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Motorola ROKR E8 music phone

Can it revive the fortunes of the ROKR family

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Sleeping in standby, the face of the phone is a slab of flat black plastic, with just the chrome "FastScroll" dial around the navigation pad, and a pattern of raised pimples breaking the surface to indicate key positions. Tap a key, and a regular set of numberpad buttons are illuminated through the surface and the screen comes to life. So far, so normal.

Tap the music note icon, though, and the phone’s numberpad transforms into a music player control panel, with the keypad’s alphanumerics being replaced by play/pause, forward and back buttons, plus shuffle and repeat. With that smooth FastScroll wheel for zipping through track listings, the phone’s control array effectively becomes that of a pure-play digital music player.

Motorola MOTOROKR E8

It's slim, but unusually large for a candybar design

Similarly, a quick press of the side-mounted camera button fires up the phone’s (rather basic) two-megapixel camera and switches the numberpad into camera control mode. The functional advantages here are less obvious. Although the number keys disappear, the camera controls are very limited - zoom in and out, media gallery and video camera selection – and you still need to play the Options soft-menu to apply settings. The virtual controls don’t make it any better to use than most regular cameraphone.

The camera provides only limited settings and a very ordinary imaging performance. There’s no autofocus system or flash illumination, and even in good lighting conditions images lack fine detail and photo reproduction is unimpressive. There are few real adjustments you can make to improve matters, and in lower light situations, the auto system copes poorly and lacks definition. The camera can shoot video, too, capturing images at low quality 144 x 176 top resolution. Predictably, results are poor.

The E8 is Motorola’s first effort at using haptic feedback, providing slight vibrations - and an odd squidgy noise - to confirm buttons have been pressed. The number buttons need to be pressed firmly but lightly to operate, which cuts down on potential mis-pressings.

A sliding key-lock on the side of the phone also takes care of accidental in-pocket button presses.

All this is fashionably attractive. Less so is the footprint this phone makes. Despite its slim profile – a mere 10.6mm thick - and reasonable 107g weight, the E8 is no waif-like handset. It has quite a big spread for a regular candybar phone, measuring 115 x 53mm – almost the size of an iPhone - so you can really feel it in your pocket.

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