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Why the Rokr Phone Is An Important Failure 470

Posted by Zonk
from the not-so-hot dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Guardian has some interesting commentary on the new iPod cellphone." From the article: "The music-player module works like an iPod - though it lacks the clickwheel that makes its big brothers function so slickly. But overall, the impression is distinctly underwhelming. The word on the streets is that far from being the revolutionary device that will bring about media 'convergence', the Rokr is, well, just the sum of its parts. And that, it seems to me, is the most interesting thing about it."
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Why the Rokr Phone Is An Important Failure

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  • Mighty Panel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fembots (753724) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:40PM (#13534124) Homepage
    The article mentioned Rokr lacks the clickwheel that makes its big brothers function so slickly.

    I wonder if Apple is able to pull such a trick where it uses its Mighty Mouse [slashdot.org] technology to provide both keypad and clickwheel on the same surface. Icons/numbers will be displayed accordingly through this LCD-type surface.

    Now that will not only change the way we interact with mobile phones. For example, on game-playing mode, this Mighty-Panel will switch to a gamepad; On net-browsing mode, it offers scrollbars, back/forward buttons.
    • "The article mentioned Rokr lacks the clickwheel that makes its big brothers function so slickly."

      Of course it does. After all, didn't you hear? Creative invented that. That's why they got the patent on it.
    • Re:Mighty Panel (Score:4, Insightful)

      by demondawn (840015) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:44PM (#13534143) Journal
      The problem with that is that the Mighty Mouse hasn't really been all that welcomed, in part due to certian features of its surface sensitivity. Also, remember that the Rokr isn't an Apple PRODUCT, per se, it just happens to have iTunes connectivity. It's a Motorola product, and while Apple and Motorola have a long history of working together, Apple isn't going to let Motorola control their phone designs.
      • Re:Mighty Panel (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jerw134 (409531)
        Apple isn't going to let Motorola control their phone designs.

        You have that reversed. Apple doesn't design phones, Motorola does. Motorola isn't going to let Apple control their phone designs.
    • Re:Mighty Panel (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pomo monster (873962)
      It would blow, the way you describe it. People rely on tactile feedback to be able to hit buttons. Chances are you can probably dial a number without having to look at the keypad on your phone. Now think about trying to do the same thing with a touch screen display.
    • by tourvil (103765) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:06PM (#13534277)
      I wonder if Apple is able to pull such a trick where it uses its Mighty Mouse technology to provide both keypad and clickwheel on the same surface.

      Hmm, perhaps the click wheel could function as an old rotary dial... :)

    • Re:Mighty Panel (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vought (160908)
      The article mentioned Rokr lacks the clickwheel that makes its big brothers function so slickly.

      The article misses the point of the ROKR completely, and this comment is proof.

      THe ROKR isn't supposed to be an iPod in any way shape, or form. The ROKR is a phone with iTunes software, minus the purchase functionality.

      Does the iPod run iTunes? Then why should the ROKR be treated as an "iPod phone"?

      • Re:Mighty Panel (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timster (32400) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @11:12PM (#13535144)
        No, your comment doesn't make any sense.

        The Motorola phone doesn't run anything that looks or works like iTunes. It's an "iTunes phone" because you can sync your music to it from iTunes.

        The phone should be considered an "iPod phone" for all intents and purposes, but Apple didn't want to dilute the "iPod" brand for something so clunky.
  • They're failures. People try again. Silly article, based upon a premise I'm not particularly interested in. There will be another Rokr if this one fails, made by Apple alone so it gets all the 'core business.' OR, buy THIS one or not, there will be ANOTHER company (Nokia maybe?) which just builds something better. Apple has no patent on innovation itself.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Apple has no patent on innovation itself.

      Yeah, that doesn't get reviewed for another month or two.
    • I think the most important part of the ROKR being so underwhelming is that it looks like steve didn't even try. It was introduced, it left the stage, and was promptly forgotten.

      Steve is a master marketer if nothing else, and there's no way he wouldn't have known the iPod nano presentation would utterly eclipse it. The question I ask is why so much in the way of underwhelming promotion from Apple themselves? So many people online (and I realise this isn't an ultimate metric of possible popularity) have clamo
      • by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:00PM (#13534241)
        And why would Steve Jobs try? How much money does Apple make from a ROKR versus a Nano or even a Shuffle? I thinking it's either $0, or close to it. The whole thing is probably just an experiment to see what the wireless providers would let them get away with.

        For steve to accept something like the ROKR makes me suspect he has a point to make, but I'm not sure just what it is yet.

        "Buy iPods, not Phones".

