Apple unveils iTunes phone, Flash iPod

Is the ROKR a CROCKR?

More than a year after Apple first announced its partnership with Motorola to put iTunes on a mobile phone, the device is finally available. Apple also overhauled the iPod line - introducing a new, solid state music player - and revamped its iTunes software today.

A year is about four generations of technology for the cellphone junky, but Apple and Motorola will be relieved that the ROKR E1 is finally out of vaporware. Cingular will carry the device for $249.99 when bought with a two year contract.

The E1 isn't likely to cause Nokia many sleepless nights, offering a paltry 256MB or 512MB of memory. Nokia's own N91 phone (previewed here) is a much more capable Wi-Fi/3G music phone boasting 4GB of capacity, and allows owners to share music files and playlists with each other. It also runs a host of useful third party software and services - but Nokia is late to market, and may miss the lucrative Christmas shopping season.

And Nokia, along with other cellphone manufacturers, should take heed from Apple's new iPod Nano. By using solid state Compact Flash memory, which is lighter, slimmer, more robust and much less power hungry than a hard drive, Apple has shrunk the iPod to about the size of a business card. Needing a much more modest battery, the Nano weighs 1.5 ounces, and is a quarter of an inch thick. It still boasts a 1.5-inch colour display, however, for showing photos, and Apple claims 14 hours of playback. The 2GB Nano costs $199 and the 4GB model $249 - which given the price of CF memory, should help boost Apple's margins.

The only surprise is the decision to shun an OLED screen. No name Korean manufacturer MobiBlu offers an OLED on its tiny DAH-1500i cube, and it's a smash hit at Wal-Mart.

The new Nano range replaces the Mini.

Still, Cingular has high hopes for the iTunes phone. Market research indicates that 14 per cent of Cingular customers already have an MP3 player, but 17 per cent want to buy one. With dedicated players that offer better sychronisation becoming less cumbersome to carry every day, it's hard to see who'd want to choose this CROCKR. ®