Nano and ROKR: Showcasing the Strengths and Weaknesses of Apple

There couldn?t be two more different products than the new iPod Nano and Motorola ROKR cell phone. The Nano is sleek, forward looking, and aggressively designed, while the ROKR seems like a huge step back from the Motorola Razor phone that came out a few months ago. Let?s take a moment to review what is right and wrong with both products.

The iPod Nano:  More Right Than Wrong

You only have to look at the Nano to lust after it. Sleek, sexy, reasonably priced and solidly built, it is strong replacement for the now outdated Mini. In fact, this was the product I expected when the iPod Mini was announced and I still find Apple?s derogatory comments about flash-based players interesting, given the subsequent release of the Shuffle and Nano players.

Black Apple NanoBlack is the color to get; it probably showcases a similar color change for the white notebook computers that is long overdue. The product has two shortcomings:  It doesn?t have a radio and it doesn?t have a removable (replaceable) battery.

The radio is important because with the potential for weather changes, terrorist attacks, and other major life-changing news events, we are becoming increasingly aware that we need a radio on us all of the time. In addition, gyms often use radio to transmit the audio feed from TVs, forcing you to pick something else if you wanted to use it there. Tiny radios are easy to find, however, so the work around here isn?t even difficult and there will undoubtedly be third party vendors, like Belkin, who will bring out accessories that will address this shortcoming.

The battery long has been a problem with iPods; it is not easily changed and this was apparently both to create a cleaner, more structurally sound design and to force a more rapid replacement of the device. In this case, the battery should have an 18-month use cycle, while the rest of the device could last up to 5 years. I often keep a spare battery for devices like this for long trips or at times when I?ve forgotten to cradle and charge it, so that I can keep going. You can charge in the car and in most planes, reducing the annoyance factor (though you still need to carry the charging ?brick,? increasing the carry weight). This is more an annoyance than anything else, but I?m disappointed that Apple hasn?t addressed it yet.

Overall, however, the Nano is a solidly designed product that clearly showcases the elegance Apple often builds into their products. I personally would buy the 2 GB model and refresh the songs more often, but for the extra $50, particularly if you want to use it to move files, the 4 GB is a well-priced upgrade.

Motorola ROKR iTunes Phone:  More Wrong Than Right

Motorola ROKR iTunes PhoneThis phone looks a lot like some older Microsoft Mobile phones. It not only doesn?t have the elegance of the iPod Nano, it appears to lack the sharp lines of the market leading Razor phones (one of which will use Microsoft?s platform) already announced.  

The one thing clearly done right is that this phone syncs and plays music just like an iPod (something the other carriers wouldn?t agree to) but that one thing does not balance its shortcomings. It lacks many of the current features found on high-end phones (including Bluetooth for wireless headsets and car integration) and it won?t sync your contacts, either.

The industrial design is much like any other phone and it hasn?t carried forward the brilliance of the iPod user interface for navigation and volume control. What this looks like is that Motorola took an older, unused design and put the iPod client software in the phone, and in doing so avoided using any of the more current designs from either company. This feels like a ?get the product to market quickly? offering that wasn?t engineered to either company?s current design standards. I?m actually kind of surprised Apple signed off on it.

Like the iPod showcases Apple?s strength in end-to-end solutions, the ROKR shows its weakness in partnering. Apple is legendary for their inability to do this well and this new phone clearly showcases that. This will put stress on the relationship, and given Apple?s history, could end ugly. Even if they don?t break up, be assured that the next phone will be much better, as both Apple and Motorola have shown vastly better engineered products than this phone. I suggest you pass on this phone.

The Nano showcases the best in Apple and will probably sell out, the ROKR the worst and should probably be avoided. It is interesting that two very different products can frame a company like Apple so effectively.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.