Meet the ROKR E1
There's no doubt about the convenience of combining a phone with a music player. Even the diminutive iPod Shuffle can make the average pocket crowded if it has to share the space with a phone. Carrying only one device, with one battery, make just one less thing to worry about.
Speaking of which, the battery is an important benefit of the whole music-phone concept. Since most phones have much larger batteries than most standalone music players, you can look forward to a decent amount of tune time. You can expect about 14-15 hours of continuous music playback time from the ROKR E1, which is in the same general range as most first-generation music phones we've seen.
On to the main attraction... iTunes! So how does it work? From what I could tell in my hour or so with it, the answer is pretty well. The wonderfully easy-to-use iPod interface is replicated faithfully. If you've used an iPod before, you'll feel right at home navigating the iTunes interface on the ROKR.
For the most part, the simple four-way navigation is the same as an iPod. There's no scroll wheel, but on a device that can't store more than 100 songs, that's not a deal-breaker. The interface does make use of Motorola's standard "menu" key, (the one with three short horizontal bars,) which brings up an options menu for controlling shuffle and repeat, as well as access to the About and Legal screens.
Accessing iTunes is as simple as pressing the dedicated iTunes key on the front. Getting out of iTunes can be trickier. It's not always clear how to exit, and it can take more key presses than it should.
When you do find your way out, if a song is playing it will ask whether to continue playing. If you choose Yes, you are taken to the home screen, which conveniently includes Now Playing information, and the joystick can be used to control the music right from the home screen. It will even display album artwork when available.
Oddly, the play/pause shortcut is "up", while the menu shortcut is "down", which is upside-down compared to the clickwheel on an iPod.
While Cingular didn't skimp on the included memory card, they are cheaping out on the music: zero songs are included. Not even a quick demo mix... (Some other carriers around the world have struck deals locally to include pre-loaded music.)
For its part, Motorola isn't leaving customers high, dry, and music-less, though. In about two weeks, the company will start offering regular podcasts that users can subscribe to via iTunes and listen to on their ROKRs. Moto is partnering with several companies for content, including MTV.