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.