Motorola Rokr Z6 review:

Photo gallery: Motorola Rokr Z6m
Photo gallery:
Motorola Rokr Z6m

For quite some time we’ve been eager to review another cell phone from Motorola’s Rokr series. After the first handset we examined, the Motorola Rokr E1, failed so miserably we were hoping that Motorola would redeem itself (not that it would take much). While a few Rokr handsets have come and gone since that time, we had to wait two years before another U.S. carrier would pick one up. And Alltel finally provided us that opportunity when it rolled out the Motorola Rokr Z6m last month. Though you’d be forgiven if you thought it was a Motorola Rizr handset (it sports the signature slider design), the Z6m’s music focus puts it in the Rokr camp. There’s no iTunes integration–though that’s hardly a bad thing–but it does offer an easy-to-use, if somewhat simple, music player, stereo Bluetooth, a 3.5mm headset jack, and an expandable memory slot for storing all those songs. The Z6m is $129 with service.

As mentioned above, the Motorola Rokr Z6m takes its design straight form the earlier Motorola Rizr Z3 and the more recent Motorola Rizr Z6tv. We can hardly complain about this design choice as we approved of the Z3’s slider style by all accounts. It’s not only easy to use but also eye-catching. Unlike the blue Z3 or the dark gray Z6tv, the Z6m wears a minimalist silver hue. It’s nice and unassuming, yes, but just not very interesting.

Other external features on the Z6m are comparable, but not exactly identical, with the Rizr handsets. Though it has the same dimensions (4.15 inches by 1.79 inches by 0.62 inch) as the Rizr Z3, it’s slightly lighter at 3.7 ounces. That’s such a small difference that you don’t notice the change when holding the phone. And in any case, the Z6m retains a solid and sturdy feel. The slider mechanism is equally well built, and we say again that we love the handy thumb grip just below the display.

The Z6m’s display is just like the Rizr Z6tv’s. It measures 2 inches and supports 65,000 colors. Though that’s a step down from the 262,000-color display on the Rizr Z3, such a change is common on CDMA phones. Colors still looked bright and graphics and animations were sharp. You can change the brightness and the backlight time, but not the font size. Alltel doesn’t have its own menu interface; it uses Moto’s date design instead. On the other hand, the Z6m does support Alltel’s nifty Celltop interface. You can read all about it in our review of Alltel’s Samsung SCH-u520.

The navigation controls consist of a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated music player/camera shortcut, a clear control, and the Talk and End/power buttons. Though everything but the toggle is flush, the navigation array remains easy to use. And for shortcut purposes, you can program the toggle to provide one-touch access to four user-defined functions.

The basic design of the keypad buttons is also the same as on the earlier handsets, but for some reason Motorola or Alltel (or maybe both) decided to slap a random bubble pattern on the keys. It’s an odd move by any measure, but the pattern actually makes the keys harder to use. The swirls and varying colors interfere with the visibility of the numbers on the keys, particularly in direct light. Backlighting helps when you’re in the dark, but ultimately this is not a keypad we love. The Z6m comes with a changeable rear battery cover that matches the pattern.

The external controls consist of a volume rocker, the Motorola smart key, and the headset jack on the left spine, while a voice-dialing button, a handset lock switch, and the mini-USB port are on the right spine. Fortunately, like it did on the Z6tv, Moto moved the memory-card slot from behind the battery to a more convenient location on the top of the phone. The camera lens is located on the Z6m’s rear face, but there’s no self-portrait mirror or flash.

The Rokr Z6m has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, three e-mails, a Web address, three street addresses, a birthday, a nickname, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 28 polyphonic ringtones (the Z6m supports MP3 tones, as well). Other essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, and an alarm clock. Beyond the basics, there’s also stereo Bluetooth, voice recognition, a speakerphone, and a voice recorder.

The Z6m’s camera doesn’t offer a flash or a self-portrait mirror.

With the Z6m’s camera you can take JPEG pictures in four sizes (2 megapixel, 1.3 megapixel, 640×80 pixels, and 320×240 pixels), and choose from three quality settings. Other features include a self-timer, three color effects, five lighting choices, a 5x zoom, and five shutter sounds (plus a silent option).The camcorder shoots MPEG-4 clips in two resolutions (176×144 pixels and 128×96 pixels) with sound; editing options are similar to the still camera. Videos meant for multimedia messages are capped at about 40 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. And speaking of which, the Z6m has just 14MB of integrated memory so we suggest you purchase a memory card.

Photo quality was quite decent. Although some colors were a tad faded, the objects were clearly defined, and our shots weren’t the least bit blurry. It’s too bad there’s no flash–we’d expect one from a megapixel camera–as shots in dim conditions didn’t fare well. On the other hand, the camera picked up a very bright reflection from one of our photo studio’s ceiling lights.

We liked the Z6m’s photo quality.

As a Rokr phone, the Z6m has a digital music player. It does its job well, even if it is somewhat underwhelming. It plays MP3, AAC, AAC+, M4A, and WMA files, and you can organize your tracks by playlist, artist, album, genre, or song name. Features are a bit slim; though the player offers shuffle and repeat modes, there’s no equalizer. Similarly, while the controls are easy to use, the simple interface may be too simple for some people. You can employ one of six visualizations, or display the song details, but the Rokr Z6m does not support album art. When using the player, you can minimize it to the background and its airplane mode will deactivate the phone’s calling function so you can listen to tunes while aloft.

The Z6m doesn’t support wireless music downloads, but loading tracks on the phone is relatively easy. You can download Alltel’s Jump Music software from the carrier’s Web site to organize your tracks on a PC and rip music from a CD. Keep in mind that the Z6m does not support DRM-protected files. When ready, you can transfer music to the handset through Bluetooth, a microSD card, or a USB cable. Unfortunately, you don’t get either in the box so you must purchase them separately. Bad move, Alltel.

You can personalize the Rokr Z6m with a variety of wallpaper, color skins, screensavers, and alert tones. You also can write a customized greeting. You can download more personalization options and additional ringtones using the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The Z6m doesn’t come with any games.


We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900: EV-DO) Rokr Z6m in San Francisco using Alltel’s roaming service. Call quality was pretty good and on par with other Alltel phones we’ve reviewed. Voices sounded natural, and we enjoyed enough volume. There was the tiniest amount of static, but it wasn’t significantly bothersome. Callers said we sounded fine and an automated calling system could understand us. Speakerphone calls were decent, as well, even though the phone’s speaker is on its rear face.

Music quality was equally satisfying. Clarity was relatively sharp, and the speaker delivered decent output. It’s no standalone MP3 player, but it will serve a purpose for short listening periods. The experience is best through a headset.

The Motorola Rokr Z6m has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours talk time and 154 days standby time. We managed to get 3 hours, 50 minutes of talk time in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Z6m has a digital SAR rating of 1.23 watts per kilogram.