Sunday, December 31, 2006

Motorola the KRAZR and the RIZR

Motorola continues to drop its vowels--and pick up plaudits. Its new cell phones, the KRAZR and the RIZR (that's "k-razor" and "riser" if you're not familiar with the naming convention), continue the tradition of small, sleek designs that Motorola began with its widely successful RAZR. Initial reviews have been largely good.

First up, the KRAZR. Slightly thicker but not as wide as the RAZR, the KRAZR comes in two colors for the fashion conscious: a dark grey and a cosmic blue. Its case is made of chrome, magnesium, and a well-buffed glass. And while it's small, it offers all the features you'd expect to find on a solid midrange handset, including a digital camera with video capture, Bluetooth, a WAP browser, EDGE data connectivity, a speakerphone, a music player, and 20 MB of internal memory that you can expand to 1 GB with a MicroSD card.

Of course, it's not without its flaws, though reviewers seem to find them minor. The MicroSD card, for one, sits inside the battery cover, which makes it hard to insert and remove. And the phone's on-board "imager" (Motorola's new term for a camera) is only 1.3 megapixels when other phones have made the jump to 2.0 megapixels.


Next up is the RIZR, so named because it's a slider phone in which one element rises out of the other, as opposed to folding clamshell designs which tend to fit the curvature of the face and jaw slightly better.

The RIZR offers all the goodies and gadgets the KRAZR does, including the on-board camera (with 2 megapixels, not 1.3), Bluetooth, a WAP browser, EDGE, a speakerphone, and a music player. And like its brother the KRAZR, the RIZR has a flew minor flaws. For instance, its power, mini-USB, and headset jacks all use the same port, meaning you can't re-charge the phone if you're grooving to Andy Williams' greatest hits--which perhaps no self-respecting RIZR owner would do in any case.


Both the KRAZR and the RIZR boast music players, which is fast becoming a commonplace on so-called converged handsets that combine everything from contact management to video e-mail to instant messaging and texting to your favorite tunes. "Sooner or later, it's apparent that a large percentage of digital music will be converged to cell phones," said Avi Greengart, a cell phone expert at research firm Current Analysis.

The trend is large enough--and lucrative enough--to attract not only the major phone makers but music vendors as well. Take Apple, whose rumored iPod phone will grab headlines and market share if and when Jobs & Co. choose to release it.

"If Apple does nothing, then the market for the current standalone iPod Nano will diminish over time," said Greengart, "because people are already carrying cell phones and cell phone storage capacity is growing."

But late is better than never. "If Apple gets there now," he added, "they can take a piece of that market and defend their share. If it doesn't, it just sits and waits for somebody to beat them, and somebody will beat them."

Could that someone be Motorola? Only time will tell.

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