Motorola Morrison surfaces: The iPhone the ROKR should have been?

Schaumburg (IL) – Following Motorola’s original announcement that the company would build Google Android-based cellphones, we are now seeing first sketches of the device and are reading about leaked specifications. And if those information pieces are in fact accurate, we now know that Motorola’s iPhone rival will look pretty much like an iPhone with a slider keyboard. And, of course, we wonder why it has taken Motorola almost five years to come up with an iTunes phone that actually may work.


Better late than never comes to mind when I am thinking about first news of the Motorola Sholes and Morrison cell phones, both of which will be based on the Android operating system and, let’s be honest, clone much of the functionality a bunch of today’s smartphones – such as the iPhone or the Palm Pre – already offer.

It is somewhat astounding to remember that Motorola was the first company to actually offer an “iPhone” back in 2005 – back then it was called the ROKR and described as an iTunes-compatible phone – but it is actually the last of the big cellphone makers to unveil a true iPhone rival. The ROKR was pitched by Steve Jobs himself, but obviously was the iPhone Apple never wanted. It entirely failed to appeal to customers. It was a lesson that repackaging the then successful RAZR phone and painting it Apple-white simply did not work.

2005 and even 2006 were very successful years for Motorola’s mobile division and allowed the company to be lazy. But the RAZR got old and Motorola had no real replacement and dropped down the sales charts. Today, Motorola’s phone business is rather confusing, it is expected to be spun off and there is no phone that can truly compete in the quickly growing smart phone market. So, can Android and an iPhone-Pre-Blackberry-clone save the troubled Motorola?

The specs of the Morrison phone are not quite earth shattering, but promising. According to Softpedia, the device will run on a Qualcomm MSM7201A 528 MHz processor, 256 MB of RAM and 512 MB of flash memory. The slider phone will have a 320 x 480 pixel display, a 5-megapixel camera and a 3.5mm headphone jack (as well as stereo out.) Rumors include a 4-way accelerometer, a magnetometer, proximity and ambient light sensors, and an E-compass. Connectivity options include Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, A2DP (AVRCP, GAP, HFP 1.5, HSP, SDAP, SPP profiles are also supported), A-GPS, as well as Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g. Oh, and the device will support GSM 850/900/1800/1900, W-CDMA 900/(1700 or 1900)/2100 bands.

If these specifications are true, then we should expect a Nokia N97-like device (without the Nokia’s standard 32 GB memory), which however will cost far less than the Nokia – which retails for $700. In fact, the rumored Morrison may cost only $100 with a 2-year contract. Conceivably, then Motorola may have a very capable device in the works that, in combination with the Android software, may be one of the most capable iPhone alternatives that are on the market today. The targeted release of the Morrison seems to be October 21 and if we believe current rumors, it may be worth the wait.

To us, Morrison surely is the iPhone the ROKR should have been, but whether it can repeat the success of the RAZR or whether the Morrison will be just another smart phone in a very competitive market that increasingly lacks differentiation remains to be seen. And to enable Motorola to cash in, the Morrison may actually be too late.