Apple iPod division head: iPod and mobile phones best left separate

“In an interview with the German daily Berliner Zeitung on Monday, Apple vice president and iPod division head Jon Rubenstein expressed his feelings on the convergence of music devices and cell phones, saying the devices are best left separate,” Ed Oswald reports for BetaNews. “The remarks were published the same day Motorola CEO Ed Zander was criticized in the media over his ‘Screw the nano’ statement made at a leadership conference in California on Friday. The recent comments made by either side — whether a joke or not — emphasize just how tenuous the Apple-Motorola relationship may be.”

“‘Is there a toaster that also knows how to brew coffee? There is no such combined device, because it would not make anything better than an individual toaster or coffee machine,’ Rubenstein argued. ‘It works the same way with the iPod, the digital camera or mobile phone: it is important to have specialized devices,'” Oswald reports.

Full article here.
This isn’t about toasters and coffee. This is about two devices that many people carry around all day long. Anyone can look at an iPod nano and any of today’s tiny cell phones and imagine them as one unit. Physical size isn’t an issue. Storage space isn’t an issue. Even battery life isn’t that much of an issue. It can be done and it will be done, but it would take a company like Apple to do it well. As we’ve said before, make a phone that accepts or clips onto an iPod nano and, presto, you have two devices that can be one for those that want one. Also, you can sell them separately.

The “Apple iPhone” as an iPod accessory would work best. When the two are married, the screen and battery (all or some of the power) come from the iPod and the phone necessities (buttons, internals) are in the “iPhone” unit that the iPod slips into or that slips onto the iPod. Perhaps the iPhone doesn’t even work without an iPod. There are many ways to approach this and, like Jobs’ initial comments that putting an iMac behind a screen wasn’t the best solution and then later debuting the iMac G5, we hope Apple’s just diverting competitors’ attention while working hard on ideas.

If you don’t want an iPhone for your iPod, don’t buy one; just like people who don’t want or need their iPod to record voices don’t buy add-on voice recorders. But, we bet there are many, many of the tens of millions of iPod users who’d love to buy an Apple iPhone to add important functionality to their iPod and only have to lug around one (okay, a “unified”) device instead of two.

Related articles:
If Apple isn’t working on their own iPhone, they’re making a stupid mistake – September 12, 2005

Fortune’s Lewis: Apple iTunes software the only cute thing about Motorola’s ROKR mobile phone – September 21, 2005
Consumer Reports: Apple’s iPod nano ‘sizzles,’ Motorola ROKR mobile phone ‘fizzles’ – September 21, 2005
BBC: Motorola ROKR iTunes mobile phone design ‘feels like yesterday’s phone by UK standards’ – September 17, 2005
Hands on review of Motorola ROKR Apple iTunes mobile phone – September 12, 2005
Motorola ROKR iTunes-enabled mobile phone greeted with cool response – September 12, 2005
Music phones pose no threat to Apple iPod – September 09, 2005
Does Apple need a mobile phone of its own design? – September 09, 2005
USA Today: Motorola ROKR iTunes mobile phone provides ‘snazzy’ first impression – September 08, 2005
NYT’s Pogue: Motorola ROKR iTunes phone ‘great-sounding, reasonably priced and a lot of fun’ – September 08, 2005
Apple’s iPod nano will make competitors whimper, Motorola’s ROKR inexplicably bland – September 07, 2005
Tech pundit Enderle: ‘iPod Nano is a hit,’ Motorola ROKR ‘simply doesn’t have enough Apple in it’ – September 07, 2005
Apple announces Motorola ROKR iTunes phone, Cingular partnership, iTunes 5 – September 07, 2005
Apple, Motorola & Cingular debut world’s first iTunes mobile phone – September 07, 2005
Motorola ROKR Apple iTunes mobile phone availability dates for Europe, North America, and Asia – September 07, 2005


  1. Toasters and Coffee Makers =/= ipods and phones

    iPods and phones share components:
    – batteries
    – screens
    – input devices
    – often carried together

    toasts and coffee makers share:
    – power cord
    – groggy morning users often using together

    So it DOES make sense to share the ipod and phone. Sure there will always be a need for “just” and ipod, but the phone/PDA iPod makes sense too – especially in lower capacity flash versions a la the ROKR (though 100 is just too few songs).

    Come on Apple, (f)i(g)Newton us!

    MDN word: think

  2. I’m with Apple on this one. I don’t think the MDN idea will ever happen. The most succesful products are always the simple ones. The ones that do one thing very well. I have no desire to unite my phone and iPod.

  3. kit n kaboodle,

    Obviously not, as MDN are disagreeing with Jobs’ and Rubenstein’s publicly stated positions and hoping that Jobs & Co. are just blowing smoke while they’re actually working on a great idea. Even more obviously, the ROKR ain’t it. If I could add a phone to my iPod nano that was designed by Apple, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    Jobs has done it before, as MDN stated, with the iMac: said one thing, done another. I hope he’s doing it again with the iPhone idea.

