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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Motorola fails to Rokr my world
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Motorola Rokr
The Rokr will initially only be available on 02 in the UK
The Motorola Rokr mobile faces an almost impossible task. It has to live up to the hype generated by the news that Apple was getting involved in the phone business.

For months, the net was buzzing with rumours and images of the offspring from this marriage between Moto and Apple.

As the handset goes on sale in the UK, fans who were expecting an iPod-style handset are likely to be disappointed.

At first glance, there is little to suggest that the design gurus at Apple were involved in the making of the device.

The Motorola mobile is no iPhone. There is no click-wheel on the front, no hard drive to store thousands of songs and no fast connection to transfer songs from the computer.

The Rokr is simply the first mobile phone which plays music via Apple's iTunes software. This is significant in itself, as four out of five people who buy music online in the UK use the iTunes music store.

Music control

Transferring songs from one device to another is easy using the iTunes software, though this can take a long time.

For some reason, the phone uses USB 1.1 rather than the faster USB 2.0 to connect. This is a serious shortcoming as other music mobiles offer much shorter transfer times.

Motorola Rokr
Triband: 900, 1800, 1900
Camera: VGA 640x480 pixels
Talktime: Up to 10 hours
Size: 108mm x 46mm x 21mm
Weight: 107g
Display: 262K colour screen
Memory: External 512MB Transflash card
Audio formats: MIDI, MP3, WAV, and AAC

Ironically, there is no way to buy songs directly and download them to the Rokr. This makes sense from the point of view of operators, as they are looking at developing their own online music stores and generate some extra revenue.

The phone comes with a 512MB Transflash memory card to store the music. But the number of songs has been limited to 100, perhaps to prevent the Rokr being a real threat to Apple's lucrative iPod business.

Once the lengthy task of getting music on the phone is over, listening to the tunes is simplicity itself.

The Rokr has a dedicated iTunes button that launches the program, with its familiar iPod menu, such as playlist, artists, albums and the like.

Motorola has taken a leaf out of Apple's book and provided white earphones. They sound fine but are rather big and clunky to wear for any length of time. And to use another set of headphones with a standard 3.5mm jack requires an adaptor.

The Rokr comes with stereo speakers, which pump out a decent volume and make the phone shudder in time to the music.

In a gimmick designed to appeal to younger callers, there are lights on the phone's edges that can be set up to pulsate with the music.

Dated design

Of course, the Rokr is also a mobile phone. And as a phone, it is decidedly average. It has all the functions expected from mobiles nowadays - Bluetooth, net access, triband.

But the design looks strangely dated, and the plastic handset feels lightweight and insubstantial. In fact, the memory card holder fell out when trying to slide in the miniscule Transflash card.

And while its competitors are offering two megapixel cameras, Motorolas has bundled a VGA quality one on the Rokr.

Compared to other music mobiles available in the UK, the Rokr falls short. It should be able to hold more music, let you buy songs directly online and use these as ringtones.

Perhaps this is the key point. By UK standards, the Rokr feels like yesterday's phone.

It may fare better in the US, where handsets have tended to be somewhat basic and lacking in the many functions taken for granted in other parts of the world.

Is Motorola's Rokr mobile a hit or a miss?
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