The Motorola Rokr MP3 Phone
Motorola's Rokn' iTunes Cell Phone
You've seen the ads on TV, a who's who of pop music stars packing themselves into a phone booth. Thus Motorola attempts to be first to promote a digital audio player/mobile phone combo to the North American masses. Of course it's not an original idea -- even Motorola has produced powerful muti-functional media handsets in Europe and Asia for years.
Things looked bad for the Rokr right from the start. The unveiling of Motorola's new iTunes phone in September of '05 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco seemed to foreshadow trouble for the product. The presentation was a lavish affair with Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Motorola's front man Ed Zander on hand demonstrating key features of the device.
Steve Job's demonstration was supposed to show how easy it is to switch back and forth from a song in progress to take an incoming call and then back to the music. Either a prop malfunction or Mr. Jobs own fat-fingering the controls had him take an incoming call and then switch back to dead air. Steve Jobs then looking perplexed by the silence says: "I'm supposed to be able to resume the music right back to where it was."
Maybe the demo was just an innocent mistake but Motorola's handset has since failed to live up to its expectations. Hearing about the forthcoming device had music fans clamoring for what they envisioned to be an iPod packed inside a Motorola Razr with mobile connectivity to iTunes.
There are several big weaknesses. The vaunted iTunes compatibility is only when connected to your workstation. You do not actually have the ability to download songs from iTunes through a wireless network. The 100 song limit is particularly annoying. You can only load 100 mp3s onto its 512 Megs of memory -- regardless of how much space you have left, it's full at the 100 mark. Clunky controls that don't let you easily play, pause, skip or take incoming calls are inexcusable oversights. The phone is marketed as a music phone yet it forces users to go through menus to play songs.
The Rokr is universally reviled in reviews and makes an appearance on consumer gadget top worst products of '05. The phone seems rushed through the doors to catch the crest of the North American media phone wave. Now that most of North America is marinating in high speed wireless digital networks, an influx of powerful handsets is just around the corner. Providers like Cingular and T-Mobile are offering up services by the handful to get consumers using their networks for everything from e-mail to e-commerce, buying up media and games directly to their handset.