        Which will work for a while, but eventually (1-2 years) phones will have 4-8GB of flash, wireless transfer, and a 'good enough' UI. And then it is bye-bye for the lowend music player market. Just expect Apple to do as little as possible to help this along.
    • You missed the point of TFA. The failure is not in the technology because I'm sure convergence is technically possible. The failure to the consumer is in the business decisions to not allow the iPhone to cannibalize existing lucratice revenue streams, and therefore there's no media integration/convergence.
    • True, but I think that you're missing the point of the article. It makes an interesting point about Apple being worried about cannibalizing its own business.

      In fact you need to be interested in this article. It makes a really keen obversation about Apple; that Apple is too scared to damage itself in order to imporve itself. This implies that Apple viewes itself and its current business posture as weak, and thus must do everytihing in its power to keep the status quo. Look at its move towards Intel chips f

      • by log0n (18224)
        I think you should have put 'It take effort and cunning to successfully be different.'

        Quite honestly, I think Apple realized they hit the end of the road w/ their current CPU partner. When they deadended (or predicted the end) with Motorola they switched to IBM. If anything, Apple is showing just how different they really are. Apple knows they are limited - they moved somewhere else. How many other companies/product lines would be willing to make that kind of risk? And Apple's done it three times (that
  • Well duh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by shr3k (451065)
    A phone based on Al Roker [roker.com] was destined to be a failure anyway.
  • Well duh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JasonBee (622390) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:44PM (#13534144) Homepage
    I thought that when I saw the 512 MB - 1GB capactity...whatever the "100 songs" was supposed to be.

    I always cringe when they state the number of songs. While it's always easier that way for consumers to understand, I am thinking: "hmmm...100 songs at 96kbps AAC?"

    No thank you!

    JB
    • Re:Well duh... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by peragrin (659227) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:06PM (#13534280)
      Unlike Sony, Naptser and others Apple is consistent when it comes to songs.

      All Apple Songs from iTunes Music store are 128kbps AAC's the Rokr will hold ~100 of those songs.

      a 128 AAc is at least as good quality wise as a 128kbps Ogg, or a 168 mp3.

      Of course that doesn't make the Rokr phone any more useful. The best suggestion to date is go get a Razor and tape a nano to the back of it. You will get a better deal on both dies of the equation.
  • by sH4RD (749216) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:46PM (#13534154) Homepage
    Is something users are ready for but technology is not. Why must we continue to integrate multiple technologies in really shitty ways? Just wait 5 years for technology to catch up and things will be a lot better. There's already proof Apple should have waited. Look at the nano, it's got such tiny flash chips which are huge storage-wise. Wouldn't it have made sense to wait just a little while longer and put those in the ROKR? Yes, I know that technologies have to come out at some point, and that someone has to be an early player, but perhaps these players are a bit too early.
    • Look at the nano, it's got such tiny flash chips which are huge storage-wise.
    • by JanneM (7445) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:00PM (#13534242) Homepage
      [sorry about the unfinished post]

      Look at the nano, it's got such tiny flash chips which are huge storage-wise.

      Storage size isn't the problem. There's no shortage of phones with a lot more than the 100 song capability of this one - including the Rockr. Note that Apple actually limits the capability to 100 songs, no matter how much memory you have.

      Which to me basically says that Apple does not want a phone with music capability to succeed, and this device is deliberately underwhelming, and an attempt to deflect that trend for a while. It goes under the assumption that people will want to choose an Apple device, and faced with a bad phone, they will choose an Ipod instead.

      I think that is a mistake. I use mhy phone as text reader and radio already, and I'd really hate going back to carry a separate device for that. I don't know what mp3 player will be my next one, but I do know it will be labeled as a telephone.

    • On the other hand, it's fairly important that something be released. Successful new technology is somewhat strange in that it pretty much can't happen all at once. They release a product, early adopters pay a premium for the honor of being early adopters, and those profits help fund/justify further development. Complaints/suggestions from early adopters are what make the next generation better. Almost nothing is what-it-should-be in the first generation.
      • then again, like the iPod, the earlier adopters are the "cool" people who started the trend who are sitting around with a bigger heavier 10 gig iPod. I just got my 30 gig photo iPod and it's great. The screen is so much nicer than the black and white one. I'd buy it for that alone over the photo capabilities.

        So now I guess I'm the cool one since I waited a little while.
    • I think the big problem wasn't technology, it's that it's easy to be a jack-of-all, but it's very difficult to be a master of more than one. Ignore the internals. Ignore the firmware. A quick look at the physical characteristics of a cell phone and an iPod makes it very clear that there are some very different design goals going on for these two devices, and that it's going to be very hard to come up with a design that meets both of these sets of goals adequately, let alone one that can excel at both.

      The
  • by vena (318873) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:46PM (#13534157)
    and ignore all of that, make some minor modifications to the industrial design hellhole that are the mobile phones of today, and still try to tell people it's an ipod.

    that, to me, is what's wrong with the Rokr.
    • Repeat after me: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jstockdale (258118) on Monday September 12, 2005 @02:07AM (#13535745) Homepage Journal
      It is not an iPod.

