Quick Rant: Android Portable Media Players Are Not Just A Waste Of Consumers’ Time And Money, But A Waste Of Time And Money From Android Manufacturers As Well

by Roy Alugbue on
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As Android continues to grow as the preferred ecosystem among people worldwide, we are seeing an explosion of innovative and impressive devices. I’m not talking about an explosion of just smartphones either. We are seeing an explosion of devices designed to improve your TV, full-fledged gaming systems, innovative tablets and even a nifty camera or two. Now while those type of Android devices are impressive and all, there’s a type of Android device that I failed to mention and for good reason— Android portable media players or PMPs for short. Android PMPs are neither innovative nor impressive– compared to other Android counterparts. Generally speaking, Android manufacturers generate buzz and excitement for various products, yet consumers never hear anything about PMPs and see any real excitement or reason to talk about them. Knowing there’s no real push or excitement for PMPs, is it really important for Android fanatics or even the average consumer to go out and buy a PMP? More importantly, is it important for manufacturing giants like Samsung to continue churning out PMPs, despite there being no major push or excitement these devices? I will respectfully say no to both questions.

In the interest of full disclosure— even though I am an editor of this great Android website and have a great deal of passion for the Android ecosystem, I’m by no means an Android fanboy. I own numerous Apple products including an iPod Touch for my commutes on the New York City Subway or for use when working out. I love technology as a whole— but when it comes to having my personal media player on the go— music, video, pictures and gaming for example— I would rather use an Apple iPod Touch before using an Android PMP, without hesitation. The Apple iPod Touch has set the standard when it comes to managing a consumer’s personal media, while giving the same consumers items like an impressive display, abundant number of applications and plenty of accessories for starters. Android PMPs on the other hand often feature uninspired designs, horrendous features (i.e. lackluster displays or Gingerbread) and few, if any accessories available. Simply put, Android PMPs are a waste of money and resources for consumers and manufacturers and that’s why the average consumer should not even bother with Android PMPs. I’m sure many of you are interested in seeing my reasoning for my strong claim, so go ahead and jump past the break to see my thoughts in greater detail.

 

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way— Android PMPs don’t really offer anything too compelling to the average consumer, unlike Apple’s iPod Touch. First thing’s first— like any Android product, there’s a couple of options available when it comes to PMPs. For now, the most notable PMPs at this time are Samsung’s Galaxy Player line and Sony’s Walkman Z, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Sony’s Walkman Z has great music management software and a 4.3-inch display as the most notable features. The Walkman Z also harks back to the the good ol’ days of the original Walkman where quality sound is emphasized, while allowing you to hold and organize all those albums and mixes you might have in a simplified and efficient manner.

 

The Galaxy Player line from Samsung is another offering with a couple of strengths at this time. As of this writing, Samsung has developed several variations of the Galaxy Player ranging from 3.6-inches to a whopping 5.8-inches. While the Galaxy Players aren’t really known for quality sound or perfect music management, there’s still the ability to play back media with ease. Oh and it helps that both the general designs are fairly acceptable, while the operating system software is fairly straightforward and user-friendly.

It’s certainly good that there’s a few Android options available which caters to different types of consumers, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best options available for people on the go. Take the Walkman Z for example. It has an acceptable dual-core Tegra 2 chip powering the device, yet it has a mediocre display and worse, Gingerbread 2.3 operating the device. This is a major negative because Gingerbread 2.3 is a dated OS and hinders the device’s overall potential. What’s worse about this is that the newer Ice Cream Sandwich would offer an enhanced multimedia experience for the Walkman Z, as it does for other Android devices. Moreover, it doesn’t help the cost of the device is steep— in fact, unacceptable. At the time of this writing, the 16GB Walkman Z is priced at $279.99, while a new 5th-generation 32GB iPod Touch will be priced at $299 or a 16GB iPod Nano will run about $150. The Walkman F800 will essentially be the Walkman Z with Android 4.0, yet the device has yet to be released to the masses. So for now— the Walkman Z is the best Sony PMP available.

Don’t forget about Samsung either– it has a history of churning out products just for the fun of it. At this time, the Galaxy 5.0 is the most recent Samsung PMP on the market right now, but it too features Gingerbread 2.3, coupled with items such as a lackluster single-core processor. Unlike Sony which did a good job of marketing the Walkman Z as a solid alternative to the iPod, the Galaxy Player line seems to go through an identity crisis. Besides playing music and video, what is it that is noteworthy about this Galaxy Player? Is it the fact you can run most Android apps on it? Is it the fact there’s a microSD slot available? Is it the built-in FM tuner? Perhaps the upcoming Galaxy Player 5.8 will generate some excitement in the PMP world— especially with its attractive design, but let’s just hope the 5.8-inch size and questionable display resolution doesn’t turn too many people off.

 

 

The Apple iPod Touch on the other hand, has a simple and straightforward formula that has worked since the original iPod: give consumers a simple and straightforward way to use and consumer media and give them the accessories they want to compliment the PMP. The iPod Touch models have a simplified design that’s not too big or not too small, has an intuitive music and video interface, incredible sound management thanks to optimized equalizer options and a significantly bigger application store for those who like to do more with their devices like play games or stream music. In addition, Apple has numerous partners to ensure iPod Touch models can be used not just in your pockets. From 1st generation to 4th generation models, there are a number of docks and connectors available, as well as armbands and cases for those who like to workout like me. The newly-released 5th generation iPod Touch will use a new connector, but there will be converter adapter accessories to allow the newly released model to work with legacy accessories. And at the very least, you can bet that lots of new accessories will arrive for the new iPod within weeks of its release.

 

 

 

You’ll be hard-pressed to argue the same for Android PMPs in general. One of my biggest complaints of Android PMPs are the lack of accessories available, compared to those available for the iPod Touch. The most notable accessories currently available for most Android PMPs are some sort of audio-in or HDMI cable– maybe a DLNA dongle or wired external speaker as well. But generally speaking, there are so little types of accessories available for Android PMPs. There are no real partnerships between Android manufacturers and the manufacturers of accessories out there. You can find plenty alarm clock docks or even specialized armbands and cases among other things for all iPod touch devices. Heck, Apple even has partnerships with major companies such as Nike which has developed fine products such as one of my favorite accessories imaginable— the Nike+ Fuelband accessory. Android manufacturers don’t seem to put the same type of effort in creating a compelling PMP nor do they try to develop and/or cultivate relationships with other product brands in order to enhance the value and purpose of the PMP. The point is Android manufacturers don’t seem to put much effort into PMPs as they do smartphones or tablets, so why should a consumer bother spending his or her hard-earned cash into a device with ultimately no support? Apple has it right where it not only offers a straightforward, yet complete media player for the average consumer, but also welcomes numerous addons for the same product— making it a complete product as in addition to being a complete media player. That’s the bigger picture.

So here’s the bottom line of my rant: if you want an Android-based PMP, stick with using your Android smartphone or tablet instead of wasting money for a separate Android PMP. There’s much more time, energy and support for smartphones as they have transformed into a de facto entertainment hub. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy S III has numerous updates being pushed to the smartphone in addition to a gorgeous display. HTC smartphones have a certain Beats Audio influence, so you know that music and video will sound and look better compared to the competition. Android devices have turned into devices that go beyond just the absolute basics. We play our video games, we look at video and listen to our music in greater quality than we’ve ever seen before. After all, when we buy our devices, we expect to get maximized potential which includes consuming our personal media. The same cannot be said for Android PMPs as consumers are paying a premium cost for an average product. Simply put, as of right now, Android PMPs stink and the manufacturers of these horrendous devices need to go back to the drawing board if they plan on releasing more devices to consumers. This is something all Android owners worldwide should think about.

» See more articles by Roy Alugbue


Categorized as Android News, Android Rants, Unique

  • Devin

    I have an Android 2.3 powered WATCH with mp3 and amazing exercise capabilities . It also contains GPS, wifi and Bluetooth. Its the Motorola MOTOACTV and I love it. I tether it to my phone which runs ICS. Anything I really need to do, I can do on my phone so there is no real point in this watch having ICS or JB.

  • http://MyShocker.com Nudo

    I think its a good way to get kids into Android.

  • http://twitter.com/jackh0lt Jack Holt

    I’d agree with Nudo, but you have a solid article here Roy. Apple has the portable music player down to a science. I would love an Android based media player but a 5.8 inch player doesn’t scream portability for me. I can’t go on a run with a damned tablet on my arm.

    But the kicker is, everyone is starting to use their phones as their all-in-one device. I see more people with iPhones and I often use my Android device when I’m exercising for its media playback. Good article sir.

