Review: Motorola ROKR E1 iTunes Mobile Phone | iLounge

Review

Review: Motorola ROKR E1 iTunes Mobile Phone

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Manufacturer: Motorola

Service Provider (US): Cingular Wireless

Website: www.Motorola.com

Model: ROKR E1

Price: $349.99 (without contract)

Compatible: PC/Mac

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Jeremy Horwitz

Pros: Above-average on signal strength, this combination of cell phone and iTunes music player doesn’t drop calls easily, and plays back MP3 or AAC tracks without complaint. Includes 512MB memory card. Offers partial Bluetooth compatibility, an integrated camera and limited data features.

Cons: Signal strength aside, audio quality of calls is only okay, and not good on caller’s end when using included stereo headset. Phone and iTunes interfaces, including music synchronization, are frequently slow and non-intuitive by comparison with Apple-designed products. Stereo channels sometimes reverse during headset or speaker playback. Artificially limited to 100 songs regardless of their actual size - fewer than any iPod, including shuffle - but costs more than a 20GB iPod unless you simultaneously commit to a phone contract. Can’t use for music unless SIM is installed. Uninspired industrial design. Poor battery life indicator.

Pundits claim that standalone digital music players are destined to be replaced by music-ready mobile phones. If they’re correct - and we’re not convinced that they are - Motorola’s ROKR E1 Mobile Phone ($349.99) will not be the vanguard of the revolution. Combining an unimpressive industrial design with a clunky interface, ROKR E1 is the sort of product Apple never would have released under its own name: an okay retrofit of an already-released cell phone with an okay, iPod-esque music player as its only semi-distinctive feature. Its saving graces are phone signal strength, reasonable battery life, and an included 512MB memory card, which can be used to store no more than 100 songs.

To be clear at the onset, we are neither damning the concept of a music-playing phone nor saying that ROKR E1 is a bad product. We have no doubt that Apple and its partners will eventually release a good or great iTunes-ready phone that’s as much of a breakthrough as various iPods have been. But as the first product of a planned series, E1 is only “okay,” the mark of our C rating, and thereby not recommendable. It’s also the first iPod-related device that we’re glad to see covered by a thirty-day return policy.

In order to make our comprehensive review more manageable, we’ve collapsed its text into easy to skim section headers. Open as many or as few as you wish.

Where Can I See or Purchase a ROKR E1? (Click here for details.)

Why Is It Called ROKR E1? (Click here for details.)

What Are ROKR E1’s Major Features? (Click here for details.)

What Else Is In The Box? (Click here for details.)

How Do You Transfer iTunes Music to ROKR E1? (Click here for details.)

How Does ROKR E1 Store Music? (Click here for details.)

How Does ROKR E1 Play Music? (Click here for details.)

How Does iTunes Music Sound? (Click here for details.)

How Does ROKR E1 Perform As a Phone? (Click here for details.)

What About Battery Life? (Click here for details.)

How’s the Interface? (Click here for details.)

Optional Accessories (Click here for details.)


Conclusions

Though it was delayed until none of its key features were exciting, the release of ROKR E1 took place at an almost ideal time for iLounge’s editors: several of us are currently off-contract with mobile phones we purchased last year, and all of us were willing to upgrade to (or supplement our existing phones with) a good iPod-like phone. We were entirely open to the possibility that the first ROKR might have been “the one,” and had our fingers crossed that Apple and Motorola would unveil exactly what we and our readers have been wanting for years: a mobile phone with Apple industrial and software design, great call quality, and typically ingenious Apple feature simplification.

Regrettably - and we mean that - ROKR E1 is not that phone, and for Apple and iPod fans, it is not merely disappointing, but also disheartening. From its too-familiar body to its numerous buttons, sluggish interface, incomplete integration of iTunes, and odd quirks, E1 is very nearly the opposite of an Apple-engineered product. For those reasons and others, we hope that few “new to iPod” people will try it and think they’re getting a real iPod experience, because they won’t be impressed.

Even calling E1 an “iPod shuffle on your phone” might be generous. Despite its lack of a screen, the smallest iPod’s low price, greater song storage capacity, responsiveness to and simplicity of controls, and dual appeal as a simple USB storage device make it a decidedly superior product overall. And it doesn’t require a SIM card to play music. Until Motorola (or preferably Apple itself) does better, your money will be better spent on an iPod shuffle or nano than an E1 - for ROKR’s $349.99 obligation-free price, you could buy either one and still afford a different and better mobile phone, say nothing of fitting them in the same pocket.

For More Information

Our ROKR E1 Unpack Photo Gallery is now available with over 20 higher-resolution images for your perusal, including comparison shots with Motorola’s RAZR V3.

Our recent iTunes Phone Discussion Forum already includes over 300 posts from iLounge members, while our ROKR phone news story continues to generate discussions, as well.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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