A Glimmer for the Rokr

The hotly anticipated iPod/cell-phone offspring finally arrives.
Author:
Publish date:

Apple (AAPL) - Get Report, Motorola (MOT) and Cingular unveiled the Rokr, the hotly anticipated iPod/cell-phone combination that is expected to be the forerunner of a new generation of music phones.

As expected, a

San Francisco gathering saw Apple chief Steve Jobs introduce the Rokr, a Motorola phone that will hold about 100 songs, similar to Apple's iPod Shuffle. And as with the Shuffle, songs must be loaded from a PC -- scotching telcos' hopes of reaping revenue from wireless downloads.

The Rokr, which is silver with a color screen, is expected to be available Thursday for $250 with a two-year service contract at Cingular stores nationwide. Cingular, the nation's leading cell-phone service provider, is a joint venture of

SBC

(SBC)

and

BellSouth

(BLS)

.

A Cingular representative said the company isn't "exactly sitting on thousands of them, but hopefully we have enough to hit all the early adopters."

Gadget aficionados have grown eager in anticipation of the dream child offspring of the iconic iPod digital music player and the massively popular cell phone. A couple

early cancellations only helped to fuel the excitement.

If the device wins critical acclaim, Motorola could have a potential successor to its popular Razr phone. And even though Cingular will see little by way of music download sales, a hot phone could help the telco revive its subscriber growth performance during the holiday season.

But some observers see music phones as just another fancy phone that carriers have to help subsidize in order to win new customers. At best, the phones will help Cingular gain a bigger share of the youth market. At worst, Cingular will end up with another camera phone scenario.

Camera phones, while popular and a key incentive to get people to upgrade their old handsets, failed to deliver big new data service revenue from wireless picture swapping. Similarly, if the Rokr bypasses the new wireless networks by allowing people to load playlists from their PCs, users may never welcome a time when they have to pay more for songs delivered over the cellular network.

But industry insiders argue that so-called third-generation phones may offer some opportunities in impulse purchases of wireless music downloads, when users hear a song and immediately want to buy it.

Also, worries that Motorola and Apple would create an iPod killer vanished Thursday. The limited storage capacity and random play features fall far short of the 1,000-song selectable music capability Apple's iPod and other MP3 players offer.

None of the companies offered any details about battery life, which has been a concern since the power has to be shared between the music player and the phone. But addressing that issue at the San Francisco product unveiling, Cingular COO Ralph de la Vega said his battery meter still read full after nearly 24 hours of use, the consumer electronics blog

engadget

reported.

Apple's Jobs also introduced a flash-memory-based iPod called the nano that is thinner and more capacious than the iPod mini.