Ever since the pancake-thin RAZR, Motorola has had a taste for style. It hasn’t always been successful, but the ROKR E8 is worlds away from the blocky, disastrous E1.
This is a glossy black candy bar of a phone, slim and tactile with a glassy-smooth surface across the front. The keys have tiny dots that respond to a press with haptic vibration.
They’re not touch-sensitive – you need to apply pressure. But that haptic buzz works well to confirm you’ve touched a key.
The way the keys behave differently according to the mode you’re in is one of the neatest features on the phone. Press the music icon and the keypad numbers disappear, to be replaced by play, pause and other relevant symbols. Nice one.
Seek out the 2megapixel camera in the multimedia menu and new icons appear to operate the digital zoom and switch from camera to video. You don’t have to turn the phone on its side, either, unlike many camera phones.
Dodgy scroll wheel
The other standout feature on the Motorola ROKR E8 is the scroll wheel – well, it’s a three-quarters wheel that you run your thumb round to change menu options, music genres and more. Trouble is, it’s hard to master.
Thankfully, there are four of those precious glowing dots in the circle, at the north, south, east and west points, so if you tire of the circular movements and its unreliable results, you can plump for these four dots to guide you up and down, left and right.
Among the other music features is Song ID, a version of Sony Ericsson’s Track ID that is here powered by Shazam, the original track recognition service. It works well, but the 2in landscape-format screen, though sharp, bright and detailed, is too small to be easy to read.
Decent music storage
The phone’s 2GB memory will hold up to 1,500 songs, but you can get lots more on to a microSD card which can add another 8GB. This is a phone which aims to be a music player as much as a phone, so it’s no wonder the screen wasn’t a priority. Still, Motorola gave the ROKR E8 a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can choose your headphones.
There’s an excellent on-off slide switch on the side which also works to lock the keys – simple but effective.
The ROKR E8 isn’t without its foibles, then, but it’s a cool looker and a decent music phone, as long as you’re prepared to put up with the frustrating scroll wheel and the lack of a decent camera.