ROKR is ready to roll!

8 Sep 2005

UPDATE: The much anticipated ROKR iTunes-based mobile phone developed through a joint venture between Apple and Motorola was finally unveiled last night in San Francisco. The device can store around 100 songs, will operate similar to the Shuffle device and will retail in Ireland for €201.

Industry sources have told the music phone, dubbed the ROKR E1, will be available in Ireland from the beginning of October. In the US the phone will be exclusive to Cingular and in the UK Carphone Warehouse will get the phone first in mid-September and with O2, Orange, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile and other top retailers by late September

“We’ve worked closely with Motorola to deliver the world’s best music experience on a mobile phone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’re also thrilled to be working with Cingular, the largest wireless carrier in the US, to bring this pioneering phone to market.” reported last week that the new phone will be marketed through a high-profile advertising campaign featuring veteran music figures Madonna and Iggy Pop.

The new Motorola ROKR has a colour display for viewing album art and features built-in dual-stereo speakers, as well as stereo headphones that also serve as a mobile headset with microphone. Music fans can randomly autofill or manually fill the mobile phone with playlists from their favourite music, audio books and Podcasts from their iTunes library via a USB connection. The Motorola ROKR pauses music automatically when users take a call and offers the ability to listen to music while messaging with friends or snapping a photo.

The ROKR can only hold about 100 songs, according to Jobs. “The way we think of this phone is, it’s really an iPod shuffle on your phone,” he explained. Both devices can shuffle, both can autofill, neither has a click wheel — but the phone has a display.

“The ROKR brings music to the mobile phone in a way unlike any other, with the unrivalled ease of use that has become the signature of iTunes,” said Ed Zander, chairman and CEO of Motorola. “We predict that the ROKR is going to be a hit this holiday season.”

It is understood that European mobile carriers T-Mobile and O2 Ireland and UK are among a host of operators looking at facilitating iTunes compatibility with their phone and mobile internet products. “We’re excited to be the first wireless carrier to offer the world’s first phone with iTunes to our customers nationwide,” said Ralph de la Vega, chief operating officer of Cingular Wireless. “This innovative product represents a world-class handset, connected to a world-class network, delivering a world-class application.”

The launch of the ROKR iTunes phone coincided with Apple’s introduction also of an ultraslim 4Gb iPod device capable of storing 1,000 songs called the iPod Nano for US$249 (€200). The device is also available in a 2Gb version for US$199 (€160). The device is thinner than a #2 pencil and weighs only 1.5 ounces.

Gartner said Apple and Motorola’s collaborative device is the first real test of rich-media (music) being deployed on mobile phones among recognised brands. The research analyst suggests that within the media industry, many industry executives will be looking at this announcement, and they will try to determine the implications for media content distribution, including traditional models for music and news, and new models such as blogs and podcasts.

“Apple’s foray into mobile music is going to be an important test for the whole category of rich-media convergence on mobile phones, not to mention a test of just how far the iPod brand can be extended,” said Darren Siddall, principal research analyst at Gartner. “The case for making music ‘mobile’ was made by the Sony Walkman and was underscored by the iPod’s recent success. How well Apple and Motorola can do at convincing consumers that the mobile phone is actually a compelling music-listening device, while preserving its primary role as a communications device, will be an important test for the whole class of products.”

By John Kennedy