Date: Wednesday, September 7th, 2005, 22:58
Category: Mobile Phone
Motorola has released their new device for mobile music, the Motorola ROKR available in the US from Cingular.
This is quite possibly one of those rarest of occasions where the only thing a device has going for it is that it is co-branded from Apple. Who knew that one day people would be clamoring for the affections of Apple in order to sell what for all practical purposes, is an inferior product?
For crying out loud, this device looks like it is from a time machine! Three years ago this would have ground-breaking. Today it is a “me too!” offering from Motorola. And that “me too” is only differentiated from the rest in that it holds less music and runs iTunes instead of a different player.
The ROKR is a handset using the typical Motorola design, except that now they also have an ‘iTunes’ button on the device to launch the player. I’m glad that Motorola has upped the capacity from earlier reports, saying the device was limited to 25 songs, but considering that any other modern handset with removable storage allows someone to have over 200 songs on the device, I don’t see why having 100 on a gimmicky handset from Motorola is any better. Even if my flux capacitor was fully operational, 100 songs would seem just about right.
So while I’m not exactly impressed with the ROKR, a strong case could be made for the integration with iTunes being a boon to many consumers. I know that I’m not going to tie my handset to a computer with a USB cable to upload songs, leaving me with a substandard PIM and other troublesome Motorola-isms on a device like this. What still remains to be seen is how harshly Cingular has modified and branded the firmware on this device and if the handset will be allowed to send songs back and forth over the Bluetooth connection. I don’t imagine this will be something Cingular will allow, and in order to do so you’ll have to install a new flex of Motorola code in order to allow this. I’m trying hard not to panic just yet until the news really breaks about this.
If listening to music is important to you, and you don’t want to carry an iPod or PSP in your bag or pocket, you would be doing yourself a favor to consider the other options out there for mobile phones with excellent music playback instead of the ROKR.
If you’re really hung up on the iTunes integration, consider you can drag things from iTunes to the Bluetooth File Exchange icon in the Dock to send files wirelessly to your handset.
Several handsets are available right now with larger capacity and more features – the Sony Ericsson
W800 for example, costs USD$479 without a contract and has no limitations in the firmware. But, it doesn’t run iTunes.
There are several devices like the W800 on the market these days, but the W800 is the most Mac-friendly of those multi-purpose devices, without delving into the waters of smartphones running Symbian or Windows Mobile.
The Sony Ericsson P910 which does all the media playback you could look for, as well as having an awesome PIM and the ability to run Opera for your browser, and Series 60 smartphones from Nokia, such as the 3230 are worth a look if the W800 or ROKR aren’t advanced enough for you.
If you’re wowed by the music playback of the ROKR, you may not be aware that several other devices do this as well, or better, and have for years. Merely slapping iTunes on a mobile phone may not be enough to capture the attention of the entire market the way the iPod did. The ROKR isn’t an especially attractive device, nor is it particularly advanced.
But this could be the first of many new devices with “iTunes Inside”, and the brand can only get larger and stronger at this point. So while I’m disappointed that the ROKR isn’t an upgrade for me, I can appreciate that a lot of people will be soothed by the iTunes interface and the familiar way of using iTunes to manage content on the handset. It is sheer genius in that regard. But I’m a little curious why they didn’t ride the RAZR hype-wagon harder. We’ve seen the RAZR in silver and black, why not a stark white glossy RAZR in iPod style, with white earbuds?
And of course, this is a walking and ROKing proof-of-concept here: nobody gets that excited about Windows Media Player on Windows Mobile handsets. But people are excited about having iTunes in their handset. This type of unique affection is something Apple has really had a corner on. And if the ROKR sells well, you can bet everyone will be lining up to get iTunes ensconced in their handsets too.
Personally, I’ll be eagerly awaiting a version of iTunes for Symbian UIQ and Series 60 devices – it would really be a no-brainer to get together, and could be installed free on millions of Symbian devices in use right now, allowing instant access to the iTunes Music Store. I’m surprised that this wasn’t done long before the ROKR, since it would give Apple instantly a few million more customers overnight on fairly consistant devices.
The real darling of the show today wasn’t the ROKR, but the svelte and sexy iPod nano. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that the ROKR isn’t especially impressive on its own: perhaps it is the new gorgeous iPod that overshadows it, or maybe the fact that Motorola is about as “sexy” as an old Buick. I haven’t decided yet, though I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next movements Apple makes in this space.