Amazing or Frustrating

by Dave Michels

I designed and ordered a Motorola smartphone on September 30th. I was a bit surprised that its estimated delivery date was 10/16 – that’s 16 days. Motorola doesn’t offer click-to-buy. I had to customize the phone, and then it was built. Even though there are not that many options, it seems to take more than a full week to custom build a smartphone. On Oct 8 I received notification that my phone shipped. FedEx tracking says it will arrive on the 13th.

It arrived in Denver on Sunday the 11th, yet for some reason FedEx tracking showed an expected delivery of the 13th. It actually did arrive in the morning on the 12th.

That’s a deflating experience. We live in a world of instant gratification. Even Amazon’s two day shipping can seem too long, so 13 days is frustrating.

Or is it?

There’s at least two ways to look at this, and I can’t decide which is best.

I designed my own phone. I selected the colors, backing, and amount of memory (there were additional options I ignored). The phone was custom built for me. I did this once with a car, and it took about 6 months. I’m not sure why it took over a week to build it, as Motorola must build hundreds a day. Nonetheless, it took 8 days from the click of my mouse for a custom designed smartphone to come off an assembly line in Shenzhen, China. Then, it was put in a FedEx package, and loaded onto a FedEx plane for Memphis. I tracked its arrival in Memphis and clear Customs (on Oct 10).

It was an amazing experience. It took 13 days from my click to opening the box.  Its the first time I’ve customized a smartphone to my specifications. Five of those days represented shipping from the Chinese factory to my driveway – and that was the slow (free) shipping option. The weekend didn’t even seem to slow down FedEx or US Customs. For the record, it arrived 4 days ahead of its estimated delivery date.  Not bad.

The only legitimate complaint I can think of was that FedEx tracking was wrong about the delivery date – all the way up to about 8 hours before it was delivered. But since they delivered it faster I probably should not complain, or next time they will take their time.

Custom Built Future?

Other than meals at restaurants, I can’t think of that many things I buy that are built to order. I think a lot of us would like to more custom-built items such as clothes and cars, but we accept that it’s impractical in terms of time and money. Why customize a car when there’s probably a ‘similar’ one on the lot – for less.

To my knowledge, Motorola is the only smartphone manufacturer offering built-to-order, but I’m wondering if it will catch on. I was a bit surprised they didn’t have any “popular models’ already built. Doing that would meet the needs of those that don’t care or can’t wait. I imagine the the lack of finished inventory must make a huge difference in a thin margin business.


Oh, the phone? It’s nice. surprisingly heavy. More on that later.