Up close and personal.  The first iTunes phone — the Rokr.
By Columnist
updated 1/9/2007 1:53:08 PM ET 2007-01-09T18:53:08

It was September 2005 when the much-anticipated Apple/Motorola/Cingular Rokr phone with Apple iTunes hit the market with great fanfare. A month later that sound was identified as a giant thud.

I thought the device was pretty good. The Rokr had a nice-sized active color display (176 by 220 pixels) screen and something called 3D stereo sound via dual enhanced polyphonic speakers. There were vibrating games, a WAP 2.0 browser, MMS and EMS messaging capabilities, Bluetooth wireless, PIM functionality with picture caller-ID and AOL instant message software.

The handset itself was a quad-band world phone (for U.S. and overseas use) with all sorts of neat features, including an integrated VGA camera with flash. Their best feature was that it would sync with the iTunes software on your computer.

At the time, I thought the big problem with the Rokr was its storage. For whatever reason, Apple decided to cripple the Rokr's ultimate number of songs it could store, limiting the user to a maximum of 100 tunes. It didn’t matter whether the songs ran two minutes or 10 — the Rokr was not allowed to be an iPod. My Rokr’s 100 songs took-up 383MB.

As you might expect, the Rokr was not a rousing longterm financial success. After the Rokr faded from everyone’s memory (except the people who bought them), Apple decided they would go their own way for the next iTunes phone.

Motorola didn’t fold-up shop either.

Motorola  /  The MotoRizr Z6
Here in Las Vegas at CES 2007, Motorola unveiled its new MotoMusic Experience, a platform which features optimized music handsets, accessories, content and alliances. This new push is anchored around the new MotoRizrZ6 phone.

Its based on Moto’s Rizr platform and runs on their Linux-based Java software platform. But, the Z6 also syncs with Windows XP and Vista-based PCs because the phone includes Windows Media DRM (Digital Rights Management), Windows Media Audio and Media Transfer Protocol. That means the Z6 will be able to download music files from more than 200 music stores worldwide.

All in all, the Z6 looks like it might be an interesting alternative. But Motorola isn’t the only cell phone manufacturer that can let you listen to your music.  These days, you have many, many choices.  Nearly every phone that has a memory card and nearly every available smartphone is capable of storing and playing back your favorite tunes.

T Mobile
The T Mobile Dash smartphone is one of my personal favorites.

Let’s start with Palm Treos. All the new ones can do it.

Smartphones that run Windows Mobile software?  They can also do it. 

And all the smartphones running other operating systems, like the Blackberry Pearl, Nokia’s E62, Sony Ericsson’s W810i, LG’s CU500, Samsung’s D807 can do it too.

But, the only thing all these other phones can’t boast is their heritage. Namely, the fact that they’re not iPod phones that work effortlessly with the iTunes system is the problem. And that will be what separates the new Apple device from all the others. 

It’s what Steve Jobs and Apple are banking on. 

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