The Underwhelming iPhone


Yep, the ROKR is out, and Steve has predictably (okay, with the help of hindsight) called it "an iPod Shuffle on your phone". 100 songs in AAC format is about as much as you can cram into a 256MB TransFlash/mini-SD card, and judging from what I'm picking up from the reports on the net, pretty much everything I wrote about last week was spot on.

All I needed was a decent picture to confirm it's nothing but a restyled E790. Yep, here it is, via Gizmodo:

(Engadget has apparently underestimated the effort involved in doing live Apple keynote coverage and is displaying an error page... Ah, they run IIS. Sad...)

Of course, once the unbiased user reviews come out, we'll know for sure how (un)usable it is. And if iTunes 5.0 can sync with other music phones (I personally think it will, but will have to wait until I download it to make sure).

In the meanwhile, there's a lot of hype about "carriers queueing up" to distribute it. Balderdash - that bit is sheer hype, since any mobile carrier with a downloadable ringtone business won't commit to this in any serious way.

Apple and Motorola, like SonyEricsson, are trying to bypass what pundits call the "carrier toll", and it's too obvious a gambit for carriers to let by, so they're going retail. It's a gamble - a big one, considering that even if the ROKR might outflank technically superior products like the W800 through marketing strength alone at the consumer level, I'm betting very few consumers that have an inkling of what modern SonyEricsson phones can do will even consider getting a Motorola device.

As to it becoming an attractive proposition to carriers, well... With the current trend of operator-branded content services, an iTunes/Apple phone sticks out like a sore thumb.

And that is what will kill it as a portfolio product.

Let's see how it does in retail.

(Incidentally, Cingular's promo page for the ROKR is pretty cheesy - thanks to everyone who sent that in.)


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