexus 4 cost less than pretty much any phone out there in its range. Glass doesn't require an extra fee, yet it's a premium material.

    • Bradley Goulding

      And it survives a long trip to the ground

  • obarthelemy

    "Premium" is a bit vague. You seem to take it to mean "fancy". I'd personally take it to mean "high-specs" (good protection of the insides).

    In the end, right now I think the most realistic and desirable solution would be an removable integral case (not just the back, but back and sides and front lip). In soft plastic, colorful, cheap, good fall protection... that allows me to get rid of those ugly/bulky extra protection sleeves, and when time comes to sell it on, the new owner can replace the old case with whichever color suits his fancy.

    • pfmiller

      Premium just means more expensive, for whatever reason.

    • Cerberus_tm

      I dislike the word "premium" too: it's advertising speak, just like "exclusive". I also dislike the word "build quality" as used to mean "feels sturdy in the hand": something with an exterior that feels sturdy may be cheap or fragile, i.e. they're just two different things. The illusion that, by holding it in your hand, you can tell the "quality" of a product whose exterior was built to feel nice in your hand is...surprising.

      For that same reason, car manufacturers now make car doors that are expressly designed to *sound* nice when you close them, because some people think they can judge the quality of the wntire car by the sound its doors make.

      I also agree with your about replaceable exteriors: it shouldn't be too hard to do, and it would be a huge improvement over those ugly cases people use. In fact, many other, internal parts should also be made to be easily replaceable.

  • Jake Gold

    I'm gonna put a case on it anyways (unless it's indestructible) but I'd still prefer having a premium material phone. My previous N4 and current HTC One are premium build material and they both feel so great without a case. I love it.

  • Psybuster

    For $50 it'd need to be quilted maple veneer with a bookmatched front side and painted the same color as my guitar. I don't mind paying extra for aesthetics but it's a very hard sell overall; if I'm going to shell out for it in the first place it is definitely a case of "my way or the highway."

  • Rob Johnson

    No, plastic just looks better than everything else

  • ynksbsbll2

    Unless it's Adamantium, probably not.

    • Adreww

      adamantium would be badass!

  • mikeym0p

    I would definitely pay more for the Wood back, I'd love an option for Black Anodized Aluminum or stainless steel as well.

  • dogmastigmata

    Everytime I show off my nexus 4 people love the glass back, personally I love unique material uses on phones, this glass scares me though so I'd love wood, but anything other than a plastic back excites me, even if it makes my phone a portable accident waiting to happen, its just a phone lol, I dont pretend like its superman, also I never use cases because I always buy a phone where I like the way it looks, I have a bumper for the first time ever because google did it right for the nexus 4 but I'd never wrap it up, even when I show off my phone, I whip the bumper off lol, sometimes even go weeks without it

  • StriderWhite

    I don't really care if my Note 2 is made of plastic. Only thing I care is its quad-core cpu and its 2 gb of ram! And of course the S-PEN and its 5.5" screen...

    • mrjayviper

      my note 2 has a pen? :O

      I've never used it...

    • MightBeASceptic

      This message brought to you by Samsung Electronics.

  • Wayne Randall

    Wood, sapphire, any official Nexus accessories.. Yes. Sell me up.

    I do work with lumber on a daily basis, so perhaps I enjoy the look, feel and smell of the organic material more than synthetics and am willing to pay out the nose for it.

    Its only money. What else you supposed to do with it? I'd rather spend $50 extra on my phone and enjoy it a little more for a couple years than spend the same on dinner, just to deposit it in the loo tomorrow.

    • Cerberus_tm

      Buy food?

    • Chris

      So you rather play with your phone all day then eat? Hopefully you shower too and go places other then work and your mothers basement.

      • Wayne Randall

        That's not how I meant it, and I was wrong in assuming you would understand that. A $50 dinner, eating out. Not $50 out of my weekly groceries. We're talking a $50 luxury here, not necessity. In my daily routine I use my phone, not play with, to make my job work; making calls, calculating, reading documents, etc..

        And thanks for making it personal. Trolls these days, Can't Understand Normal Thinking.

  • Derrick Hodges

    I'd pay a steep premium for a very good camera

    • Chris


  • Sergii Pylypenko

    After two months of use, wood back will be soaked in grease, no matter how often you're washing your hands, so I'd rather have a good grippy plastic.
    But if it would not be lacquered, and have a smell of fresh wood, mmm, maybe...

    • Wayne Randall

      Many of my tools are wood-handle instruments, never threw out a tool due to 'grease soak'. I've been using a hammer for seven years now, untreated wood and ungloved and rarely washed hands, zero grease soakage and not really all that dirty. 'Aged' actually. It's also far more grippy than plastic.

      Lacquered wood does not retain much natural scent after being treated either. One or the other.

  • Matthew Merrick

    No. Just no.
    Glass breaks. Metal dents, is slippery, gets hot, and (often) affects the radios.
    Can't say anything about the feel or strength of wood, but it looks gaudy.
    Plastic forever for me, for sturdyness/physical strength reasons. Preferably matte/soffsoft touch finish, so its easier to hold. Glossy is sturdy but slippery and a fingerprint magnet.

    The one "premium" material I'd ever accept is kevlar, but I wouldn't pay any extra for it. On a smartphone it really has no advantages (or disadvantages) over plastic.

