Let’s face it. Android PMPs are a tough sell right now. Android superphones depreciate like just about nothing else out there. What was $500 last year (sans contract) can be bought from Best Buy’s Cowboom or eBay for under a hundred bucks (sans contract).
And, since Android devices (unlike iPhone) can typically be activated without a cellular plan attached, they instantly become Android PMPs. And, unlike many PMPs, they come loaded with things like autonomous GPS, great cameras, and excellent VoIP-ready microphones.
This was already pretty clear of an advent when the Galaxy Player 4.0 and 5.0 finally landed on US shores. I presume it wasn’t so much of a sure thing when they first were built. See, the Galaxy Player was sold in several iterations for the better part of a year, before landing stateside. It was sold as the Samsung insert-awkward-model-number-here (and there were a few). After that flopped, it was sold as Galaxy S Wi-Fi. A quick change of the front-facing buttons, and it landed here as Galaxy Player 4.0 and 5.0.
That might be forgivable, if it wasn’t originally announced as Galaxy Player 40 and 50, before being renamed three times, and finally arriving here under almost the same names as the original announcement. The only saving grace for Samsung is that, unless you are a die-hard technology enthusiast, or a journalist, you probably didn’t even notice.
One thing was holding back on our review, and that was if these devices would make it to Android 4.0. By the time these devices shipped, it was clear Android 4.0 was on the horizon. In fact, the original Player 4.0 and 5.0 didn’t even finish launching globally (with all these different names) until a few months ago.
Now we have a big problem. These high-end PMPs are based on Galaxy S, a series that isn’t being upgraded to Android 4.0. The similarly long-in-the-teeth iPod touch fourth-generation is still being updated, to a iOS 6. Apple recognizes you need to keep pace with the latest firmware, especially on devices you’re still selling.
And then came Galaxy Player 3.6.
The Galaxy Player 3.6 is clearly cut from a different crust. It doesn’t feel like a Galaxy S without a cellphone. It feels like a Samsung Intercept with a faster CPU. It almost feels exactly as if they took a Galaxy Prevail or Galaxy Ace, cut out the cellular radio, and put in a slightly faster processor… popped Gingerbread in the oven, and hit the ship button.
Did I mention the cameras on it couldn’t take a photo of Bigfoot if he was standing two feet away? Did I mention that the front facing camera makes you look like Bigfoot (always)? Yeah.
What we’re left with, is a series that was supposed to vanguard Android Portable Music Players, but instead scared anyone and everyone off from making one. About the only thing that these trio of devices got right, was autonomous GPS (and don’t think Apple won’t correct that in due course).
What these devices should have been, was the economical way for folks to get the latest and greatest that Android has to offer. If you’re stuck with an Android 2.2 device, on a two-year contract, paying $199 for an Android 4.0 PMP with a four-inch screen isn’t that bad of an idea. You get all that ICS has to offer, sitting right beside your smartphone in your pocket.
Sadly, it’s not going to happen. These devices are hurting the cause of Android PMPs, and you would be better off buying a (used) cheaper device that will get Android 4.0. Devices like the HTC Thunderbolt, Droid Incredible 2, and EVO 3D are cheaper, Android 4 ready, and vastly better. Plus, most of them can be activated on prepaid service, and double as backup cell phones.
Will Android PMPs come back? I think so. As tablet CPU/GPU combos like Kai emerge, PMP makers will be able to order powerful chipsets for far less. Someday soon, we’ll be able to enjoy $99 devices that help you make that two-year smartphone contract a less painful experience… someday. Just not today, and no thanks to Galaxy Player’s first generation.