Posted by Brian @ 2:52 pm on December 3rd 2006

Motorola ROKR E2 review

I went looking for a Linux-based phone and the Motorola ROKR E2 was the best phone that I was able to find. You have to buy one on eBay as far as I know. It works fine on Cingular and I’ve heard a rumor it works on T-Mobile as well.

So I’ve had my ROKR E2 for three weeks now. I really like this phone, more than any other phone I’ve had. I want to love it but some annoyances get in the way.

The ROKR E2 is the best designed phone I’ve ever used. Not the most attractive, but the best designed. My favorite feature is the 3.5″ headphone jack. I can plug in any headphone as well as easily interface with my car stereo. The phone knows when headphones are plugged in and automatically routes calls and mp3s through them. If you’re listening to an mp3 when a call comes in, the mp3 playback stops, the call comes through the headphones, and when the call is done playback resumes. Nice.

The phone plays mp3s as well as FM radio. As far as I’m concerned, a phone like this will soon be the iPod killer. The ROKR E2 could be an iPod killer if the mp3 playing and other annoymances were fixed up a bit, which I’ll address later. That said, I love being able to listen to podcasts and books on tape on my phone!

With an SD card I can store up to 2gb of mp3s. A hack may be in the works to use the new 4gb SD cards. Because the phone uses an industry standard SD card I can swap the same memory card between my phone, palm, digital camera and digital video camera. At last. I’m in heaven on that one.

Charging the phone is a snap – just plug in a USB cable. Additionally, the phone shows up as a folder on my desktop so I can drag and drop files right on to it without any clunky program trying to “help” me do it.

The camera is a weak 1.2 megapixels but it does have an LED flash, zoom, and some reasonably good features including a nice videocamera mode. I’d be a lot happier with a 2mp camera, and the pictures tend to blur in moderate light.

The phone has a dedicated switch for locking the keys. That’s a nice feature, and I use it all the time.
The screen is large, sharp and beautiful. It’s so nice I’m tempted to copy over some video. The five-way dpad is sturdy and gives good feedback. The phone itself has a solid, substantial feel. It feels good.
It does suffer from some annoyances as well as some bugs. The interface is a little clunky and sometimes slower than I would like, and the buttons do not do what you would expect. For example, when displaying the recent calls list, I would expect pressing the dpad would dial the number. Instead it brings up a detail page. Pressing the dpad again does nothing.

Mp3 playing occasionally skips. Fast-forwarding an mp3 past 5 minutes has locked up the phone. The phone seems to forget what is on the SD card from time to time, and that requires a manual refresh of the card. Why this isn’t done automagically when a card is inserted I don’t know. The mp3 interface is odd. It doesn’t seem to recognize directories/folders, but just lumps all the tracks in one long scrolling window. It does sort by artist, and album.

I bluetoothed over my phonebook from my last phone and since then caller ID has been sporadic. Occasionally it tells me, say, my wife is calling when actually it’s a business call. Not so good. Maybe I corrupted the address book somehow.

I’d like to be able to customize the phone more than I currently can, especially map functions to keys and modify the shortcut menu. I haven’t installed the daemon enabling me to telnet in to the phone, but I will soon and hope to be able to change a lot more. There is a modding scene that has released a few firmware updates for the phone which I’ll try out, these may correct some of the mp3 issues I’ve had. I can’t find an easy way to find out how much memory I have left on the phone or SD card. Every time I plug in the USB it pops up a box telling me that some apps will be disabled, which has to be manually closed.

Still, I’m quite happy with the phone. I look forward to more tweaking.

We swapped my wife’s Motorola RAZR v3i for an LG today because the v3i’s interface was so clunky it drove her crazy. While there I test-drove the Sony-Ericsson Walkman phone to see if I’d made a mistake going with the ROKR. Nope, the Walkman phone is a piece of junk! The crowded buttons and rotten interface frustrated and angered me. The idiotic memory stick didn’t do much to charm me either. It felt cheap and breakable compared to my ROKR.