Motorola’s first venture into the world of iTunes and a mobile phone (the ROKR) was widely met with derision. But now the company is placing iTunes on one of the most popular mobile phones on the market. Will it be enough to change our minds?
When the long-awaited mobile phone with iTunes was launched in the form of the ROKR, it’s fair to say that most people were less than impressed. Although technically not a bad phone, the ROKR had many problems. Chiefly there was a 100-song cap that hobbled it in comparison to regular iPods, but it also had a clumsy interface and – unlike rival mobiles – didn’t enable users to download music. However, by far the biggest complaint was simply the design. At the time of the ROKR’s launch, Motorola was behind one of the most popular, stylish and successful mobile phones on the market, the sweet and svelte RAZR, so why place iTunes on a less stylish and generally unsuccessful phone?
Roll over ROKR
Well it seems that Motorola listened to our complaints and has incorporated the functionality of the ROKR into the far more stylish RAZR. Actually, this phone has been out in the US for a while now in the form of the V3i (we assume the ‘I’ stands for iTunes); the ‘m’ addition that we’re getting in the UK refers to the stylish maroon casing.
So, you can now get a RAZR mobile phone in the UK with an iTunes button, one click of which takes you from the main mobile screen and onto a version of iTunes. From here on the phone acts pretty much like a regular iPod, although you do have to use the arrow buttons instead of having a click wheel.
While iTunes still isn’t as functional as on an iPod, it offers shuffle, playlists and search by album, artist and song; plus it now features album art. Of perhaps more importance is the phone’s ability to hook up to iTunes, which as with a regular iPod offers far greater ease of use than any other phone.
Sadly, though, the RAZR includes far too many of the ROKR’s bugbears for its own good. It still has the 100-song cap, so it doesn’t matter how big a memory card you put in the phone, you can only access 100 songs in iTunes. Word has it that this is enforced by Apple. The company, although keen to enter the mobile phone market, doesn’t want to see sales of mobile phones eat into sales of iPods.
Although the cap is annoying, it isn’t really that much of a problem and it’s still nicer to have iTunes with a few songs on your mobile than not have it at all. There’s still no ability to download songs directly onto the phone, though, and the iTunes menu still isn’t as smooth as the one on an iPod.
If you place iTunes to one side, whether or not you want this phone is largely down to wanting the RAZR itself. It’s certainly proved popular enough over the last few years to be a convincing purchase as a mobile phone. The screen is particularly impressive and, although it’s a tad wide, you can’t really belittle the size and design of the unit. Perhaps the only cause for complaint that anybody has had is with the keypad, which lacks a tactile feel to it.
The RAZR V3iM also includes a 1.23-megapixel camera, which despite being not as good as those on some phones on the market, is certainly better than the horrific 0.3-megapixels found on the old ROKR E1, and offers pretty good still-image quality. Another nice touch is the presence of an ‘aeroplane’ mode (presumably because it’s the sort of thing you’re likely to do when sitting on an aeroplane). This enables you to switch off all the mobile-phone functions and simply use the unit as a MP3 player, which prolongs battery life.
There is one other thing to consider. At the time of the ROKR’s launch, the RAZR was the proverbial dog’s dangly bits. Fast-forward a year, though, and it’s no longer that cool a phone to own – partly because every chav and his dog now owns one, but also because time stands still for no man and better phones are now available, especially for the £250 asking price.
Having said that, the RAZR is still a pretty cool phone and this model is leaps and bounds ahead of the ROKR. But even so, we’re just not as excited about it as we feel we should be. What it offers may not be too little; but it may well be too late.
There’s no denying that the RAZR is miles better than the ROKR, and we do love the presence of iTunes on our mobile phone. But we’re not as keen to own a RAZR now as we were a year ago, and once again, this just makes us wish that Apple would hurry up and release its own iPod mobile phone. But if you’re in the market for a mobile phone, this model is well worth considering.