Rokr is a poor cousin of the iPod Shuffle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2005, 12:00am


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The Motorola Rokr (pronounced rocker) E1 is a decent cellular phone that costs just under $2,000 and is the first such device built with Apple Computer's iTunes software.

But an iPod phone it is not, and it's nowhere near being one. It could best be described as the iPod Shuffle's poor cousin.

The Rokr is a tri-band GSM phone that features a 176 x 220 pixel video graphics array camera, Bluetooth connection, multimedia messaging service support, dual built-in stereo speakers and stereo headphones that also serve as a mobile phone headset with a microphone.

The phone pauses music automatically when users take a call. Users have the ability to listen to music while checking messages or taking a photo.

I found the internal speakers were loud enough for listening to music with a reasonable quality without the headphone, just do not expect a resonant bass.

But I also found the Rokr identical to Motorola's earlier released E398 model, another decent - albeit not showy - phone.

Like the Shuffle, you can connect the Rokr to your Macintosh or PC and download a random selection of songs from iTunes.

That feature somehow makes up for the Rokr's lack of a click wheel, a la iPod.

Unfortunately, I was not able to test that transfer function because the test unit I was given did not come with the Universal Serial Bus (USB) 1.1 cable for connecting the phone to the iTunes jukebox in my computer.

That being the case, I was also unable to discover whether the phone's battery can be charged directly via the USB cable. Still, the iTunes application can be accessed directly from a special button on the Rokr's key pad, but you cannot set any of the songs stored as a ring tone.

My main complaints with the Rokr is that it does not have the fast USB 2.0 connection standard and uses Motorola's proprietary cable, instead of the universal connector familiar with the recent incarnations of the iPod and iPod Mini. This situation adds another cable to the desk drawer of the Rokr user.

Another limitation is the small number of songs that can be stored on the Rokr version sold in Hong Kong. Local users can only store up to 50 songs from the iTunes jukebox on the phone. In contrast, Rokr users in the United States can store up to 100 songs.

Consumers in Hong Kong are getting a raw deal. Compare the Rokr with the Shuffle - the smallest capacity model among Apple's iPod music player family - which can store between 120 and 240 songs.

In the final analysis, the only reason to buy the Rokr is this: it will encourage Apple to make a better E2 in the future or develop an iPod phone on its own.

Motorola Rokr E1


Price: $1,980

Pros: Built-in iTunes application and better than average speakers

Cons: Underwhelming design and limited iTunes audio file capacity