In late July 2004, Apple Computer and Motorola jointly announced development of a Motorola-branded GSM phone that will play music transferred from any computer’s iTunes jukebox, including downloads from the iTunes Music Store. On January 11, 2005, Apple said that the first Motorola phones to use its “iTunes client” software will be rolled out in Spring 2005.
Why is this a good thing for music lovers? Competitors’ downloadable ringtones for telephones are lower-fidelity, shorter, and often more expensive than using your own music or iTunes downloads. Ringtones for Danger’s Sidekick, for example, sell for nearly $2 a piece, and only include roughly 30 seconds of each song. iTunes tracks will sound better, play longer, and cost less.
Why is this a good idea for Apple and Motorola? The companies have enjoyed a strong business relationship for much of the Macintosh’s lifespan – even including a brief period when Apple licensed Motorola to sell its own MacOS-compatible computers – and Apple can only gain from expanding the reach of iTunes to Motorola customers. This project will likely yield additional quiet dividends in the form of wireless phone industry expertise which Apple might later exploit against international competitors Microsoft and Sony, both of which have wireless phone divisions.
Why is this deal surprising? Motorola and Apple are currently competitors in the portable digital music market, with Motorola’s most significant push to release iPod-competing products coming after the official announcement.
What can we expect from these phones? It’ll be a miniature flash memory-based iPod inside of a cellular phone, apparently complete with an iPod interface. Based on an early photograph (below) of a Motorola iTunes-friendly phone, it appears that Motorola’s version of the iPod interface will be very similar to the iPod photo’s newer, color screened interface, lacking only its Myriad font and some of its finer visual touches. Motorola will replace the iPod’s famed Click Wheel with a joystick and buttons interface, with features such as “Back” and “Pause” mapped to buttons, volume mapped to the joystick.
The phones initially shown by Apple and Motorola resemble Motorola’s existing tri-band GSM phone E398, which uses a 176×220 pixel, 65,000-color screen identical to the one found in the company’s V300/500/600 series phones, a stereo headphone jack, and a battery that runs for roughly 3 hours when playing back MP3 files (7 to 9 for conversations). The E398 also includes a 640×480 camera, plays MPEG-4 video clips and J2ME games, and uses miniature removable TransFlash memory cards. It’s lightweight at 3.88 ounces and measures 4.25” x 1.81” x 0.81”. It’s currently unknown as to whether any of the Apple/Motorola handsets will feature any or all of these specifications, but both Apple and Motorola have now shown pictures of the E398 in public events touting their partnership.
How much will one of these things cost? Apple has stated that it wants the new product to be mainstream in price – not a $500 wireless phone. The E398, for reference, is a $399 phone that sells for under $270, sometimes as little as $220. We would expect the Apple/Motorola product to retail at $299 or $349, and not require activation by any specific wireless carrier at that price. However, Motorola may tie the phone to a specific wireless carrier, dramatically limiting the product’s appeal.
I don’t like candybar-style phones. Will a flip-open version be available? While it’s not totally clear as to whether Motorola’s initial shot of a phone represents what the final shipping product(s) will be like, it’s fair to assume that more than one of these phones will be released. Eventually.
What is the deal with the Motorola E1060? On February 14, 2005, Motorola showed the E1060, a new 3G phone that ran the iTunes client, and was reported by Reuters to be the company’s first iTunes phone, available fourth-quarter 2005. On February 16, 2005, however, Motorola clarified that despite the iTunes client demonstration, the E1060 would not be “our iTunes product,” and suggested that another announcement was forthcoming. For reference, the E1060 includes the following features:
* A 1.3 megapixel camera for still photos or video.
* A VGA camera for 2-way video conferencing.
* Bluetooth wireless technology.
* Audio and video streaming with playback support for MPEG4 (AAC), WMV/WMA and MP3 files.
* 32MB of internal memory, expandable up to 512MB with removable memory.
iLounge will update this page with additional information on Motorola’s iTunes phone(s) as soon as more information is released.