What Was the Worst Phone in Apple History

Smartphone makers love to do collaborations with other brands. These stories used to happen more often: brands weren’t afraid to experiment with the design and filling of their devices. Nowadays, this happens much less often: you don’t want to take risks, the competition is too high. That is why smaller companies, even if they participate in a collaboration with someone, the product is really one-of-a-kind, and the action itself is fleeting. Apple is involved in this too: the red iPhones (PRODUCT) RED are the result of collaboration with a charitable organization. But this success story is not about money at all, but about image and, of course, charity. But there is one case where Apple’s collaboration with another brand completely failed. About this we will talk.

We tell the story of one Apple device failure


  • Apple’s first phone
  • Apple’s worst device
  • iTunes: pros and cons
  • When did the iPod Nano come out?

Apple’s first phone

The Motorola ROKR E1 phone had a separate iTunes call button

In the mid-00s, the iPod became mega-popular, becoming the leader in the portable player segment. The fear was that cell phones were becoming more popular every day, the first more or less sensible, albeit clumsy smartphones were already beginning to appear. Apple had an agreement in principle to cooperate with Motorola, which they decided to take advantage of by creating an unusual commercial product. Instead of spending the effort to create a new device, the already popular Motorola E398 phone was used, at the suggestion of Motorola’s marketing director Jeffrey Frost. Apple didn’t really want to promote an existing product: Steve Jobs wanted to show something completely new, but there was no time to think about it, and getting out to the carriers was necessary – the companies shook hands, starting to develop iTunes for this device.

Apple’s Worst Device

Alas, the two companies had different goals in creating the phone

Apple was pursuing its goal, while Motorola did not know what to do with the future ROKR E1, why it is needed – in this vein, as they say, with the sleeves, and worked on the device. In 2005, a working version of iTunes for Motorola E398 was created. The E1 prototype was even presented at CES, without Apple’s consent. This is absolutely not a partnership approach, in the future Steve Jobs is sure to remember it, messing with Motorola, which is confident in its immutability and irreplaceability. It is hard to argue with this – then the company was very successful and popular, of course, Motorola can consider itself the main in this duo and put their demands. There are disagreements between the two companies, which only complicates the process of developing a problematic phone.

iTunes: pros and cons

Motorola prepared the device just in time: they named the model ROKR E1, adding a special iTunes player key, while choosing a white body color. Otherwise – the same E398. The idea behind Motorola’s promotional video presentation was that all musicians are now in a single device running iTunes. Convenient? Absolutely. The only question is that an identical Motorola E398 phone is much cheaper, and there are more features. Because of iTunes, none of the purchased songs can be set to ring – all this happens at the request of the telecom operator Cingular, which sells these tunes, making good money on this. In general, the device does not surprise any potential buyers or journalists.

When did the iPod Nano appear?

The ROKR E1 had a limit of 100 songs. There was no limit on the iPod Nano.

Steve Jobs introduced the novelty in his own way. Rumor has it that he picked up the device for the first time before the presentation – so uninterested was he in the fate of the joint product. While on stage he makes a call, after which he can’t resume playing music – seemingly a trifle, no big deal. He presents the iPod Nano to the public without warning Motorola. It turns out that they wanted to present the ROKR E1, but presented the iPod Nano. Later they would write about the phone, that it was the biggest mistake, it would be in the ratings of the worst devices of its time. Motorola even tried to save sales by removing iTunes from the phone, leaving the usual player. The iPod Nano, on the other hand, is doing just fine – it’s becoming a bestseller, liked by everyone without exception. In general, the fact that Apple had something to do with the failure of the phone is rarely remembered – mostly Motorola is blamed. Well, they also bring up the cultural difference between the two companies.

Apple executives took advantage of Motorola, getting everything they needed from the company to develop their own device, from knowing the carriers to understanding developments in the industry. Alas, this is business. Motorola is the loser. Perhaps if the company had interacted more with Apple without trying to cash in on an existing device again, things would have been very different. Only about a million ROKR E1s have been sold worldwide, many times less than the iPod Nano sold. Motorola was still trying to promote the ROKR line for a long time – at any rate, the design of the devices was certainly cool. Who knows – if the companies had worked out then, there would have been no conflicts and disputes, perhaps we would not have the familiar iPhone. However, that’s another story.