  • EH101

    I would like to see a high end phone made out of crystal clear plastic. Just see, not own. Lol.

  • Cerberus_tm

    No offense, but this is exactly why Apple users buy a PC or phone for double the price: they probably kind of know they are being ripped of with respect to the price-quality ratio, but they just *have* to have that Apple logo.

    In a way, I can understand and sympathise with that; it's just that an Apple logo is profoundly uninteresting to me, just like a wooden back for a phone. However, I realise that I may be vulnerable to the "I just *have* to have it" phenomenon with other things.

    • Chris

      its more for the ease of use. No nerd/geek BS that android sadly still has top this day.

      • Cerberus_tm

        I'm not sure I understand...

        • ScottColbert

          He's saying Apple users are too stupid to understand and use Android. :P

          • Cerberus_tm

            Haha, okay then. Although I'm not sure that's true: Android is very easy to use, same as IOS, as far as I am concerned.

  • Chris

    I want my phone to be like a squirrel. It can fall from high places and not be damaged... Matter of fact, hopefully after being dropped it will run faster too :)

  • Android Developer

    what difference does it make to have a "premium" material for the device, if you usually buy covers for it , to personalize its looks and protect it ?

    I just don't get it...
    "premium" materials may get cracks and any other harm just like any other material.
    Glass is one of the worst, since it also tend to be slip from surfaces and is quite fragile.
    Metal tends to also affect the reception and cause higher radiation.

    Personally, I don't understand why polycarbonate has such a bad name for smartphones. just look at this video:

  • Luka Mlinar

    The phone is overpriced as is. 699$ retail? COME ON?!
    I hope this whole strategy crashed and burns so Dennis can get fired.

  • Ivan Myring

    Cheap alternative:
    Some nails and some plywood. Cost:<£1

  • mrjayviper

    samsung already charges premium prices on their phones inspite of using cheap plastic. Are you saying their phones will become more expensive? :O

    I hope not. I've been loving the microSD since I acquired a note 2.

  • sailor

    first you need to clarify what you mean with "premium", does premium material mean:

    1. Premium LOOKS & FEEL, or


    most often you can't get both at the same time.

    sacrifice will be needed to balance both end of spectrum.

  • Carl Dean Catabay

    I would pay more for a removable battery + SD Card slot than premium materials you can't see or feel underneath your smartphone case.

    • flosserelli

      *If* I was willing to pay extra for nonstandard or "premium" material (which I'm not), then I certainly would not hide it under a cheap case.

  • blix247

    "Is there $50 of wood, workmanship, and assembly there to justify this premium? Of course not."

    I find this statement to be baseless. I welcome something other than uneducated opinion to tell me why I'm wrong.

  • ehEye

    i can't believe that most people would pay more to render their phones ugly; wood is such an unsuitable choice for something that is hand held for long periods of time; it's bad enough that the glass is always covered with fingerPrints without the back being dirty from wear. [correction, i "DO" believe people would pay more for both inappropriate materials and ughliness!] [being a professional designer, i would not consider it, and i like the glass back on my Nexus; gives the package added weight and 'solidity'.]

  • Freak4Dell

    I wouldn't pay extra for wood or glass, but if I were buying a Samsung device, and they offered something more durable for $50, I'd have no hesitation on spending that. Even better, I'd get an Active over the regular S4 any day, since it's the same price.

  • mgamerz

    A phone made of glass? Please, I can just buy a Nexus 4.

  • TJay229

    There is no such thing as "Corinthian Leather" Chrysler made that up as a gimmick. Please stop saying/using that. Jesus!

  • RH

    I thought those that bought iphone 4x's did buy one made of glass? Too bad they shatter

  • Denis De Fazio

    I have a Nexus 4 (back is cracked) but I have always thought plastic is the best choice of material for the back. It is nice to have choices, but for me personally I would not pay more for premium material.

  • cwagner

    Titanium is a material I'd pay extra for, I love titanium :)

  • Adreww

    I.don't mind paying more.. as long as it helps put Apple out of business.

  • a.d.AM

    Yes. I never expected the wood option to be the same price.

  • Steph Chi

    Canonical with the Ubuntu Edge has already done this poll, no ? :O

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    No, but I would buy a custom case if I knew it would fit perfectly.

  • tokuiten

    Depends on the material.

    I want a device covered in soft leather, but I've no interest in hard materials.

  • Cristian

    It depends! I would spend a bit more for a premium finish.

  • jessie cagara

    Titanium or forged carbon fiber maybe? I'd pay for that!

    Adamantium too as per "ynksbsbll2" would be good too.

    yeah glass breaks, metal gets dinged and too hot, plastic is boring.

  • kah13

    I make damascus steel back plates for iOS devices. I assure you that there is more than $50 in material and time involved. Granted, I make each one in my shop and don't have high tech machinery cutting them out like the phone companies would. However, having the latest and greatest smart phone is not a necessity anyways. This is just another option for people to accessorize.

  • Elias

    The most important option is missing from the poll: "depending on how much". I'd pay $20 for Kevlar or $30 for all metal, but not $50. Also, glass is stupid because it makes the phone more fragile.

  • earth

    Have no issues with plastic Samsung, not sure what the need is for heavier materials.