Motorola continues to make up for its dismal Rokr E1 with its new Rokr E8. Announced at the ultra-posh Wynn Hotel during a late-night press conference (we're not sure why Moto had to wait until 9 p.m. on a Sunday to do this), the E8 is one of two handsets Moto is announcing at CES 2008. And it won CNET's Best of CES in the cell phones and smartphones.
Music, of course, is a central theme here but the E8's real news lies with its unique "ModeShift" technology. Instead of traditional keypad and navigation array, the Rokr features a smooth "glasslike" surface with touch-pad controls that digitally "morph" depending on how the handset is used. As you shift from phone to music to imaging modes, the backlight on the control changes to illuminate only the relevant buttons for your current function. The E8 also features Motorola's first Haptics keypad with vibrating feedback and a "FastScroll" navigation wheel that makes it pretty seamless to navigate through long playlists. It's not a complete circle but it's pretty user-friendly.
Loading songs on the E8 is also supposed to be fast and easy via a USB connection to a PC. Moto said that over the next year it would introduce more music phones like the E8 that would be better than standalone music players. That's a bold prediction, we can't wait to test it out. We have to say, however, that Moto seems to have succeeded at integrating the ergonomics of an MP3 player and a cell phone into one device.
Other features on the candy bar device include a Linux/Java OS, support for Windows Media Player 11, a large (2-inch) 262,000-color display, 2GB internal memory, stereo Bluetooth, USB 2.0, Moto's CrystalTalk technology (like we saw on the Razr2 series), an external memory card slot, a 2-megapixel camera, a digital-music player, and a full HTML browser. The quad-band world phone supports GPRS and EDGE networks, and it offers a "talking phone" to read your text messages while dialing a number or receiving a call. We haven't had the chance to test that particular feature yet, but it looks fun.