Like it or not, the combination of high-function media players with high-function cellphones is officially an inevitability (just ask Apple). It seems like every day a new handset's being announced with that obligatory 3.5mm headphone jack on board, one of the final pieces of the puzzle that had prevented phones from becoming legitimate PMP competitors for years. Motorola took this fusion particularly seriously with the ROKR E8, a slick little candybar announced at CES
earlier this year, and we sat down with a China-spec model recently to see just how well it functioned as a full-time replacement for our dedicated music boxes -- and whether it could avoid losing its identity as a phone in the process.
Thanks to the good folks at Wireless Imports
for the hookup!
In brief, we freaking loved it. The media player app was speedy, attractive, and logical, and sound quality was superb both through the jack and the integrated loudspeaker. The "touch arc" isn't quite as user-friendly as a full wheel is, but it gets the job done, and it's still leaps and bounds ahead of a traditional d-pad for managing large collections of tracks. The morphing keypad is very trick and we found the lit labels to be readable in pretty much any condition; unfortunately, there's not a lot of feel to them and clicking keys feels downright odd. More often than not, the only way we knew for sure that we'd managed to press a key was by looking at the screen for confirmation, which admittedly you're going to do anyway, but we still like a little tactile feedback to keep our fingers happy.
Combined with 3G and / or WiFi, the E8 would've been a great centerpiece in Moto's 2008 lineup, but the lack of any high-speed data saps all the fun out of tethering or browsing on the landscape display. For anyone just looking for a basic phone that's capable of outright replacing a Flash-based media player, though, the E8's got your number.