posted by Eugenia Loli on Thu 31st Aug 2006 01:45 UTC

"The Problems"
Like any new product, it comes with its own share of problems. Here is a quick run down of the ones we found during the past week:

- Managing Bluetooth to turn it ON or OFF requires 14 clicks with default behavior. I had to change the joystick's shortcut defaults and removed the FM radio shortcut in order to add Bluetooth in its place. And even then, that costs 6 clicks anyway. I don't understand why Motorola has not added a simple Bluetooth ON/OFF on their "Options" menu on the front screen. All other phones have it there and it's really convenient.

- The / symbol is not available on Java apps and this has a major Opera Mini impact. It means that you can't type anything like this on Opera Mini: osnews.com/pda. I don't understand why no one tested Opera Mini with their Java implementation, as it is the most successful MIDP Java app today (sans games).

- It would have been nice if the phone was quad-band GSM, for USA's sake. The ROKR-E2 also comes with a slower EDGE implementation, maxing out at about 16 KB/sec instead of the normal 22 KB/sec. In my download tests though, I never achieved anything faster than 10 KB/sec (my Cingular tower has both EDGE and UMTS in my area).

- Speaking of Cingular, the phone would not autodetect its voicemail number (like the Sony Ericsson phones do) and every time I made a call it was thinking that I was... roaming (I wasn't). Regarding signal reception, I found the phone to be below par. Where all my other phones would get 2-5 bars, the ROKR-E2 will get either 1 or 2, and in some areas inside my house it would drop connection completely. I never had a phone lose Cingular connection completely at my house before.

- No Instant Messaging. Actually, some versions of the firmware have this application included, but the non-branded ones don't. It would be beneficial if Motorola includes it on all firmwares and makes sure it works with YamiGo.com, the only free IM server that supports all WirelessVillage, ICQ, AIM, MSN and Y!.

- Unfortunately, I can't comment on the battery life with great precision. You see, like in the EZX-based Linux phones, the battery driver sucks. You only get a 0%, 20%, 50% and 100% battery reading, which is actually a fat estimation of how much battery life is left. You might be (seemingly) having 100% battery left, insert the USB cable and sudenly see your battery meter go down to 20%. I wonder why Motorola has not fixed their battery driver for the 2.5 years that I am using their Linux phones. Regardless, the ROKR-E2 started beeping to notify me of low battery life only 28 hours after a full charge (have used EDGE occasionally in that time and no phone calls at all) and it would continue to beep even... while charging until it reached the supposed 20%! But honestly, this does not mean that the phone only had so little battery left in it. It is more of an issue of the kernel driver trying to figure out how much battery it truly had left.

- I was as dissapointed with ROKR's video Mpeg4 support, just like I was at the EZX-based phones. Motorola uses an unoptimized Real Player port for their Linux phones that only support a very specific Mpeg4 version and it will refuse to playback the rest (sometimes mpeg4 videos recorded and sent from other phones won't play either). Moreover, QuickTime-created industry-standard 3GP videos are slow to playback. To add to this, any QVGA video playback is not smooth (Mp4, 3GP or even RM), with some dropped frames here and there (same problem as in their EZX phones).

- Lastly, there is no SDK to write native applications for this phone. Motorola hopes to eventually release such an SDK for their future Linux phones, but not for the existing ones.

Conclusion

The ROKR-E2 makes for a great music phone. It is not the best all-around phone, but if you need a phone built around music, FM radio and convergence, it is a good product. In my opinion, it is a much better device than the ROKR-E1, a step in the right direction. And it comes for real cheap too (much cheaper than any other music-oriented phone in the market today). But as with all products, it could have been better with only a tiny bit extra attention to the detail. Hopefully, the remaining software problems mentioned in this article will be fixed on later [firmware] versions of the Chameleon platform.

Pros:
* Cheap GBs of storage via its hot-swappable SD slot
* Standard mini-USB 2.0 for data & charging
* Standard 3.5mm audio jack
* Good Opera 8.50 browser
* A2DP/AVRCP support
* Powerful file manager
* Bright QVGA screen
* Great sound quality
* Hardware keylock
* FM Radio

Cons:
* Managing Bluetooth requires 14 clicks with default behavior
* Symbol / not available on Java apps (Opera Mini impact)
* Not quad-band GSM, slower EDGE version
* No native SDK or theme creator app
* No IM (firmware-specific)
* Innacurate battery reading
* Mediocre GSM reception
* Mediocre MP4 support

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Table of contents
  1. "The Hardware"
  2. "The Software"
  3. "The Problems"
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