30
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Last Updated: May 1st, 2012

The iPod may be dead, baby, dead, but that hasn't stopped Samsung from trying to enter the PMP market. The company's latest iterations of its Player line, the Galaxy Player 3.6 and 4.2, has landed and, not to put anything indelicately, but we're left to wonder why Samsung chose to enter this market, or what the company hopes to accomplish. After using the device for a few days, we're sure it's not going to shake up the media player market.

Before we take a look at this device, though, it seems like it would be appropriate to answer the question "Why?" The most direct corollary to this device is the iPod Touch. Apple introduced the iPod Touch as a way to hedge its marketshare with the iPhone. Apple's smart enough to know that with one device, on one carrier (at the time this device was introduced), it would be difficult to gain critical mass on its own with a wide range of competitors chomping at the bit for smartphone dominance. It also didn't hurt that Apple has the iTunes business to make it a PMP powerhouse.

Samsung, on the other hand, is in a very different position. The Korean company has a wide variety of devices, not just one model. No real noteworthy history in leading the media distribution business to speak of, and most importantly, Samsung has not been a major player in the MP3 player world. Arguably, no one really has but Apple. So what is the Galaxy Player? Is it a poor man's Galaxy S? Is it a high-end MP3 player? Is it a hedge to get as many people addicted to Samsung devices as possible? These are the questions I felt Samsung had to answer with this device. Sadly, it didn't deliver satisfactory answers.

Hardware

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The Galaxy Player is a surprisingly sturdy device. With its 3.6" screen, it's smaller than most of the phones we're used to playing with in the Android world these days, but it feels very solid. It looks slick out of the box. Until you turn it on. The display, a 480x320 TFT display, is quite possibly the worst display I've seen on a device since my old G1. The shock is made particularly strong since this is a Samsung device. Not that we expect a Super AMOLED+ display on a $150 PMP, but when every other Samsung device you turn on has a gorgeous display, it's downright disheartening to see something so dismal-looking.

The processor is a 1GHz Cortex A8. It'll play music just fine, but don't expect this thing to power through advanced games or 1080p video on its own. More on that in a bit. Besides that, the device features a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer, and a 3.5mm headphone jack located on the bottom of the device. This is a particular annoyance of mine, but your mileage may vary.

Here's the rest of the spec sheet:

Specs

  • 3.6" TFT display (158 ppi)
  • 1GHz Hummingbird processor
  • GPS
  • 1200 mAh battery
  • 8GB storage (expandable via microSD card to 32GB)
  • 2MP rear shooter, 0.3MP front camera
  • Android 2.3.6

Software

Oh dear. Where do we begin? For starters, this device is running both an older version of Android (Gingerbread) and an older version of TouchWiz. Coupled with the crappy screen and you have a version of Android that looks awful. Honestly, the screen wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that we know it's never going to look better. The Galaxy Player is conspicuously absent from Samsung's device upgrade page.

Then there's the issue of software to actually play things. This is a Player after all, right? While Google has gotten much, much better at being a content distributor over the past year or so, Samsung elected to put its own apps front-and-center. Samsung's music and video apps come pinned to the dock on the home screen and let's not mince words: they're awful.

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These three images are, quite literally, the entirety of the Videos app.

Opening Samsung's Videos app brought me to a list of one video. No other navigation or instructional elements were present. Press the menu key and you get options to remove items from or sort the list, but absolutely no instructions on how to add new videos or even any settings to mess with. The music app isn't much better. The UI is actually reminiscent of Google's own music app...four versions ago.

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Samsung's music app is similarly bland, if more functional

This wouldn't be that frustrating if it weren't for the fact that Google's own apps are left out. They're available from the Play Store, but they don't come standard on the device. Why in the world a device that is being pitched as a "Player" is replacing Google's most powerful media apps with its own apps that barely function is beyond me. It's almost malicious towards itself.

