Let's be honest, Motorola has been milking thedesign for a tad too long. Not that you can blame them when you consider its success for being everyone's favourite flip phone. For every upgrade in hardware and firmware, we've seen a half dozen changes in colour or celebrity associations, but to kick-start Moto's flagging market performance, the company's line-up has been in need of a redesign.
It may not technically be a touchscreen, but we can guarantee the Moto ROKR E8 will attract eager glances and cooing/drooling from friends and passers-by. We know, we've experienced these reactions from the beginning of our testing. Every time we've slipped the E8 out of our pocket, someone's eyes have locked onto the phone.
When the E8's not turned on, its glossy black finish and stainless steel highlights look like space-age technology. Without power, it's also much easier to see the raised dimples on the keypad which help differentiate the otherwise flat keypad. Again, technically speaking, keypad is the wrong term, and it's this feature — which Motorola calls ModeShift — that is most interesting about the E8.
Broadly speaking ModeShift is an adaptive touch panel. In standard call mode the panel displays a numeric keypad. Enter the music player and ModeShift morphs this numberpad into dedicated music controls. Likewise in camera mode, the only keys you'll find is for zoom and to enter the gallery. This feature looks great and works extremely well. It also keeps the 10.5mm thick E8 streamlined without the need for any bulky sliding components.
On the top of the E8 is a 3.5mm headphone jack — an absolute must-have for any serious music-focused mobile. One other interesting touch is the keypad lock switch on the side of the handset, which replaces standard keypad locking software on phones. The switch moves in two directions — up locks the keypad, and holding it down turns the phone on and off. In truth, it took us a few days to get used to locking and unlocking the phone this way, but this is a minor annoyance for a short period only.
So we've established that this phone looks amazing, but does this mean it's all looks and no substance, like a vacuous Hollywood party-goer, or is it packed with features? The answer is a bit of both. The E8 has a few nice features, but isn't exactly a hardware powerhouse.
The first notable absence is 3G data speeds. The E8 has quad-band GSM with EDGE network capabilities, but considering that EDGE networks are almost non-existent in Australia, you can expect dial-up internet speeds when surfing the Web with this handset. Without 3G, it's hardly a surprise to discover the E8 also lacks Wi-Fi or GPS, though the E8 does support A2DP stereo Bluetooth connections.