Despite all the things the Rokr's music player can do, there are quite a few it can't. To begin with, you can download songs only through the included USB cable. There's no way to transfer iTunes music wirelessly, and since you must listen to music through the included wired headset, Bluetooth fanatics won't be pleased. There is a strict 100-song storage limit, and the iTunes tracks are stored on the 512MB TransFlash card. You can't store downloads on the phone's 5MB of integrated memory, and if you try to store 101 tracks, you'll get an error message. Though 100 songs may be perfectly fine for some users, we were miffed by the cap. For a device that's all about music, we were hoping for at least 1GB. What's worse, Apple said the 100-song limit won't change even if bigger cards come out, despite the fact that TransFlash cards are currently limited to 512MB. But wait, there are more catches. The Rokr E1 pairs with merely one computer at a time. When we tried connecting to a second computer, the Rokr E1 erased all our previously loaded songs. And lastly, you can't use iTunes tracks as ring tones.
In addition to the iTunes player, there's a separate, generic Motorola-designed MP3 player that supports MP3, MIDI, WAV, AAC, and DRM AAC files. Fortunately, it accepts downloads through Bluetooth, and you can use stored tracks as ring tones. Keep in mind, though, that this second player is not connected to the iTunes player in any way, so you can't transfer files back and forth. Also, the Rokr E1's meager integrated memory will limit you to about 20 songs.
We were disappointed that the Motorola Rokr E1 has just a VGA camera, particularly for such an expensive phone. Still, it comes with a satisfying set of options. You can take pictures in 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120 resolutions; choose from seven lighting settings; and adjust the brightness. You also get a 4X zoom, a bright flash, a self-portrait mirror, an autotimer (5 or 10 seconds), and a selection of five shutter sounds, as well as a Silent option. The MPEG-4 video recorder takes clips up to 30 seconds in length with sound in two resolutions: 176x144 and 128x96. You can use the flash as a light for your films and choose a lighting setting. Photos and video were about what you'd expect from a VGA camera: fine for viewing on a computer but nothing that you'd want to print out. When finished with your snaps and clips, you can send them in a multimedia message or save them to the phone. You also can save your work to the TransFlash card, but you'll probably want to keep that chunk of memory for your music.
You can personalize the Rokr E1 with a variety of wallpaper, themes, menu styles, color skins, screensavers, and message tones. If you'd like more options or ring tones, you can download them from Cingular. You get just one Java (J2ME) game but can always download more if you're an avid gamer. It's a letdown, however, that the phone supports only GPRS data speeds and not EDGE.
The first thing an experienced iPod user will notice about the Rokr E1's iTunes player is noticeably slow performance. There are obvious navigation delays--occasionally up to two seconds, particularly when skipping through songs or changing screens. We also fault the transfer speed. We sat staring at iTunes, as it took more than 12 minutes to transfer 90MB worth of tracks (22 tracks at 0.12MB per second). In contrast, the iPod Shuffle has a transfer rate of 1.38MB per second, while the has a rate of 7.49MB per second.
One area where the Rokr excels over its MP3 cell phone peers is sound quality. It compares well to an Apple iPod Photo, though there are no equalizer settings to customize your sound. The Rokr E1 won't give you the bright sounds of a Cowon iAudio U2, for example, but it won't disappoint anyone who values good acoustics.
The Rokr E1 has a rated talk time of 9 hours, which we met in our tests, and a promised standby time of 9 days. Music-only playback time is rated at 15 hours, but we got 17 hours in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rokr E1 has a digital SAR rating of 1.01 watts per kilogram.