For quite some time we've been eager to review another cell phone from Motorola's Rokr series. After the first handset we examined, the Motorola Rokr E1, failed so miserably we were hoping that Motorola would redeem itself (not that it would take much). While a few Rokr handsets have come and gone since that time, we had to wait two years before another U.S. carrier would pick one up. And Alltel finally provided us that opportunity when it rolled out the Motorola Rokr Z6m last month. Though you'd be forgiven if you thought it was a Motorola Rizr handset (it sports the signature slider design), the Z6m's music focus puts it in the Rokr camp. There's no iTunes integration--though that's hardly a bad thing--but it does offer an easy-to-use, if somewhat simple, music player, stereo Bluetooth, a 3.5mm headset jack, and an expandable memory slot for storing all those songs. The Z6m is $129 with service.
As mentioned above, the Motorola Rokr Z6m takes its design straight form the earlier Motorola Rizr Z3 and the more recent Motorola Rizr Z6tv. We can hardly complain about this design choice as we approved of the Z3's slider style by all accounts. It's not only easy to use but also eye-catching. Unlike the blue Z3 or the dark gray Z6tv, the Z6m wears a minimalist silver hue. It's nice and unassuming, yes, but just not very interesting.
Other external features on the Z6m are comparable, but not exactly identical, with the Rizr handsets. Though it has the same dimensions (4.15 inches by 1.79 inches by 0.62 inch) as the Rizr Z3, it's slightly lighter at 3.7 ounces. That's such a small difference that you don't notice the change when holding the phone. And in any case, the Z6m retains a solid and sturdy feel. The slider mechanism is equally well built, and we say again that we love the handy thumb grip just below the display.
The Z6m's display is just like the Rizr Z6tv's. It measures 2 inches and supports 65,000 colors. Though that's a step down from the 262,000-color display on the Rizr Z3, such a change is common on CDMA phones. Colors still looked bright and graphics and animations were sharp. You can change the brightness and the backlight time, but not the font size. Alltel doesn't have its own menu interface; it uses Moto's date design instead. On the other hand, the Z6m does support Alltel's nifty Celltop interface. You can read all about it in our review of Alltel's Samsung SCH-u520.
The navigation controls consist of a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated music player/camera shortcut, a clear control, and the Talk and End/power buttons. Though everything but the toggle is flush, the navigation array remains easy to use. And for shortcut purposes, you can program the toggle to provide one-touch access to four user-defined functions.
The basic design of the keypad buttons is also the same as on the earlier handsets, but for some reason Motorola or Alltel (or maybe both) decided to slap a random bubble pattern on the keys. It's an odd move by any measure, but the pattern actually makes the keys harder to use. The swirls and varying colors interfere with the visibility of the numbers on the keys, particularly in direct light. Backlighting helps when you're in the dark, but ultimately this is not a keypad we love. The Z6m comes with a changeable rear battery cover that matches the pattern.
The external controls consist of a volume rocker, the Motorola smart key, and the headset jack on the left spine, while a voice-dialing button, a handset lock switch, and the mini-USB port are on the right spine. Fortunately, like it did on the Z6tv, Moto moved the memory-card slot from behind the battery to a more convenient location on the top of the phone. The camera lens is located on the Z6m's rear face, but there's no self-portrait mirror or flash.
The Rokr Z6m has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, three e-mails, a Web address, three street addresses, a birthday, a nickname, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 28 polyphonic ringtones (the Z6m supports MP3 tones, as well). Other essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, and an alarm clock. Beyond the basics, there's also stereo Bluetooth, voice recognition, a speakerphone, and a voice recorder.