One of my favorite Moto X design traits is making a big return

The back of the vegan leather Moto G 5G 2024
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

A hot topic among smartphone enthusiasts is whether to use a case, skin, or nothing at all. But while that debate continues to rage, most people pick up a case when they spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a new phone. Why? Because it's made of glass and will almost certainly break if you accidentally drop it. But it doesn't have to be this way. Not for the back of the phone, at least.

Motorola's latest phones, the Moto G 5G 2024 and Moto G Power 5G 2024, both feature a few colors and vegan leather finishes on the back despite being budget-priced models.

Now, it seems we're seeing more companies offer alternative material options than ever. Making a phone that's a glass-and-metal sandwich was always a terrible idea, and I couldn't be more happy that companies are finally realizing this and putting them on the best Android phones.

History repeats itself

A group shot of four different finishes on the Moto X 2014

(Image credit: Android Central)

A decade ago, the Moto X redefined what a smartphone could be and how it could look. Even if the experiment was short-lived thanks to Google's penchant for killing off projects if they don't immediately thrive — Google-owned Motorola at that point in time — a phone with a wood or leather back became more commonplace after Motorola popularized it.

But it wasn't long until we saw leather and wood disappear as options on most phones. The official line was that glass was needed for features like wireless charging and water resistance, but today's phones have figured out how to get around that hurdle.

This isn't the first time Motorola has offered vegan leather on its phones, with the finish appearing on high-end devices like last year's Razr Plus. But what's interesting now is that the company is bringing the finish to its cheaper Android phones.

Motorola tells me it chose to bring vegan leather to other devices in its portfolio for a few reasons. "First and foremost, we always strive to bring premium features to more accessible price points, and the addition of vegan leather gives our devices a more stylish and premium finish, appealing to design-focused consumers."

Motorola is bringing back a trend that it started back with the Moto X, and you don't even have to buy the premium models to get it.

The choice of specific materials is extremely important here. Animal leather tends to rip or scratch easily and it's not typically the best choice for water resistance. Wood can also face the same issue with water resistance as improperly sealed wood will expand and warp when it gets wet.

But artificial leathers and engineered wood can make up for these deficiencies while still offering the look and feel of these premium materials. If I had the choice between glass and one of these other alternative materials, I'd choose the alternative every time.

Glass has its deficiencies as well. It's slippery by nature and breaks easily. Companies like OnePlus and Google started applying finishes to the glass on the backs of phones a few years ago to help make up for this, but the problem is that it's still glass, and it still breaks.

The back of the vegan leather Moto G 5G 2024

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Moto G 5G 2024 that I've been using for the past week is clad in vegan leather, and I couldn't be happier with the look and feel. The leather doesn't scratch when I take my fingernail to it, and it feels far more premium than plastic does on other phones at the price point. That said, Android Central's Derrek Lee notices that his Moto G Power 5G 2024 gets scuffed somewhat easily, so your mileage may vary.

While the front will still break if I drop it the wrong way, I don't have to worry about the back seeing any real damage unless I go out of my way to try to damage it. That's some excellent peace of mind.

Vegan leather and wood options look more premium and, yet, don't eliminate features that people love like wireless charging.

Motorola also adds that "vegan leather offers practical benefits, being easy to grip and soft to the touch, while remaining durable, stain resistant and free from fading." The company says it works closely with supplier partners to source quality vegan leather materials to help it bring more stylish devices without compromising on specs or performance.

Vegan leather, in particular, makes a phone look incredibly suave and sleek. It's a far more premium look than glass could ever pull off, and phones like the Oppo Find X6 prove this. Notably, the Honor Magic 6 Pro also offers a fascinating vegan leather option with an alternate texture to bolster the look and offer more grip.

OPPO Find X6 Pro review

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

More than that, phones like the OnePlus Open and its vegan leather option help it feel more like a notebook that you can unfold and use. It's just a shame that the phone doesn't ship with a stylus. It really would perfectly complement the whole package!

I hope we'll continue to see more phones offer alternative finish options, making it easier to go caseless without the fear of fumbling a slippery piece of glass and metal. Whether we see a Samsung, Apple, or Google phone getting these fantastic style options is anyone's best guess. But at the very least, it'll help differentiate other phones from the boring slabs of the biggest companies.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu