Motorola SLVR MP3 Bit Rate Limitations

This evening I spent some time figuring out how to use iTunes in my new cell phone – the Motorola SLVR L7. And some might say “Uh… figure out how to use iTunes? And you’re a geek??

Yes, that’s how I felt as well. I kept trying to add songs to the phone, and iTunes would respond with this cryptic message: “Some of the songs were not copied to the mobile phone… because they cannot be played”. What? Why not? I kept scratching my head trying to figure out, “Why? What is wrong with these songs? They work everywhere else… and it’s not a DRM issue.”

I rip all my songs at 320k, variable bit rate, highest quality. I have no trouble playing them on my Mac, on my PCs, or on my iPod. But the Motorola SLVR apparently has some sort of bit-rate limit. What is the limit? I don’t know. I searched everywhere, and could not find any mention of any such limit anywhere.

So, I began trial and error. 320k without variable bit rate – nope. 128k – yes. 256k? Nope. 192k? Yes. But… what about all the music I already have, which is all at 320k VBR?

After an hour of googling, I found mention of a new “Phone” tab that gets added to the iTunes preferences panel (or dialog, in Windows speak). Then I figured out that the phone has to be physically connected to get this tab to show up. Then I studied the tab, and checked an item that says “Convert higher bit rate songs to 128kbps AAC”. I checked this – and problem solved.

Now iTunes, when the phone is connected, converts my songs to a lower-bit rate and then copies them to the phone. Needless to say, this takes forever, added on top of the already long time it takes for the SLVR to sync up to the computer in the first place (apparently, it’s a USB 1.1 device).

This is the latest and greatest in the “non-helpful error message” category. Would it kill Apple to create an error message that tells me the problem – like “This phone only supports bit rates up to 128K. Please change the settings in the Phone section of iTunes preferences”.

Also… nowhere (or at least nowhere that I can find) on Motorola or Apple’s site is any mention made of this bit-rate limitation. It just says “Plays MP3s”. Again, would it kill them to add a statement “Mp3s up to 128k bit rate”, or something to that effect?

I hate it when I have to spend hours figuring out something that the people who created this could have easily written down. I expect better from Apple. And why is the phone limited in this way? Every iPod I’ve owned can play whatever bit rate is thrown at it.

Having vented all of that, I will say that now that I’ve got that all figured out, it works fairly well. Awfully complicated to keep track of, however.

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