Over on Apple's side of the world, the iPod Touch makes a certain amount of sense as an "iPhone without the phone." Apple was already really good at personal, portable media. Android has, historically, lacked this strength, but has been making up ground recently. It's not there yet, but it's getting closer. Samsung, however, is actively ignoring this progress and shipping a product with god awful alternatives and hiding the best that Android, as a platform, has to offer. Those options are there, so it's not a reason not to buy the device, but we have to wonder where Samsung's priorities lie. This is made even worse by the fact that Samsung didn't even bother to include its own media apps. The Media Hub that's present on the Galaxy Tab 2 is absent from the Player. Not that I ever found Samsung's hubs to be particularly useful, but it would at least fit with the branding.

One other sticking point, which seems to be a function of an older version of TouchWiz, but bears repeating, is that it is impossible to sort apps in the app drawer at all. All your apps are kind of just dropped in there, iOS-style. While you can manually rearrange them, that's a pain. It's absurd that this feature isn't part of the launcher, as it's been present in Android since day one.

Gaming

To say this device doesn't hold up well in the gaming area is not entirely true. The device comes bundled with Angry Birds (not Angry Birds Space, which is surprising given Samsung's co-promotion with Rovio), and that game plays fairly well. There's a few others that run pretty smoothly, but it's definitely possible to hit a ceiling. Running Fred, a personal favorite, ran particularly sluggish. As long as mobile games stick to being the simple, basic physics and puzzle games that are the most popular right now, you'll be good, but as more and more advanced games come out, count on being left behind with this device.

This is a particularly big let down since, typically, music players are meant to last longer than your phone might. Phones usually get upgraded on a cycle the length of your contract (typically 2 years in the US, sometimes more or less elsewhere in the world). A solid music player, though, could last for a while. This one, however, doesn't feel like it will be able to play modern games even by next year. Except whatever Angry Birds game level pack Rovio puts out.

Sound Quality

The audio quality of this device is average at best. Which, compared to the rest of the device, is actually pretty good. Audiophiles can feel free to take a pass on this one. It's nothing special. In fact, my Epic 4G Touch had nearly identical sound quality. In fact, the E4GT seemed to edge out the Galaxy Player just a tad in hitting the lower frequencies, but only by a hair. All-in-all, if you're not expecting to get professional quality audio out of this device, you won't be disappointed. As with all the other areas, though, don't think that just because this is a dedicated media player that Samsung put the extra effort into making it sound amazing.

Camera

Please don't use the 2MP camera that's included with this thing. If you have a young child, and you want to give them a device that "does apps" so you don't have to get them a phone, fine. They can use this as their "cameraphone". But please, if you are a mature adult, with a job, and you pay your bills and have responsibilities, don't use this camera.

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In anything but broad daylight, the colors look washed out and the photos get incredibly noisy. Again, making the "Samung phone without the phone" comparison, few Samsung phones would be caught dead with a camera this low quality. Take a look at the difference between the two photos below. The first, taken with the Galaxy Player 3.6, and the second, the Epic 4G Touch. The difference is clear.

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Battery Life

The battery life on this device is one of the few high points, thankfully. On a full charge, I took this device on a short road trip. I downloaded several Spotify playlists for local playback and pulled up directions to the place in North Georgia where I was heading, out in the middle of nowhere. For a cumulative 6 hours or so of driving, with GPS and music running the entire way, and the display on more than usual, the battery life never dropped below 50%.

If you're not blasting through your battery on the open road, though, this device can make it into multi-day territory. It hearkens back to the days of dumbphones when, if you didn't put your phone on the charger at night, you might not regret it the following morning. If this is your primary device throughout the day, you might still need a charge each night, but you will rarely need to reach for a charger before you head to bed.

