Motorola has replaced the usual mess o' buttons on its candybar ROKR E8 cell with a blank black touchpad (not screen) that lights up the appropriate backlit control icons or numbers to match what you want the phone to do. The default array is for the phone, natch. But touch the music key, and the white numbers change to track transport controls. Press the camera button and you get camera controls.
Best of all, even though the phone is solid, it features haptics technology, which provides faux tactile response to let you know that you've pushed a button. The 2-inch LCD also automatically orients itself vertically or horizontally ala iPhone. As you can see, blank or lit up, the ROKR E8 a really sleek looking phone.
For navigation there's a funny and cool 270-degree scroll wheel. Instead of running your finger around in circles the scroll through a long list ala the iPod, the further to the left or right you go, the faster the list moves; holding you finger down at the end of the control arc (it's not really a "wheel" per se), the list continues to roll.
ROKR E8 is a GSM phone equipped with an MP3 player, 4 GB of internal memory expandable via a microSD card slot, the new standard microUSB power jack, a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, and a 2 MP camera. Like all really cool phones, the E8 will be available in Europe and Asia in the next couple of months, and then the U.S. later this year, we hope. If and when we see the ROKR E8 on this continent this year, it'll probably run you between $199-$249 before the usual rebates and contract stipulations.