From shabby chic to shoes for your feet, the goal these days is to make it unique. And this is what Motorola does with their "Motomaker" service for their new "MOTO X" device. Your phone, your design. The evolution from "as long as it's black" has been a bumpy one in the handset business, but Motorola might be the vendor to drive this mainstream.
Customization started almost two decades ago in the handset business. Ericsson offered changeable covers in the very early '90s. And then came ringtones and wallpaper downloads which enabled soft solutions to differentiation. And Nokia took things further with printable faces and 3D printable cases. Heck, Nokia even offered a Motomaker-like service back in 2008, allowing fans to design their own Supernovas using the online "NokiaBuild" tool. (That Nokia service was tested in a few European markets and wasn't taken further as I can recall.) To give credit where it's due, Nike's NIKEid may have been an inspiration for such customization. And Nike may have been inspired by large-scale PC and automakers and small-scale tee-shirt vendors.
No, Motorola wasn't first with the one-off. But handset vendors would be wise to keep an eye on consumer acceptance and expectations here, especially as devices and accessories become more wearable and more variable. Lean mass customization might not be unique for much longer.
Motorola's Motomaker. Check it out:
Nokia's 3200 from 2003. From print your own faces...
...to print your own cases. Download and print your own Lumia case from Nokia.
NokiaBuild from 2008. Design your own Nokia 7310 Supernova.
Shoes to fit the person and personality: Nike, Converse, Vans...