Missing The Point

As I stated earlier in this review, Samsung needs to justify the existence of this device. In a world where smartphones are dirt cheap—even if plans for them aren't—you need a reason to create a dedicated media player. It's possible to get a used (or even new) Android phone from Craigslist for relatively cheap and simply use it without service. Also, now that Google is selling unlocked Galaxy Nexii on the Play Store, even brand new, high-end Android phones can compete with the upper-end of iPod Touches (both the unlocked GSM Nexus and the most expensive iPod Touch are $400), so it's extremely difficult to argue that Android even needs this type of device in its ecosystem.

There is one way to justify the existence of a WiFi-only media player running Android, though: to make it a great media player. Android may not be perfect at putting media in the consumers' hands, but it's safe to say that Android, as a platform, is much better at it than it used to be. A device that put these features at the forefront, instead of hiding them away, could give a much better impression. Samsung could also build new services that improve on Google's offerings.

Unfortunately, Samsung did none of this. Samsung didn't stop at the "phone without a phone" concept. It also removed the high-quality screen, the decent camera, unbundled Google's media apps, and included its own apps which are just terrible, while leaving out its other, better apps. The entire effort seems to be a last-minute, "meh" effort to enter a market that no one asked Samsung to enter.

Conclusion

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To write this device off would be unfair. With an impressive battery life and access to the whole of the Play Store, any device is going to be capable. You can't put WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, a killer battery, and access to a major mobile app store in a device and not expect to be able to do a thousand great things with it. The trouble is, though, justifying it in the face of all the other options.

Once you start comparing the Galaxy Player to other devices—any other devices—it becomes difficult to justify. The $150 price point does make it attractive, but for $50 you could get an iPod Touch with a better quality display, better camera, and access to iTunes (whether that's a boon or a bane is up to you). Even if you want to stick to Android, I was able to find multiple lightly used Galaxy S phones for sale on Craigslist for less than the price of this device. Those would also come with a better screen and better camera. Functionally, they're identical if you never use a cell network with it.

In the end, it's not the worst investment you could make, but that is largely because it runs Android. The Galaxy Player itself is unremarkable and pales in comparison to similar devices. If you want it to listen to music, use some apps, and play some games, and you want something that's cheap, not an Apple product, and sold from a retailer, the Galaxy Player will do the job. It just feels like it could've been so much more.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    Let's not forget that for $50 more you can get an iPod Touch (with less storage, albeit) with an infinitely better display, hugely quicker processor, and a massive library of *compatible* games designed to run on a 3.5" screen. And I thought the Walkman Z was bad.

    • carbonated_turtle

      Why would anyone pay more for an Apple product? This is fast enough to run most Android apps, and isn't locked down by Apple's ridiculous restrictions. I would actually pay $50 more for this.

    • pepperonijack

      $200 is for a 8GB iPod Touch. If 8GB aren't enough for you (honestly 8GB of music is not that much), you have to pay $300 for the 32GB iPod Touch. Compared to $170 for the Galaxy Player with a 32GB sd-card.

  • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

    Kinda dissapointing to see such a low-end display on an otherwise good device :(

  • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

    Galaxy Players make me sad in the pants.

    What the hell Samsung?

    • Jon1123

      Ur moms pussy made me sad wen we found out she has aids... sigh

  • raindog469

    "So what is the Galaxy Player? Is it a poor man's Galaxy S?
    Is it a high-end MP3 player? Is it a hedge to get as many people
    addicted to Samsung devices as possible? These are the questions I felt
    Samsung had to answer with this device. Sadly, it didn't deliver
    satisfactory answers."

    Here's your answer: it's the "smartphone" you give your kid. My nieces each got an iPod for their tenth birthday... the older one got the old-school one with the dial and the hard disk, years ago, and the younger one got an iPod Touch more recently. If I had kids, they'd be getting the Android equivalent, because I support Apple as much as they support my choice of desktop OS (spoiler alert: they don't).

    In other words, you're trying to think of this as a smartphone minus a phone, when in fact it's more like a Nintendo DS plus a future.