      It is not designed, marketed, or sold as such.

      It is a Motorola phone, that has iTunes.

      It's not even designed by Apple for christ-sake. Steve Jobs called it "pretty cool". No RDF to be seen in action.

      The chief purpose of this phone is to be there before anyone else, license the iTunes software and patent rights (common, does no-one except me remember the iPod patent with an antenna on the side?), and establish Apple as jointly the first to market.

      The real news was the iPod Nano. Now quit bitching. And remember, if it's successful, there will be more to come (but not for awhile).
  • by vert2712 (749612) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:46PM (#13534158)
    Average cellphone with castrated iPod (no click wheel, only 512Mb of storage) = pricey lackluster gadget. Why would I every want to buy one of these when I can get an iPod Nano and a cell phone separately and get more bang for the buck?

    Not to mention that having an MP3 player and a cell phone sharing the same battery is a stupid idea.

    This is one of those 'high concept' ideas that may have looked good on paper but will not connect with consumers.

  • Slow... ok. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by }InFuZeD{ (52430) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:47PM (#13534163) Homepage
    But that's not the way it works: instead, you have to connect the phone to your computer (using a slow USB connection) and get songs from your iTunes music library - just as you do with a conventional iPod.

    Strange, I seem to get about 3KB/sec most of the time off Cingular's network here in Maryland. I really don't see the benefit in downloading 4MB files off Cingular's network, especially if you don't have the unlimited data plan. What's USB 1.0 rated at? Over 1 MB/sec? That seems to be about 300x as fast as downloading off the phone network.

    Granted, it's not as portable for downloading files, but is it really worth waiting half an hour for downloading a song where there isn't EDGE or EVDO? (I haven't yet found a place where I get "EDGE" speeds in the Baltimore area).
    • Re:Slow... ok. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smallfries (601545)
      Yeah but you have to remember that the US is not exactly at the forefront of mobile technology. The biggest 3g carrier over here is called 3, but they don't offer data-transfer. The other three carriers all offer 384Kb/s which is fairly respectable. The biggest holdup is that all the data-transfer options use pc-card hardware, but if someone is designing a phone to download tunes then 3g support would have to be a must...
  • Something like this won't truly get recognized until it "does it all." A phone-plus-MP3 player is just that, as the article says. It's not a revolution. It's about as much of a revolution as a PDA-plus-MP3 player is.
     
    I don't think that a product will get recognized unless it does everything the user wants. It's gotta be a PDA-plus-phone-plus-MP3 player. Make it as cool-looking as the iPod, and then *everyone* will want it. Maybe throw in movies just for effect.
  • by Scudsucker (17617)
    ...master of none. You'd probably have more space for flash storage if they had forgone the camera or the bluetooth connectivity. Either you have lower less capable modules or it's put together rather cheaply...one reason I avoid mp3 players with voice recording and FM playback shoehorned on.

    But this will get better as stuff gets more and more minaturized. In 5 years we might have phones with five megapixel cameras and 20 gigs of storage. I also wonder how the U.S. phone industry will criple them.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:49PM (#13534180)
    1) Apple comes out with a phone.
    2) It plays music and is a phone.
    3) Millions of fashionable heat-seekers buy it.
    4) Apple gets to sell songs and ring-tones, which is, inexplicably, something like a 347 billion dollar a year business worldwide (go figure).
    5) Apple makes a lot of money.
    • by benjamindees (441808) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:03PM (#13534259) Homepage
      1) Apple partners with Motorola to come out with a phone.
      2) It plays music and is a phone.
      3) Nobody buys it, because...
      4) Apple sells the songs via your PC, not directly to the phone, and Motorola still sells you the ringtones separately.
      5) Nobody makes any money.

      It's like AOL/Time Warner all over again...
      • Motorola doens't sell ringtones, Cingular does [cingular.com]. Motorola tailors the software more towards Cingular than Apple though, because 1) carriers have always been able to make boku money off of ringtones, and 2) tailoring it towards carriers is the way it's always been done, and apparently Apple couldn't/didn't want to convince Motorola otherwise.

