ROKR iTunes Phone Definitely Not an Apple Product

In addition to Apple introducing the iPod nano last week, the first iTunes-compatible cell phone was also introduced to the market last week. No, this wasn’t the long-rumored Apple iPhone. Instead, it was a new model from Motorola, dubbed ROKR and only available in the US to Cingular Wireless customers.

Looking at “the rocker”, we can all be grateful that it’s not an Apple product.

Drawback 1

Motorola ROKR E1The Motorola ROKR might be a very nice phone and a very nice music player, but it has one very serious shortcoming – it can only store 100 songs. That’s even less tracks than the 512 MB iPod shuffle.

The problem is, that number is hardwired into the phone. Although you can have different memory cards with different 100 song libraries, regardless of the capacity of those cards, the ROKR won’t support more than 100 tracks.

Drawback 2

That’s a stupid oversight, but the next problem comes from not understanding the cell phone market at all. Motorola is making the ROKR available exclusively to one wireless company in each market. If you’re a Sprint, Nextel, or Alltel user, you have to switch to Cingular if you want this phone.

I’m happy with my current provider, and even if I wanted an iTunes-enabled cell phone, I wouldn’t switch carriers to get it. Not that I can – I have about a year left on my current contract. And even then I probably won’t switch.

You have to wonder why Motorola is being so short-sighted. Do they think there’s a bigger market selling ROKR as a Cingular exclusive rather than across the entire market?

Drawback 3

Not only is the Motorola ROKR only available to Cingular users in the US, but it seems to be the first time anyone has ever sold a cell phone that didn’t include a pretty hefty rebate when purchased with a service plan. Instead, Cingular sells it for US$250 with no incentives whatsoever.

You can get some cell phones for free (or nearly so) with a two-year service contract, and you can buy a 512 MB iPod shuffle for US$99. Why would anyone pay $150 more for the convenience of having the iPod integrated into the cell phone?

Drawback 4

ROKR? I could see that name for a general market product in the 1970s or 1980s, but what about country music fans? Oh, wait, we’re just a bunch of technologically challenged rednecks who listen to the radio and still use wired phones.

Glad It’s Not the iPhone

If we’ve learned anything from Apple in the past several years, it’s that they don’t have to be first to market to own the market. The iPod was far from the first MP3 player, yet it owns the market. The iTunes Music Store wasn’t the first online music store, but it was the first successful one – and it also dominates the market.

Apple can look at Motorola’s lame attempt at an iTunes phone, learn from their mistakes, and eventually release an iPhone that gets right what Motorola got wrong. And Apple can learn from the mistakes of other cell phone makers who try to integrate cell phone and music player without doing a first-rate job with both functions.

All Apple has to do is not build in a stupid 100 song limitation, not sell it exclusively through one carrier, and be sure the carriers have great deals on the iPhone.

And not give it a stupid name.

Update: For its first two years on the market, the iPhone was a Cingular/AT&T Wireless exclusive in the US – and also exclusive when it went into other markets.

Keywords: #rokr #motorolarokr

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