    Other uses: get one for your car so you can play your tunes on it while you use your phone to navigate, or get one to do party music so you don't have to worry about someone walking off with your laptop or phone, or get one if you're one of the literally billions of people in the world who have no cell phone data plan but you still want something that fits in your pocket and can surf the web or play games or maybe even skype. I've even considered getting one for those times when I'm traveling and can't charge my phone but need to look something up -- this happens more often than I'm comfortable with -- but now I have a tablet for that. If I hadn't been able to afford 300 bucks for a tablet, I'd be looking at something like this.

    It's easy to be jaded as a cell phone blog writer who isn't going to be stuck with the same device for 2 years every time he upgrades -- you gave yourself away with your "dead, baby, dead" comment about the iPod -- but the PMP market isn't going away anytime soon. I'd probably buy a $99 Chinese tablet before I bought the Galaxy Player 3.6, but the fact that someone as big as Samsung is (re-)entering the market is still noteworthy.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      It's not even just that I'm looking at it from the perspective of a tech blogger who "isn't going to be stuck with the same device for 2 years every time he upgrades" (this still hasn't happened to me, but man I can't wait til I get that successful). It's that even if you compare it to other devices in its price point, it still comes up short.

      As I said in the review, I was able to find lightly used and like-new Galaxy S phones on craigslist for less than the cost of this device. If I were in the market for a non-phone Android device, and I wanted to keep it cheap, I'd look at an actual phone. Many of them have better specs and a lower price. This is what gets to me. It's not that it doesn't hold a candle to the newest of the new high-end devices, it's that it pales even in comparison to last year's devices that are cheaper than it already. Even the iPod Touch, which is a mere $50 more, beats the pants off of this device in every way imaginable.

      That's not to say that this device doesn't have a place, but it could've been much more and it is not really trying to compete. This is why I harped on Samsung's own media apps. It would be a snap to download other media apps to make this thing better, but it's indicative of just how little Samsung cares about making this device good.

      As for the "dead, baby, dead" argument, admittedly, this was a little bit of obscure humor on my part (a satire of the errant "gadgets die" mentality). However, the truth is that PMPs are on the decline. They're not dead. That's silly. But even Apple, the king of PMPs, has reported that iPod sales are down quarter after quarter. There will always be a place for gadgets like this, but that place ought to be kept by manufacturers making their devices good.

      If I can't tell someone that this device is obviously better than ordering a used phone off craigslist, I can't say it's good. It may fit the needs of some people (this is true of every gadget ever), but that doesn't make it a good device.

      • MicroNix

        But for kids (which is a huge chunk of the ipod market) having something new and shiny is what counts.  You don't give your kid a used Samsung S wrapped in paper with a charger on the side.  This is obviously Samsung's attempt to do what Apple has so cleverly done: GET THE KIDS HOOKED.  They get this device, buy a ton of Android games and apps and then later buy that flashy Galaxy phone (you need to step UP to something nicer or its NOT an upgrade).  All we need now is for Google to get "Play" gift cards in all the stores and their revenue from apps could start showing some meat.  Why do you think kids BUY so many iOS apps?  Because for every b-day party, they get tons of iTunes gift cards.  Google is TOTALLY missing the boat here.  Sammy is stepping up to the plate (albeit the device should have been a little nicer and up to their own standards) to try to bring Android to the younger kids.  Now we need Google to do their part. 

      • MicroNix

        But for kids (which is a huge chunk of the ipod market) having something new and shiny is what counts.  You don't give your kid a used Samsung S wrapped in paper with a charger on the side.  This is obviously Samsung's attempt to do what Apple has so cleverly done: GET THE KIDS HOOKED.  They get this device, buy a ton of Android games and apps and then later buy that flashy Galaxy phone (you need to step UP to something nicer or its NOT an upgrade).  All we need now is for Google to get "Play" gift cards in all the stores and their revenue from apps could start showing some meat.  Why do you think kids BUY so many iOS apps?  Because for every b-day party, they get tons of iTunes gift cards.  Google is TOTALLY missing the boat here.  Sammy is stepping up to the plate (albeit the device should have been a little nicer and up to their own standards) to try to bring Android to the younger kids.  Now we need Google to do their part. 

