As part of last week's press event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs shared the stage with Cingular Wireless COO Ralph de la Vega to announce the availability of the long-rumored iTunes cell phone, the new Motorola ROKR E1. The first cell phone with iTunes support, the ROKR (pronounced "rocker") is immediately available in the U.S. exclusively from Cingular Wireless for $250 with a two-year service commitment.
The new phone comes with iTunes software built in, and includes stereo headphones and a USB cable. iTunes software for the owner's Mac or Windows computer will be available, as always, as a free download from Apple's Web site, but will not be included in the box with the phone. It doesn't appear that you can purchase songs from the iTunes Music Store directly through the phone, which isn't surprising given the difficulty of navigating the 2-million-song iTunes Music Store from a cell phone interface.
The phone sports a color display, but is otherwise comparable in features to the iPod shuffle, supporting up to 100 songs with shuffle playback and random autofill features. According to an early review in the New York Times, the 100-song limit is firm, even though you could probably store more music on the phone's 512 MB memory card.
In addition, the phone, sporting a "brick" rather than "flip" (folding clamshell) design, includes stereo speakers and a built-in camera. It automatically pauses the music if a call comes in, and the user can switch between phone and music with the touch of a button that bears the familiar iTunes musical notes icon. Motorola says the phone is "Bluetooth capable for voice calls," which we hope will allow wireless synching of contact info, if not music.
The ROKR is now starting to become available in Canada and the United Kingdom; it will appear in France, Italy, and Hong Kong in late September; in Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines by early October; and in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and other markets later in the year.