The ROKR mobile phone is a joint venture between Motorola and Apple that promised to deliver the best of both worlds: a quality mobile phone with Apple iTunes built-in. What could be better? As it turns out the iTunes phone is built on a series of compromises that hobbles its functionality and makes it less than desirable to consumers.
The first problem with it is that you cannot download songs directly to the ROKR from the iTunes Music store wirelessly. You have to instead download them on a computer and sync them to the phone via USB. Apple and the carriers could not come to terms on a wireless download service because the carriers wanted upwards of $3 per song (a little more than they make for a ringtone, they reasoned) while Apple wanted to make songs available for the same 99 cents that they charge through iTunes.
The second major compromise is that the phone has a built-in limitation of 100 songs—no matter how much memory is in the phone. The thinking here is that Apple didn't want to make the ROKR too good for fears that it would compete with and potentially cannibalize sales of the iPod.
So where does this leave consumers? Extremely disappointed apparently.
According to a Bloomberg report the ROKR is off to a rough start "as many as six times more customers are returning the ROKR phones than is normal for new handsets." The ROKR is even the featured on the neon pink cover of the November 2005 issue of Wired magazine which loudly proclaims "You Call This The Phone of the Future? Inside the quest to build the ultimate music phone - and why Apple fell short."
If that wasn't bad enough, in another Bloomberg article Motorola CEO Ed Zander thinks that it may be a marketing problem, saying "People were looking for an iPod and that's not what it is. We may have missed the marketing message there."
It remains to be seen if Apple and the carriers will ever be able to reach an agreement to provide the iTunes phone that we all want. Mobile phone carriers want a piece of the action, DRM patent holders want to be cut in and Apple is hesitant to give away its market leadership in music downloads—which leaves the consumer holding the bag. Most consumers will probably wait for the next go around or simply buy a RAZR and a nano.