  4. I usually love MDN’s take. However, maybe MDN hasn’t heard of the Apple one button mouse. True the mighty mouse added a button. Point is, Apple is often about simplicity and user experience.

    My Take: Any phone that requires all the “this requires that, and that clips or attaches to this” is just too much.

    A solution for Apple: Bluetooth in the iPod. They don’t need to make a phone. I can keep the phone in my pocket or clipped to my belt like I’m the technology sheriff. I can dial from my iPod, check caller ID on my iPod, accept or ignore calls from my iPod, and talk on my iPod using headphones like the ROKR uses.

    Again, just my take.

  5. Multi-purpose devices aren’t always better. There’s the question of quality, usability and in the end, the cost factor.

    Some people are demanding a video iPod, but for what? What’s the point right now? Just because ‘we can’? And while some people are bleeding edge, the bigger question is would the wider consumer market actually adopt and get to grips with this sort of convergence? Beleive it or not, this what companies like Apple take into consideration.

    Right now, I could care less about an all-in-one anything. I like the seperation. I have enough pockets.

  6. I’m in the middle on this one. I think that a phone/iPod/Camera combination could work for some (assuming that you don’t want the best of anything).

    Personally, I was looking forward to the ROKR for 2 reasons. One, I assumed it would be gorgeous (WRONG on the first count) and two, i expected that it would integrate with the Mac better than most other Motorola phone (WRONG, again).

    The announcement did get me into Cingular and I walked out with a Black RAZR. It’s one of the more attractive phones, but here are my problems with it:

    1) Buttons on the side of the phone. I find these annoying and I’m constantly hitting them when moving the phone in/out of the case.

    2) You can take a picture and attach it to a record in the phone, BUT YOU CAN’T JUST SYNC THE PICTURES IN YOUR APPLE ADDRESS BOOK TO YOUR PHONE. Like I really want to do the same thing twice (I already have the pictures I want in my Apple Address Book, why the hell can’t Motorola just sync themm to the phone). I believe SonyEriccsons can????

    3) Motorola’s user interface is very poorly designed…

    So I guess what I really wanted in the first place was an easy to use, stylish phone that integrates well with the data (including pictures) I already have on my computer and that works reliably on a network that actually covers MOST of the country or better yet, world (a phone should really be about the quality of the phone and the network to which it connects).

    What I personally DON’T need, is SMS/AIM, email, camera, Web capabilities, buying music/ringtones over a phone network. A need a phone that works…

    I hear all this talk about the explosive growth of camera phones, but is that really something the consumer is demanding or is that you can’t even buy a decent phone without a camera (Digital Camera sales are not plummeting as a result of camera phones). My phone has a Camera, but I don’t use it because the picture quality isn’t nearly as good a digital camera and it’s to cumbersome to even get the pictures off of phone.


    I guess what I’m really looking for is an Apple iPhone, and if iPod capabilities could be included without making the device difficult to use, I’d accept it!

  7. Seriously look at the nano. If ever there were a device that proves how easy it would be for them to tap an iPod to the back of a cell phone its the nano.

    hell it seems pretty simple to me

    a flip phone where when closed looks like a nano (a little bigger of course) works like a nano smells like a nano until you get a call. you get a little ring ring and the screen flashes the number and person. Magically you flip open the phone and music cuts out and magically it becomes a phone. talk say buy close the flip phone hit play and you are grooving again. Seems simple and for me perfect.

    Apple can manufacture the the Nano portion of the phone and sell it to which ever cell maker wants it. Hopefully this would keep us from teh frankenphone mess that is the ROKR.

  8. Originally I thought iPhone would make sense, but now after looking at it, I don’t think it makes sense. What may make sense is to think of iPod as the ear phone for a bluetooth enable cell phone. Then the cell phone can stay in a backpack or a purse and people can control the phone from their iPod.

    MS please note: This idea is published, so cannot be patented now…

  9. As a rule, combo units offer lower reliability, lower overall performance and less features.

    I site combo TV/VCR and Combo VCR/DVD player as perfect examples.

    I much prefer to have separate devices.

    You get a better device for each purpose.

  10. Apple might not want to enter the market but….

    Why wouldn’t a phone company want to build a unit that lets a shuffle slide right into the back of it? The phone controls and possible screen could add to the iPod’s functionality.

    You add the benefit of native mp3/aac capability and a 1GB memory module at the same time. Neither device has to waste each other’s power on processing overhead.

  11. You heard it here first: next ipod is not video player, but video recorder. that’s a huge market and why not steal it from sony. make the buttons easier, make delivery easy into iMovie, iDVD.

    iPod video is goign to be a video recorder, not video player.

    Heard it here first.

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