  • Chris Lucier

    Roy, you’re a runner (or at least you used to be), so you should know plenty about competition. Usain Bolt has set the records as high as they are, does that mean that all other challengers should throw in the towel and stay off the track?

    The iPod line-up does currently have the #1 spot in portable media. But saying that Android has no business attempting to compete would be like telling Steve Jobs not to create his own company back when Microsoft was starting out.

    The biggest complaint I hear of most Android devices is battery life. A problem which has been getting better with each new device. Also, keep in mind that a media player wouldn’t need a data connection. Wifi would be sufficient for most. This would give any potential Android media device a big advantage over using our phones to do the same thing.

    I own an iPod shuffle and have owned an iPod Touch prior to that. Personally, I’d love to see some competition in this market. Android is in the perfect position to learn from it’s competitors and make a device that can compete. You might not be an Android fanboy/fanatic, but there are plenty of people who are. Enough to make such a device completely worthwhile if it is marketed and sold competitively.

  • Todd Martineau

    Interesting article for sure. I have three kids and have been looking for devices that I can buy for them. So far we have been handing down our older Android phones (Droid Incredible) and they have had fun with those.

    However, it seems there aren’t many products available that are new that would fit my needs.
    I don’t like Apple products so I’m not going to be interested in supporting/buying Ipods. I don’t want to deal with iTunes and don’t want to support Apple. Also, it just seems that much easier if everyone in the house is using the same ecosystem/OS as far as managing it all goes.
    I don’t want tablets either; too big for on the go and can’t fit in the kid’s pockets. Also I am worried they’d break the glass due to the extra size and weight. The phone form factor seems like a good size for them. Even the larger Samsung isn’t too big but a 7″ tablet is not really pocketable.

    So when I saw Android PMPs available I wondered if they would be good enough to replace the phones they use now. In this case I don’t really need any accessories except for a case. Hopefully at least that is available.

    I thought I had at last found an Android device that was smallish and had a reasonable price tag for a new product that wasn’t subsidized by a cell carrier. What really killed it for me was the low resolution camera (3.2 MP). The kids are used to the 8MP of their Droid Incredibles and since they seem to love taking photos and videos I’m sure they would notice if the resolution dropped by 5MP.

    The best plan I have for now is to pick up a couple Samsung S3s next year used when the S4s come out.

    Anyway, just wanted to share another perspective. I think there are at least some people who would be interested in an Android device that wasn’t a phone. (i.e. kids who don’t have a cell plan) Too bad the hardware isn’t really up to spec. from OS (Gingerbread) to CPU to camera.

    Thanks for the article.

  • vikings football

    i have the samsung media player with the 5inch screen. i use it as my VERY PORTABLE internet tablet. i also have a samsung galaxy tab 2 7inch, i like the form factor, but for me the 5 inch media player is my go to portable internet device.

    im looking forward to the samsung media player 5.8inch screen, as i think that will be my max limit, as far as portability size goes.

    the recent samsung media players are basicallly smaller android tablets really…to say its a waste of time and money making those media players is like saying its a waste of time and money making those 7 inch and bigger android tablets.

    you can also call those 7 inch and bigger android tablets a media player.

  • RTWright

    Roy, you’re being kinda hypocritical with this article in a way. You’re saying there is no place for any Android PMP Devices and you are, sorry to say this, wrong. Why? Apple did pave a way into this, but it was Creative Labs that had put out one of the first PMP devices way back in the day. Their’s never caught on though, not to the level of Apple’s iPod.

    I’m no fanboy to anyone. But if I were a parent and I could get a device for my child that would permit them to listen to music, watch videos, play a few games, download on a WiFi connection without having to pay for them to have a phone service? I’d get them an Android one no questions asked. Because I know full well they have the exact same level of quality as far as playback of video and sound goes as the iPods do, my GSIII certainly does.

    The only real thing missing on an Android PMP is Syncing with a PC or Mac, they need a software that is a direct replacement of iTunes. Because some of us do not want to use iTunes. Now I’m not just talking about standard file syncing, I’m talking about media file syncing. Kies is horrible at it on some systems because it’s not compatible with 64bit systems fully. I know PowerAmp is working on doing such things as being able to sync with iTunes, but I’d prefer them make a PC based software like iTunes and let me use it to sync with my Android.