        • Cenarl

           yup for some reason Google has missed the boat on this...if they want their app store and music store to do well they gotta get those google play gift cards in stores and get some good devices going and some hype going. Unfortunately by me being the only tech guy in the family i have a first hand account of how much money gets blown in the app store on horrible, horrible (x infinity) apps and music.

          + these kids are making other kids jealous and they end up having their parents buy them devices and so on and so on. Just personally i've setup 5 Ipod touches for cousins over the last 2 Christmases. And these kids buy into the Apple system and the "you gotta own an iphone to be cool" system; all that gets inherited at a young age and your ipod touch users turn into iphone users. The tween ipod/iphone industry is highly underated and i think Google is missing out probably doubling sales if not more. I think a lot of Android dads could/would sell their kid on the platform of android, but even me being a big fan of it and anti-apple in general theres just nothing "cool" about android right now in the pmp category that can go up against a touch.

  • Zomby2D

    I'm still waiting for that phone-less GS2 as a high-end pmp. My daughter's Archos 43 can't hold a candle to her friend's iPod Touch (wich is still what the younger generation craves these days) and I'd really like to get her a good Android 4" tablet. Unfortunately, most companies completelty ignore this huge market segment.

  • N_7

    "dead, baby, dead"

    What you did there...

    I SEE IT

  • http://twitter.com/Jonkarra Jonkarra

    Its perfectly fine as a music player. I do kinda miss my ipod touch's battery life these days. Additionally I have been considering a device with lots of memory in it to use as a personal NAS for my phone and tablet. Use one device to store stuff and play it on the phone/tablet via DNLA.

    Some people though might just want a music player. For example they have a work blackberry and dont see a need for a personal phone etc.

  • Eduardo Diaz

    I own a GP5 and i think is awesome. Much better than this piece of crap

  • Jon Garrett

    this device is a total failure. 

  • Velathawen

    Am I the only one who thought it was really odd a PMP review discusses everything except for audio quality?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      Added a section just for you, bud. Truth be told, the sound quality was so average, it slipped my mind in light of all the other, more obviously-wrong things with this device. Short version: it won't be awful and it won't blow you away. It's as good as anything else that's not a dedicated music player (and this device certainly isn't).

      • Velathawen

        Haha, thanks for that! I definitely felt a genuine hate for the device from you and I was wondering if the audio could potentially be a saving grace. I was mainly curious due to the fact that Samsung had used a DAC from Wolfson in the original SGS but elected for a far inferior Yamaha DAC in the S2 I am currently using. 

  • Huh

    i guess it could work for kids but my pmp is my "old" phone (read: second latest) and will always be so.

  • chadl

    I own a galaxy player, ipod touch and a smart phone for the most part I have put the iPod touch down. I have some minor uses for it but not many. As for the comments about the pictures. I own a digital camera, for what reason because cameras will are made for that purpose but when I went to NY city recently my Galaxy player took much better pictures then my 4g 8mega pix phone. I dont know what is going on with your device.
    However, remember we should be comparing it to an iPod touch not a phone. Music yes Samsung should have at least but out a better player if they were going for mid range sound quality which is where my iPod has it beat but not enough for me to pick it up and use it. They really need to come up big with eye candy for the user.
    It also dubs as my VoIP phone. The sound quality is good and I can be heard. Also using tango and google+ for video chating with the same quality as my phone. If your asking yes I have decent cellphone.
    I think the problem is it looks and feels so much like a phone it is placed in the wrong class when the reviews come out. Its not a tablet to be honest and its not a phone. I would put it in the class as a iPod touch a multi-purpose mp3 player and by the way I am responding to this blog on it right now