The concept of a music phone holds delicious promise: If you had one, you could talk and rock out without lugging around both a cell phone and an MP3 player. Unfortunately, neither Motorola's Rokr E1 (the first Apple iTunes--compatible phone) nor Sony Ericsson's W800i Walkman phone wowed me.
The Rokr is available exclusively from Cingular Wireless for $250 with a two-year service contract. The W800i costs $499 without a carrier agreement, and as yet there are no carrier subsidies for it.
Easy Music Transfers
I found it simpler to transfer music from my computer to either shipping unit than to other current handsets (like Nokia's 6682 and Sanyo's MM 5600) that can upload music. Some phones do allow you to download music over the air, which is convenient, but you have to pay for each song even if you own the CD or have already downloaded the tune to your PC. Both the Rokr E1 and the W800i Walkman come with software (Apple's iTunes and Sony's Disc2Phone, respectively) to help you rip music from your own CDs and transfer music over to the phones' memory.
To transfer tunes, you just connect the phone via a USB cable and then drag and drop songs. But the process is slow, taking anywhere from 45 seconds to 1.5 minutes per track. Filling the Rokr's 512MB of storage completely took more than an hour, while filling the W800i took half an hour. Motorola says the Rokr can carry up to 100 songs, and Sony Ericsson claims the W800i can accommodate up to 150 songs (its PC software permits you to shrink your existing audio tracks). I managed to squeeze in 83 and 77 songs, respectively, onto the two devices.
Each phone sports a clean, simple playback interface--and each suffered from a noticeable performance lag every time I made a selection. It took about a second to go from a menu item to the list of choices. If you receive a call while you are listening to music, either phone will automatically pause the song; to resume playback, just select Play.
Both the Rokr E1 and the W800i Walkman are triband GSM/GPRS handsets. Aesthetically, the W800i (white with orange trim) has the advantage. The Rokr is a bit larger and heavier, and has a pearly white finish with light-gray edges. The Walkman works somewhat better as a camera phone, too--it comes with a 2-megapixel camera and flash--and when you take a picture, you can hold the phone horizontally, as you would a standard digital camera. The Motorola's low-power VGA camera took noticeably poorer photos.
As music players, both devices performed well. The Rokr's Apple iTunes compatibility is a nice bonus, especially for current iTunes users. But despite the Rokr's advantage in music software, I preferred the W800i Walkman phone's winning combination of nice-sounding music, good looks, and high-quality photos. Too bad it's so expensive.
Motorola Rokr E1
Integration with Apple's iTunes is this phone's standout feature.
Price when reviewed: $350 ($250 with new activation)
Current prices (if available)
Sony Ericsson W800i Walkman
Pricey phone's features include an easy-to-use music interface and a nice 2-megapixel camera.
Price when reviewed: $499
Current prices (if available)