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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 September 2005, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Apple unveils iPod phone hybrid
The Rokr E1 phone, Motorola

Apple has unveiled a gadget that combines its hugely popular iPod music player with a mobile phone.

Announced by Apple boss Steve Jobs, the device will be able to store about 100 songs and play them out randomly like the iPod Shuffle.

Developed by Motorola for Apple, the gadget, dubbed Rokr, will first be available on the network of US mobile operator Cingular.

Since it was introduced in 2001, Apple has sold more than 21 million iPods.

Mobile music

The colour-screen gadget is silver, has stereo speakers and has a VGA quality camera onboard.

A version of Apple's iTunes music store has been developed for the phone so users can manage the tracks they store on it. Smart software on the handset pauses music if a phone call comes in.

Music is stored on a 512 megabyte memory card and the numbers of songs on board is capped at 100 - even if a bigger capacity card is used.

"This is the first device in a series," said Carsten Schmidt, European manager for Motorola's retail operations. "There will be more coming with higher memory."

Songs are downloaded to it via a USB cable and users can fill it manually or use autofill to populate it with pop. The gadget is due to go on sale in Cingular stores from 8 September and is expected to cost $249.99 (136). Buyers must commit to a two-year contract.

Ipod Nano
Steve Jobs also announced a new iPod
The Rokr phone is expected to be available in the UK and Europe in late September.

The Carphone Warehouse is advertising the phone on the O2 network for 209.99 for pre-pay customers and free for those choosing a monthly contract. The phones will be available from 15 September.

Mr Schmidt said that with this first device, music can only be downloaded from a PC to the phone.

But, he said, Motorola was talking to operators about future versions that can download songs via the airwaves.

Madonna is reportedly fronting the publicity campaign to advertise the phone. In a related announcement, all Madonna's music is now available on the iTunes store.

As well as showing off the Rokr phone, Mr Jobs unveiled a new version of iTunes and a smaller version of the music player called the iPod nano.

Long wait

Plans for the Rokr gadget were first unveiled in July 2004. It was originally scheduled to be unveiled at the Cebit technology fair in Hanover, Germany in March 2005.

Big hints that the phone was going to be unveiled on 7 September were given by the fact that Apple, Motorola and Cingular all planned press conferences for that day.

Apple is keen to replicate the success it has had with the music-only iPod sales which, in recent quarters, has been responsible for the biggest share of its profits.

However, the ultimate success of the device may rest on factors that Apple cannot control.

At the moment owners can only use them to play music downloaded into the gadget from a computer.

Pedestrian walks past posters advertising the Apple iPod, Getty
The iPod has proved hugely popular
This makes sense because most mobile operators charge by the megabyte so downloading a track while out and about would add a premium that most would be unwilling to pay.

It might take time for mobile operators to change data pricing regimes which would help to convince consumers that downloading is worth it.

Download charges are likely to be one of the few ways that phone firms can recoup some cash from selling iTunes phones. Most of the money paid to buy songs from iTunes goes to record labels, Apple and payment processing firms.

The time it takes to download a song might affect the popularity of such services. Most Europeans and Americans are on phone networks that shunt data around at a theoretical maximum speed of 170 kilobits per second.

Actual rates are much lower which would make downloading a multi-megabyte song a trying experience.

Without good deals on downloading, Apple may find it hard to convince existing users of iPods to buy another gadget. And with the iPod proving so popular entirely new customers may be scarce too.

Apple is coming slightly late to the market for music on mobiles. Many other handset makers and operators are already pushing services that combine the two.

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