    The thing is, don’t shoot Android out of the water. There are apps like DoubleTwist that is like iTunes. There is a lot of progress being made here that has not come full circle yet, but you’re acting like why bother? There is very much a reason for buying a PMP device. As far as the screen size goes, 5″ or even 5.8″ is not a tablet size by no means and is completely manageable. I would not want to go any bigger though, because that would be a tablet by then. My GSIII is of perfect size in my opinion and would be perfect size for a PMP from Samsung.

    PMP’s tend to use less battery power because they don’t have all the background phone service stuff running. The only times they have any issue is the screen being on long. Which is a problem with all large screen devices, the screens cause a lot of heat, they eat up battery power fast, so the longer they’re on the worse that gets. As long as the screens shut off and go to rest mode while the music is playing, it should not matter though. You don’t have 3G/4G/LTE services on them so that’s a lot less of a drain right there.

    Some people just want something to have when they don’t want to be disturbed by their phone too. Like, let me leave my PHONE at home and just go out and have my PMP with me to listen to music. Yes, my phone can do all of this, but you know as well as I do, if you have your phone, you can easily be distracted by calls or wanting to make calls. Sometimes we just want to be alone with just our music, videos or games just to get out and about.

    Myself I fall under the category of having my phone device being all in one. I use it for everything. But I can still see the need for PMP’s and I see Android coming into this just fine. Just because you own an iPod doesn’t mean someone else wants one. It’s all about freedom of choice!

  • someone

    I’ve been using my cell phone as a pmp for the past 10 years, well before smart phones. I have never owned, nor see the need to ever buy a pmp for myself.

    Maybe for kids, sure, but there’s nothing wrong with a tablet (n7, kindle fire) or the like.

    Additionally, with selective purchasing, you can get Bluetooth and HDMI capabilities, rendering the need foe proprietary docks and the like pointless.

    That is to say, I completely disagree with your article.

  • Joe Avery

    For me I would pay more for a non-Apple device just to not need to use iTunes. Sorry, but I’m a Linux user and they don’t have a version for me.
    Also while a lot of people seem to think that Apple products should cost more, I feel that Player to Player the Galaxy to the iTouch your looking at nearly the same quality and thus the same price point.
    While You may like the very limited scope of the iTouches capabilities I see a lot of kids Jail break them to make phone calls and use them for iMessage. If all you want is a music player great but your basically saying that no one uses an iTouch for more then that, and that is not true. Android is more capable for these people who want more from it.
    I think we need more PMP’s, one from each company. I would like to see more competitive specs on size and function, as I agree that they typically are not as good as their Phone counterparts. Also I’d like to see a lower price point.
    I almost bought a galaxy 5 for my self and for my son. But the price point was a little high. I still might. He isn’t getting a phone yet (not a smart phone) but could really use something to do video conference, text messaging and other stuff on. Full Android market access means there is 100′s of thousands of apps for it. The other option is to get him a 7″ tablet, like a nexus7 or a Samsung Galaxy tab2 7.0 the main advantage to the tablet is homework, surfing the web and connecting keyboard mouse seems less strange. But then the PMP is much more mobile.

  • cooldoods

    It’s good that you’re airing out your disappointment with OS updates and pricing for Android PMPs, maybe the manufacturers will take note. That said, you don’t seem to know a lot about accessories for Android devices. Yes there are fewer choices owing to the large selection of devices but there are cases, fitness devices, and speaker docks available for Android devices.

  • benlg

    you obviously don’t know what an ecosystem is!
    it include the closed as heck software suite called itunes and its stores… the common mortals should be able to switch and share between all their mobile devices. throw an iTunes locked device in there and you’re waisting cr__ loads of money

  • ari_free

    I think a Samsung ‘vita’ or ‘gameboy’ would be a better idea.

  • http://twitter.com/13MattR Matt Rawson

    So you ate an Apple fanboy eh? Go do some research before telling people this stuff. Just go top Sony’s website and look up the don’t Walkman nwz-f800 series! It’s simply got the best audio quality you can ever dream of on a pump right now. Android 4.0, tegra 2 dual-core processor, standard display quality, and frankly, yes, yes, there is the ability to customize WITHOUT harrowing! The only thing (in my opinion of course) that is better on the iPod touch, is the display, and the look and feel of the device. Other then that you may add well buy a 3rd gen iPod touch and it would still get done what the 5 gen does, just a bit slower, it’s all the same and never changes. So apple iPod touch fanboy, research it.

  • Neon Liz

    I don’t have any of the players you mentioned. As long as it plays my music, I don’t care whether or not it’s an apple or an android.