October 23rd, 2008
Here’s Motorola ROKR E8. It’s a pretty normal phone with one very special feature…
Without a doubt the E8′s main feature is it’s changing keypad.
When it’s off you can’t see any of the keys – then It changes depending on what program you’re using.
Numbers show up when you’re dialing a number, they disappear and other buttons appear when you’re listening to music, taking a picture, etc.
I’ve also noticed that the keypad lettering is red (when it’s on) in sunlight while it’s glows white indoors. Cool!
The keypad is actually a touch sensitive surface with bumps where the ‘buttons’ are. The buttons don’t move in when you press them but thanks to the E8′s haptics it sure feels like they do.
Unlike other touch sensitive buttons, the E8′s keys don’t respond till you actually put pressure on them. So they won’t work if you accidentally brush your finger across them – amazing!
It’s kind of freaky how good the haptics are. Even though I know the front of the E8 doesn’t go in when you press it.
I suppose one could argue that while as cool a trick that it is, the keypad serves little purpose and at least from a functionality level it sort of does. That said, it’s new and really neat – I love it. However, I’d probably hate it if Motorola brought it out for all their phones (it’s that sort of thing).
Around the nav pad is a dial you can put your finger on and slide around (similar to what you find on some iPods). The dial doesn’t actually go all the way around, it stops at the bottom. Unlike the keys, the dial doesn’t require much pressure to use so there’s a hold switch on the side which turns the keypad off. If you don’t use it, you might find that the E8 will keep turning on in your pocket and drain the battery faster.
There is a micro USB port on the right side that’s used for charging and for connecting to your computer. On top is a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The left has a volume switch and a camera button.
Software wise the E8 runs Linux.
Menu speed is kind of slow. To be honest I kind of remember the ROKR being much faster. So I don’t know if the slow speed is due to firmware customizations or due to my bad memory.
There are 3 different menu layouts; Grid, List and Spinner.
You can quickly jump to menu items using numeric shortcuts plus you can change the order of menu items though you can’t seem to remove/add items to the top level menu.
As a phone, the E8 seems pretty competent. You can search the phonebook by entering as many letters of a contact’s name as you want. You can also start searching your phonebook by entering part of a phone number/contact name from the standby screen.
The E8 has a talking phone feature which can read you your messages, read the menu to you etc.
The default music player (on the Rogers branded E8) is the Rogers one. You’ll want that if you want to use the Rogers music store. The Rogers music player will play your own music as long as you store it in the MyAudio folder on the memory card – otherwise it won’t see it. It can sort your music by album, artist, etc and it will automatically pause when you receive a call.
I was a little surprised that the Rogers music player is able to use the E8′s mode shifting keys.
My complaints about the Rogers one is that every time you want to do something else, you have to tell it to run in the background plus you can’t seem to fast forward/rewind in a song – you can only skip backwards or forwards to the next song.
The Motorola music player is much better; with the exception of being able to buy music over the air, the Motorola can be put into the background by just pressing end. You can control it from the standby screen plus it has an equalizer.
The Motorola music player can be found under the Media menu under Media finder.
There is a 2 megapixel camera. There’s no flash or self portrait mirror. It’s nothing special.
The video recorder is also unremarkable. 144×76 resolution videos with no time limit.
The built-in browser is called Symphony (older Motorola Linux phones have Opera). It’s a full HTML browser so it can handle regular websites. I like how it has tabbed browsing so you can load more than one page at a time. I’m not sure how many tabs you can open at once but I found the browser would crash if you had too much stuff open at once.
Symphony renders pages so that they fit on the E8′s screen without requiring you to scroll sideways.
I’m not sure if Symphony uses a proxy (like Opera Mini) to reduce the sizes of images and compress text before it gets sent to the phone. Normally this is done to speed up the time it takes to load webpages. Based on the time it takes to load pages I’d say it doesn’t which is kind of disappointing since the ROKR is only an EDGE phone.
You can use the scroll dial to scroll or you can just use the nav pad. You can quickly switch between tabs by pressing the 4 button or open a new url using the 5 (there’s no option to open a new url in the menu, you have to use 5).
Overall while I thought Symphony was a decent product, it takes a long time to load regular pages and that sours the web browsing experience.
I’m a little disappointed you can leave the browser running in the background if you switch to a different program because you can do that if you load Opera Mini … just double check that your data plan covers browsing with Opera Mini.
Normally Motorola’s Linux phones come with a decent (for a regular phone) email client. For some reason I can’t find it on the E8. All I see is a Rogers one. I don’t mind carrier email clients but I’d like to see users have a choice so I’m pretty annoyed that the normal email client is missing.
The Calendar, Task and phonebook can synchronize with your PC if you have Mobile Phone Tools.
Calendar, File Manager, Alarm Clock, World Cock, calculator, task list, notepad.
The alarm is slightly confusing if you just want to set a one time alarm. The way the interface is setup it looks like it wants you to choose an alarm that goes off on certain days of the week. To set a one time alarm, ignore the days of the week and just choose a one time only alarm. Otherwise I like how you can choose which days of the week to have an alarm sound.
Incoming sound quality is quite good, there’s a tiny bit of background hiss but it’s not obtrusive. RF performance is average.
Maximum earpiece volume is adequate.
Haptics aside, the ROKR E8 is a pretty normal phone. I liked the included HTML compatible browser and the built-in music player isn’t bad. I’m not impressed with the limited Rogers email client and I’m even less impressed that the email program that is normally built into Motorola phones is missing. You can change the softkey shortcuts or the music key. The menus are also slower than what I’ve come to expect from Motorola.
That said I still liked the E8. The keypad is a much better conversation starter than pulling out a Smart phone and trying to explain how fast the processor is, how much memory it has, that sort of thing. Anyone can appreciate it when you turn the E8 off, turn it back on and let someone play with it while it’s turning on.
Entry Filed under: Phones