        Cingular still makes boku money, just like they always have. And Motorola still makes whatever money they always have. So the phone isn't a failure at all. But it's

    • 1) Apple comes out with a phone
      2) It plays music and is a phone
      3) Cingular and Verizon refuses to deal with Apple
      4) Apple is stuck selling a $600 GSM-Only Phone from their website
      5) Most people buy the subsidized music phones with 2 year contract.
      6) The low-end flash MP3 player market evaporates.
      7) Cingluar and Verizon introduce their own music stores, incompatible with iTMS.
      8) iTMS customers are pissed because their DRM music is incompatible with everything except a $600 phone.
      9) Apple goes back to selling
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:50PM (#13534182)
    Of course the iTunes mobile phone is limited. Steve Jobs knows what he's doing, and wants to dip his foot into the water of mobile phone music players without cannibalizing the iPod sales. He was less than enthusiastic about the phone - calling it "pretty cool", rather than his usual over-the-top evangelizing, and he looked a bit uncomfortable when using it. He made it pretty clear that this is a Motorola phone with some Apple software, and not an Apple product. The artificial 100-song limit adds to the feeling that this is a plan to get a limited presence in the mobile market, without Apple committing themselves wholeheartedly.

    The iPod nano was the real star of the show. If I was from Motorola, I'd be a little annoyed that Apple upstaged the ROKR with the nano. The message seemed to be: "If you want to have music on your phone, here's a decent option, but why would you, when there is a tiny device like the iPod nano that will fit in your pocket with a normal phone, and is better in every way".
  • Almost Old News (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mjinman (515540) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:50PM (#13534184)
    Sure this is an important phone cause of iTunes, but I already have a phone that does everything this does and more in a smaller form factor and have had it for a year. (The Audiovox SMT5600) Sure you might groan that it runs windows mobile, but it actually runs really really well. I stuck a 512M miniSD card and walk around with 200 songs on it in full mp3 stereo. So the capabilities of the phone are really just old news cept for iTunes.
  • once again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doppler00 (534739) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:52PM (#13534195) Homepage Journal
    big business has ruined what could have otherwised been a great product. And why is that? DRM, restrictions, and feature lockout.

    Can't use the songs as ring tones? Just to appease the cell phone companies? Do cellphone companies really think they can continue to make money on a gimmick forever? Where's the creativity?

    How could apple fix this? The same way they do with all there products. Control the entire thing. I don't think partnering really works for Apple. They should have developed the phone themselves from scratch, maybe with a minor partner, not someone like Motorola. Furthermore, what if they could offer their own cellphone service and make something like downloadable songs over the wireless network feasible? I guess the problem with that is that Apple does not own such a network. I think Apple should give the iPhone another chance, and do it right.
  • I haven't really followed the technology, but don't all modern phones nowadays operate as mp3 players?

    This seems again like a lot of empty hype: just like when Apple came out with their ipod, some three years after the advent of mp3 players, and everybody congratulated them on their "innovation". Except the innovation couldn't even play ogg format files.

  • Isn't it a little premature to call Rokr a failure? I mean, sure, it wasn't the Apple-designed mana-from-heaven iPod phone many wanted, but other than that, wh
  • Samsung sch-i730 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nightspirit (846159) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:53PM (#13534202)
    Seriously this device is sweet. With pocketmusic player, it makes a good mp3 player (they have a winamp skin); you can put an SD card in it (right now I just have 1 gig), which although doesn't match ipod storage, is enough to convince me to not carry three devices around (ipod, PDA, phone). Betaplayer (now called something else) makes a great divx player (and is free). So I can watch movies, listen to mp3s, have a full functioning PDA, and a nice phone. It's much more bulky than an ipod, but it beats having to carry three devices around.
  • by DavidLeeRoth (865433) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:53PM (#13534203)
    Quite the contrare. Many faliures, although failures, pave the way for other things. The Apple Lisa was a failure due to price, but look at computers today.... all based on those concepts such as GUI's, icons, windows, etc. It is really hard to say if a product is a *failure* because it might lead to bigger and better things. In the middle ages, there was a process that used material and lighting to etch a pattern onto the material. such a process was said to create the Shroud of Turin by skeptics. Although it was not popular because it was a lengthy process, its general idea led to photography. this phone may lead to the next big craze.
    • But this wasn't exactly ground breaking either. I've been using Nokia phones for years that I can connect to my PC using a USB cable (or bluetooth, actually) and download and listen to music.

      Do they even make phones these days that _can't_play mp3s?

  • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @07:55PM (#13534217)
    Didn't we all learn that it is never a winning strategy for companies to hide beneficial technology? For example, one often hears conspiracy theories that GM could make a car that gets a zillion MPG, but big oil pays them to keep it in the dark. About three minutes of economics refutes this, by demonstrating that GM could make more selling the advanced cars than big oil would be willing to pay.

    The same holds true for the iPod phone. Whatever the reason for its lack of certain features, it is clearly not to protect other companies, or even other divisions within Apple. If these features could be included at a competitive price, Apple would make more money by including them than it would lose elsewhere. Despite the looney theories, any MBA and Apple executive would know this.
  • Similarly, there's no obvious reason why tunes stored on the music module couldn't be used as ringtones for the phone module. But that would undermine the mobile operators' lucrative trade in ringtones.

