Today, Motorola announced the ROKR wireless multimedia phone, the first phone co-developed by Apple.”
All righty.
“It plays music and can directly synchronize with iTunes.”
How nice.
“It’s also the first non-Apple product to play protected content purchased from the iTunes Music Store.”
I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening. iTunes Music Store, you say?
“And you can listen to your music through the ROKR’s built-in speakers!”
Ah. That’s it, then?
“Um... hey! Look at this! We’re taking out a series of full-page ads promoting it! Each ad features four Page Three girls wearing underthings made solely from five strategically-placed ROKR phones and no more than one metre of string!”
Keep talking…
“I should clarify that it’s five phones between the four of them and not five per girl.”
Now you’ve got me interested. Good demo, guys. I’m glad we had this meeting.
Dear readers, I have failed you. I’ve been trying to dig up even just a few crumbs of enthusiasm for the new iTunes phone. I mean, really, really trying – even convincing a friend of mine at the gym to shoot me up with a quasi-legal enthusiasm-enhancing drug. But to no avail. The iTunes phone is here and I couldn’t care less about it.

Well, maybe I could care less about it, and I look forward to seeing the pull quote in a newspaper ad: “So exciting that I almost stopped worrying about how long it’s been since I changed the batteries in my TV remote – Andy Ihnatko, Macworld UK.” But that’s about as far as I go. After the full details became known I wasn’t enveloped in that wonderful Purple Cloud of Blind and Insane Apple Fealty that so often settles over you during an Apple hardware announcement. You know the one: Steve gets to the slide in the presentation that says simply “Shipping NOW” and you feel a buzzing sensation somewhere inside and find yourself sprinting out of the auditorium and towards the Apple Store. One tiny little voice inside your head is meekly asking exactly why we need a sixth desktop computer, particularly one shaped like the severed head of John the Baptist molded in a sort of techno aqua-carbon plastic. But it’s quickly shouted down by the rest of the Approvals Committee, a panel who was, after all, so right about your need for an iPod and a 17-inch PowerBook.

I mean, am I missing something here? It’s a phone that plays music, big deal. My brand new Nokia Series 60 phone plays MP3, AAC, and even movies without any complaint. And it cost me just forty dollars more than a ROKR, while proving about two hundred bucks more in features. Why would anyone be all that keen on having their phone and digital music player in the same device, anyway? Your life would be filled with conversations like this one:

“Honey? Honey? That’s wonderful news, but...really? He really said that? Uh huh… look, honey, I’m sorry, but I’ve got The Who’s ‘Live At Leeds’ waiting on the other line and I really have to take this before another member of the band ODs.”

Which admittedly has some appeal. Otherwise, I’m coming up blank. My new Nokia has full Web access and when I’m nearing the end of my billing cycle and realize that a fair chunk of my pre-paid minutes are about to sprout little wings and flitter off forever, paid for but unused, I download some fresh podcasts. It’s great to have something to listen to while I wait for the airline to come up with some other highly bogus weather or maintenance-based euphemism for, “The flight crew has far too much money riding on the Yankees/Red Sox game to even think about leaving the pilots’ lounge right now.”

Look, I shouldn’t do this, but I’m willing to start up an aftermarket upgrade service: send me your existing phone plus £200 and I’ll send it back to you as a fully-functioning iTunes phone. It will look remarkably as though all I’ve done is glued an iPod nano to the back of it, but don’t be fooled: this is a sophisticated, highly verticalized, integrated syngergistic leveraging of strategic alliances. Plus, I’ll be using this awesome ‘liquid steel’ two-part putty epoxy that I’ve recently discovered. If it can permanently fuse a golf ball to the blade of a pitching wedge for infinite laughs and on-the-links high jinks – and it can – it can certainly implementize a groundbreaking synergy of wireless and digital media.

It’s actually a better solution. Think about it: the ROKR has a hardwired limit of 100 songs, regardless of how much of its storage space is unused. The nano will happily keep eating tracks until it reaches its Mr Creosote point. The ROKR has that same quaint phone-based user interface familiar to anybody who has ever piloted a Soviet-built spacecraft. The nano has the classic, and still unsurpassed, scrollwheel. Most importantly, the nano has its own dedicated battery. If you use the ROKR for its intended purpose, one rainy night you shall inevitably find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere with a dead car and a dead phone, cursing both your lack of self-control and the inherent catchiness of every song on that Queen album that you simply had to play over and over again in the two days since you last charged your ROKR’s battery.

“Be careful what you wish for” is the moral of every single deal with the devil (except from the one where Charlie Daniels agreed to wager his soul in a fiddle contest and totally smoked the Defouler’s red leathery backside, but I think we can all agree that this was a fluke). For years, the Mac community has been wishing for Apple to get into PDAs and the thought of an Apple mobile phone has sent many a middle-aged geek to bed with visions of a Bluetooth-based dynamic OS keychain, iDisk and server access dancing in their heads.

And now we have it, and for the first time since Steve Jobs returned to Apple and swept through every office and cubicle, throwing mugs of scalding-hot coffee in the faces of anybody who baldly engaged in sub-visionary behaviour, we have an Apple product which, well, which kind of blows.

But the ROKR isn’t an Apple product, is it? Essentially, it’s Motorola’s baby. All Apple did was tattoo some JavaScript code onto its chest. When the bad reviews come in, let Apple deny its paternity, just like any good mullet-wearing, chair-throwing redneck on Jerry Springer. I’m convinced that the Purple Cloud of Blind and Insane Apple Fealty is somewhere over the horizon, and it’s bringing with it a proper Apple phone. MW