It didn’t take long to figure out why Steve Jobs put more effort into the iPod nano than he did the Motorola ROKR phone with iTunes. ROKR has become a STINKR. The best part? iTunes.
Apple and Motorola announced over a year ago that they were working on an iTunes-enabled cell phone.
If your thoughts were the same as mine then you were thinking a marriage of convenience and passion. Cell phone. iPod. Who could ask for anything more.
A year later and we have a cell phone that’s more like a March of Dimes poster boy than an iPod that will do phone calls. By nearly all accounts, the Motorola ROKR is handicapped. Pizaz challenged. Terminally boring. Crippled.
What happened? The ROKR phone was supposed to be ultra cool, mega chic, and, well, a rocker in an ocean of cellular boredom.
After reviewing the phone, talking to actual customers, and reading reviews, we’re convinced the ROKR is a STINKR. Maybe it was supposed to be.
Why? Because Apple is sure to sell more iPod nanos that Motorola will ROKRs. Apple gets all the money for an iPod nano and little for a cell phone sale.
Which would you promote? Which would you push?
Fortune Magazine’s Peter Lewis, who tends to tell it like it is, and has shown a distinct favor for many things Mac, ran out of favor for Motorola. STINKR?
The context of the love affair (Motorola and Apple? Right.) is set, sayeth Peter:
“How could they not make beautiful music together? It’s just over nine months since Motorola, maker of the gorgeously thin and stylish RAZR V3 mobile phone, announced that it was planning a baby with Apple, maker of the wildly popular iPod and iTunes digital-music systems.”
Seriously, I considered getting an iPod nano and sticking it to the back of my cell phone. They’re about the same size. Then I’d have one device to do everything.
Seriously. I seriously considered it after holding the ROKR in my hand. My first thought was, ‘Well, this is interesting…’ Then I had other thoughts, some of which resembled Peter’s:
“Even some people who coo that all babies are beautiful may feel a reflexive need to stifle a boo. “How … nice,” I heard myself saying, which of course is what one says when the baby is homely, a bit backward, lacking in personality, and more than a little stinky.”
Stinky? Uh, yeah, well, sorta. Next to the iPod nano, the ROKR phone feels like a brick. I mean that in a nice way. Put a brick into your pocket. Try to dial a brick. Scratch contacts and phone numbers onto a brick.
That’s how it felt compared to the iPod nano.
Then I turned the ROKR on and pressed the button to bring up iTunes. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Amazingly, I felt at home, comfortable, as if the baby had passed gas, passed more, threw up, got cleaned up, smiled and was passed to me to hold.
iTunes’ familiar interface, sans the scroll wheel, of course, made things better. But not enough. What went wrong with puppy?
Peter says, “What went wrong? Perhaps it’s kinder to start with what went right. The ROKR model E1 is a GSM phone that successfully makes and receives voice calls. Since telephony is generally considered essential for mobile phones, chalk that up as a success. The color screen is quite pretty and the buttons are easy to push…”
And that’s difficult to argue with. As a phone, ROKR is OK. It’s got a nice screen. Buttons are easy. Camera works. Bluetooth works. It feels like a RAZR with a new name and potential.
I feel a kindred spirit with Peter Lewis who brought tears to my eyes with his analysis and comparison of ROKR to an IBM PC. Junior.
“What’s amazing about the ROKR is how much it borrows from previous consumer-tech disasters. Let’s not point fingers and play the blame game … oh, what the heck, both Motorola and Apple screwed this one up, probably with Cingular’s help.”
Threesome’s just never work out right.
I have no doubt that Motorola will sell plenty of the ROKR model. The model I want, an iPod that calls home, is still on a drawing board somewhere.
As I wait, and wait, I’m comforted by knowing that ‘…we’ll always have Paris.’
Click Here for one of the best Peter Lewis articles ever in Fortune Magazine.