    Seems to me like restrictions from Cingular brought about the limits in songs (100) and the inability to use said songs as ringtones. I haven't seen anything to debunk this, so reply if you can use uploaded songs as ringtones.

    The music-player module works like an iPod - though it lacks the clickwheel tha
  • Given that, while pricey, most cell phones are seen as things to be thrown away, and the ipod is seen as something you never want to get rid of, it never made sense to me to marry the two. One of the biggest issues is that most people I know have no great loyalty to any cell phone company (they all treat you like dirt, so you switch according to where you live, which is cheapest when your contract is up for renewel, etc.). If it was possible to switch your mobile across companies, this might have a better c
  • Is it a failure? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by richdun (672214) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:03PM (#13534258)
    Isn't it a little premature to call Rokr a failure? I mean, sure, it wasn't the Apple-designed mana-from-heaven iPod phone many wanted, but other than that, what's so bad about it?

    I ordered one yesterday at the Gold Coast Cingular store in Chicago (about two blocks from the Apple North Michigan Ave store) - one guy was already in there playing with the one demo model, and right after I walked in, two people walked "wanting to see the Rokr". From the looks of it, Cingular is special ordering all these, or at the least, can't keep them in stock in stores just yet.

    Remember iPod mini's debut? Who would pay just $50 less for a mini iPod that had (at the time) 16GB less space? Or what about the iPod itself? $299 was just too much for a 5GB MP3 player. Yet both flew off the shelves, each at their own pace, but both were doubted at their beginning.

    I wanted a new phone, with Bluetooth to use my Prius' hands-free system and the ability to use at least some of my iTMS songs on it. So I can't load my entire 6.5 GB music library, but my main playlist only has 80-90 songs, big deal. It doesn't look like an iPod, but quite frankly, I'm glad. Phones are primarily for making calls, and I like to use numbers to call people, not swing a clickwheel around to rotary dial - why should there have to be a clickwheel on the phone when I know of no one today that would prefer a rotary dial over touch-tone phone.

    Let's wait at least until mid-week to decide if this was a failure - iTunes Japan surprised everyone in just a week, and most of the buzz has been about the nano all this week (which absolutely rocks, but is too expensive to just replace my iPod as my car's jukebox). If sales numbers are where I think they might be, this "failure" might surprise everyone just like the last two mispriced, misplaced Apple pieces.
    • by Mike1024 (184871)
      Isn't it a little premature to call Rokr a failure? I mean, sure, it wasn't the Apple-designed mana-from-heaven iPod phone many wanted, but other than that, what's so bad about it?

      Well, I can think of three main things that make ipods desirable:

      1) The user interface

      The click wheel is reputedly excellent, and the shuffle's simplistic design makes it easy to operate without looking at.

      2) The styling, which looks cool to others

      Consider the picture of it [apple.com]. It looks nothing like an ipod and every bit like a gener
  • by vistic (556838) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:03PM (#13534260)
    The article mentions how the ROKR doesn't do what it should, because Apple, Motorola, and Cingular all have their own existing businesses that they don't want to see get bypassed by new technology.

    I saw a picture of the ROKR on the web, and the menu looks exactly like the existing menus on my Motorola phone. I was expecting the famous Chicago font that you see on old classic Macs, and iPods nowadays. But its just the crap font used in Motorola phones. Also there's the input situation with no click wheel type of thing (or even an iPod Shuffle kind of interface)... the ROKR looks just like a standard issue cellphone, that has "iTunes" added as an extra application to the system, along with the calculator, mini browser, address book, and a java game.

    The obvious thing to do would be for Apple to make the phone entirely themselves. I suppose it's possible since they ARE also a hardware company. Frankly, I'm surprised Apple allowed another company to have so much control in designing something that would be associated with the Apple brand. It doesn't end up having the Apple look or feel at all.

    Apple could even launch their own cellphone service, instead of pairing with Cingular. They wouldn't even need to build their own network. Virgin Mobile is just re-branded Sprint service. So I suppose Apple could do something similar with an existing cellphone company... Offering an Apple phone to use on Apple's cellphone network.

    Perhaps then Apple could truly innovate on this thing, instead of falling victim to the situation the article describes when multiple businesses try to cooperate.
  • Please, please, please, stop mucking about with castrated hybrid iPod phones and just move into the smartphone market proper. Partner with Motorola or whoever, but please make me a smartphone with an interface that doesn't suck, a decent processor and that doesn't look like an industrial designer threw up on it.
  • So the ROKR proves Apple doesn't do well with collaboration. Tell us something we didn't already know.

    It is so obvious this phone is a checklist of specs:
    - Hundred song capacity - check
    - iPod library navigation software - check
    - Dedicated iTunes button - check
    - Pause song on phone call - check
    - USB sync - check

    It's like Apple made some demands on what the phone must do, and the rest Motorola did. Clearly if Apple was allowed design considerations on this phone, they got nixed in a very intense way. The phon
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:08PM (#13534296) Homepage Journal
    Apple wants to be sure they don't get boxed out by mobile carriers, all of whom want to take away business from iTunes. Apple would rather not make a device that as others have mentioned, is a jack of all trades, master of none. But they're compelled to enter this market as a defensive move. If by some good fortune the ROKR takes off, they'll capitalize on it. If the carriers are all wrong in their bet that mobile phones will unseat MP3 players like the iPod (and I think they are wrong), Apple hasn't invested an arm and a leg in the venture.

    I see the ROKR as proof that Apple has become much more adept at business strategy than it was back in the 1990s. People have been screaming for a hybrid phone/iPod for some time now, and Apple has given them what they want. They haven't placed a huge bet on it, and they're letting Motorola do the heavy lifting (which is a long time coming). I say smart move Apple.

    • I personally forsee this as a failure of concept, merging media players and phones into one. My reason for it? By using a phone for a media player, especially as your primary player, you take your much touted 100+ hours of standby time on your phone and drag it down significantly. To add to that, the carriers seem to be scared of phones that run at their full capabilities (as in Verizon and the vx8100, which is sold with the bluetooth and cable dial up networking disabled dispite its potential). This can al
  • by jcr (53032)
    A critique from someone who hasn't actually seen the product in person! Isn't that amazing?

    -jcr
  • This was SJ's biggest non-event in history and the first indication that transitioning Apple from bootstrapping an Industry to stewardship over a monopoly isn't scaling well.

    Nano will not be the revolutionary form factor SJ wants it to be. Once novelty wears thin. People will want bigger than a credit card for their tune player.

    SJ is back to pedalling Kool-aide, again.
  • Phone interfaces (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:15PM (#13534322) Homepage
    From the article:
    ...the (Motorola-designed) software is as uninspiring as that of the Razr. (Why is it that Nokia is apparently still the only company capable of designing an intuitive user interface for telephony?)

    Well, for me they aren't. I had a Nokia 3650, and regardless of form-factor oddness the interface was just dubious. Very slow, took ages and many button-presses to just get it to understand I wanted to send a text. Something like Phone book->Pick name->confirm number->create message->SMS message (as opposed to picture or what have you. Or there was another way starting from Create Message that required just as many button presses before you started typing.

    I switched to the Motorola V3 to give something else a try - specifically to get away from the Nokia interfaces. The Motorola interface has proven better in some areas, the same in others. Not worse in any, except the god-awful default ringtone.

    It's still not great however. Years ago, I had an Ericsson T38 [google.com], and that had a great interface. Purely text-based, to create a message was just one option at the top level - 'New Message'. If you regularly sent to one person (which I did - my then-girlfriend-now-wife), you could specify person as being the default recipient. So creating an SMS consisted of three button presses - cursor down, select 'New Message', hit select to confirm default recipient and then type. And the response was instance - none of the large lag that seems increasingly common with graphically flash phones.

    There's not one of the new phones I've found that's anywhere near as quick as that. I like the V3 as a phone for its size, audio quality and size of keypad. I can't help feeling that in some of the basics however phone interfaces going backwards fast.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • Re:Phone interfaces (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kenshin (43036)
      You had that much trouble sending a text message?

      If I wanna send a text message from my Nokia 7210, I just press the "left" directional key from the main screen.

      I stick with Nokias BECAUSE they have such a reasonable interface. (Of course, reading the manual helps... despite geeks loathing to do so.)
  • Bluetooth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catmistake (814204) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:25PM (#13534372) Journal

    I thought the phone was interesting, but not interesting to me. I immediately noticed on the specs that it supported bluetooth specifically only for voice.

    I can't tell you how many people I know can't get their laptops to sync to their bluetooth phones in the one way they want them to: to be able to connect to the net

    Why can't they sell a phone specifically for this market? All it would do is make phone calls, and wirelessly connect your laptop to some dialup speed connection. No bloody video camera, no lame on phone email thing, no songs, no extra ring tones... just easy net capability. I guess that would just be too obvious, and never sell well in Japan.

  • Apple Testing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mkiwi (585287) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @08:37PM (#13534417)
    Apple has long wanted to get into the mobile phone business, but it is extemely risky for them to go off on their own and try a product that could end up like the Newton.

    Apple partnered with Motorola not because they think Motorola can design a better phone or a better interface, but actually to insulate themselves from a horrible failure, should that happen.

    Apple will probably make its own cellphones eventually, but right now the conservative decision (and the correct decision) would be to go with someone who is already in the phone business, see how the product does, see what its flaws are, then improve with its own Shiny Apple iPodPhone.

  • Applie milking it (Score:3, Informative)

    by teslatug (543527) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @09:12PM (#13534582)
    Apple is just milking it like they did with HP. It's going to fail, Apple will make some money, and their brand nonetheless won't get tarnished.
  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @09:20PM (#13534613)
    Convergence sounds so logical when you put it into a business plan. It sounds so great when you ask people if it's what they want. "Do you want one device that cooks your meals, washes the dishes AND entertains you while you eat?" Sure, they say. In the real world, though, convergence devices almost never work in the long run.

    I used to believe the convergence myth just as much as the next guy, but a marketing guru by the name of Al Ries convinced me otherwise. If you'd like to see his take on why convergence isn't going to happen, go to this page and click on, "The Convergence Bubble."

    http://www.ries.com/Articles/index.cfm?Page=adage [ries.com]
    • by theLOUDroom (556455) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @10:55PM (#13535072)
      Convergence sounds so logical when you put it into a business plan. It sounds so great when you ask people if it's what they want. "Do you want one device that cooks your meals, washes the dishes AND entertains you while you eat?" Sure, they say. In the real world, though, convergence devices almost never work in the long run.

      You realize you're typing on a computer right?

      Convergence is great provided:
      1. There is synergy between the devices being coverged.
      2. The convergence is excuted well.

      The obvious problem in this case is not that we don't want a cellphone that can play music but that it is intentionally crippled.

      Personally, I'd love to have a device that could be a PDA, MP3 player, cellphone, and wifi/voip device all in one. The only problem is that cellphone companies always end up making things like that suck because thye try and squeeze money out of you for stupid shit. Like charging you $10 to transfer YOUR phone numbers to your new phone.

      They're not going to be able to do that if your phone syncs like a Palm. They're not going to get ringtone money if you can use your own music. They're not going to get as many cellphone minutes if you can use wifi when its availible.

      They are holding us back, dammit.
    • go to this page and click on, "The Convergence Bubble."

      http://www.ries.com/Articles/index.cfm?Page=adage [ries.com]


      This brings up a pop-up window that is set at 120-point width, in huge text. I am not going to read through a long article in a huge font in a little bitty pop-up window 120 pixels wide. I am not going to bother to change my settings to fix this, much less edit the raw HTML. Ain't that important to read this guy, whatever he has to say, if he can't present his content in a palatable form. Whateve
    • I think that the reason convergence tends to fail most of the time is because of its implementation... not because of the concept of convergence itself.

      Devices like cell phones that tried to "converge" did so poorly. My phone plays MP3s and supports BlueTooth, but the MP3s can't play through a BlueTooth headset.

      Optimistically, I would like to think that the upcoming generation of convergence products will learn from past mistakes.

      I am thinking that the X-Box 360 will be a perfect example of convergence don
  • by swbuehler (914170) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @10:00PM (#13534809) Homepage
    I had a chance to play with the ROKR at a Cingular store in Tampa, FL, over the weekend, and the music feature, even with "surround stereo," was not enough to want to switch from my Nokia 6620 (which still has an old AT&T Wireless plan and unlimited mMode). It's a nice phone overall, well-designed, sounds good, but I've never liked Motorola's GUI on any of their phones (except for the MPx200 that I had for a while, but then that was Windows SmartPhone, and signal quality was awful). Nokia still has the market on intelligent UI design with SymbianOS.

    As for me, I can get pretty much the same functionality with a 512 MB MMC card, OggPlay for SymbianOS, and a couple of scripts to transfer a playlist to my phone and rename them from *.m4a to *.mp4 so OggPlay can find them. Oh, and a stereo headset that sounds just as good as an iPod's. For the extra time it takes I get back a very nice UI.
  • It's an E398 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 11, 2005 @10:11PM (#13534856)
    It looks exactly like the e398 i have had for 6 months. The only difference appears to be an itunes button and an itunes application.

    The only groundbreaking idea about this product is that motorola and apple have the audacity to rebadge an old product and sell it.
  • Hard ROKR (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday September 11, 2005 @10:15PM (#13534874) Homepage Journal
    The article is right in its premise that the ROKR is crippled because a real iPhone threatens existing core business. But not Apple's: they don't make that much money from iTunes (maybe 4% of revenue, probably much less). No, the threatened companies are, you guessed it, the phone companies and the record labels. Every Slashdotter can guess how the labels are threatened, by every possible business model that isn't limited to conning content producers into giving away most of the value in their products, and reselling it on easily-controllable plastic discs. But the phone companies are the real problem here, as the article points out when it describes how a $1 Coldplay download costs $25 as ringtones.

    Those ringtones are the most profitable (percentage yield) product the telcos sell. They didn't even really have any right to get any real take from them, but they did get their hands on the first generation of deals, when people were used to having a single ringtone for their whole lives, and didn't think hard about spending $1-3 to get it. Even if they already owned the song from which the ringtone is sampled, they could see it as a convenience fee for the sampling/installation process that put the sample into their ringer. The companies that originally offered the service fought the copyright holders, the record labels, for the chance to offer that service on existing content. And telcos backed the upstarts, in return for getting to do the charging. Now they make most of that money.

    Back in the Spring, when Motorola was getting hassled by developers to whom it had announced availability of this ROKR phone, one of their VPs blurted out at a conference that the telcos were blocking it. Verizon, he said, was addicted to getting $3 every time one of their customers got a music sample as a ringtone. Even though Verizon wouldn't be in the loop on a song downloaded from iTMS to one's PC, then synced with a ROKR that just happened to be sold to its user by Verizon, Verizon still wanted to get a cut every time one of their customers used a device that Verizon had sold them to get a song.

    Apple, Motorola and Verizon/Sprint/Whoever spent 6 months negotiating, and finally the ROKR is out. I believe that the real deal has been cut behind the scenes, to cut Verizon in on the real iPhone. That phone will let the iPod half actually download songs over the phone half's Internet (radio) connection. Which will allow Verizon to justify getting a cut of the revenue. Maybe Apple got Verizon to fight with the labels over who controls delivery of those copyrighted songs. Maybe it somehow leverages whatever license Verizon gets from the labels to do ringtones. Maybe it's got some kind of DRM that expires old songs - like the current ROKR's 100 song limit, which will discard many songs, many of which will be repurchased.

    I expect this is all leading towards Verizon charging users every time we listen to a song, regardless of how it's delivered, or what we "bought". The simplicity of packaging creates a black box, and most consumers (especially in this exploding market of less sophisticated users) won't even realize that there's little justification for charging them so often for the same thing "under the hood".

    The ROKR is the thin edge of the wedge. It's just songs now. Within 2 years it will be videos, then all multimedia content. It will all be funneled through these "phones", not necessarily because that's better for consumers, but because another little chunk of plastic that can be controlled by a "copyright controller" has finally been found to replace LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs/DVDs. If we thought getting screwed by record companies sucked, we'll be reminiscing about "the good old days" once the telcos are the new boss.
  • by cancerward (103910) on Monday September 12, 2005 @12:23AM (#13535415) Journal
    Outside the US, the ROKR [gsmarena.com] has to compete head-to-head with the Sony Ericsson W800i [gsmarena.com]. The "Walkman" W800i is not crippled in the same way as the ROKR is - it has a 2 megapixel camera, you can use MP3s as ringtones, the music playing interface is very much like iTunes with songs arranged by artist and album, and you are not limited to 100 songs. Pro Duo sticks are available in sizes up to 2Gb right now compared to the Transflash 512Mb.

    I guess since the W800i is a GSM phone without the 850MHz band, it isn't sold much in the US. But rest assured in GSM countries the ROKR looks like the piece of crap it is, a Motorola E398 with an extra button.

    (Though personally I'm holding out for the Samsung D600 instead of the W800i.)

  • Sony Walkman Phone (Score:4, Informative)

    by Conspire (102879) on Monday September 12, 2005 @12:52AM (#13535496) Homepage
    I recently bought a Sony W800 phone. Wow, all I can say is great sound, easy enough to get my music on there, menus very similar to iPod and easy enough for a phone to play music, great camera with LED flash, and even the speaker does not sound that bad in worse case scenario no headphones. Also, the phone allows any MP3 to be a ringtone or message tone. Fast menus, not quite as intuitive as Nokia but much better than Motorola V3, etc.

    Sony did a great job here. Not sure why there is no "buzz" around the phone. Only drawback is it looks like a toy phone with the silly white / metallic orange only case option. Great screen though. And memory stick can provide storage expansion, it came with 512K which is pretty good to start.

    Another drawback, can't seem to transfer files over bluetooth, need to use USB cable for that.........

    And yes, they do have "store" interface but have not figured out how to use it yet!

    • And memory stick can provide storage expansion, it came with 512K which is pretty good to start.
      So, you get to hear the first 30 seconds of one song? ;)

      R.

  • Out of interest... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tim Browse (9263) on Monday September 12, 2005 @04:31AM (#13536101)

    From reading that article, can anyone explain why this phone is significantly different to other phones that you can upload mp3s to and listen to them on the phone? A friend of mine had one of those at least two years ago, iirc.

    Is it simply that it plays protected iTMS AAC files? The 'iTunes' on your phone doesn't seem that radical - I'm guessing (from pictures I've seen) that it's simply the hierarchical genre/artist/album UI of iTunes and not much else. (I'm not sure how necessary that is for 100 songs, of course, but presumably that will change over time).

    Am I missing something? Is it just the DRM'd AAC support?

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