Though iOS and Android are engaged in a cutthroat battle for smartphone supremacy, the iPod touch has reigned largely unchallenged in the media player market. Samsung aims to change that with the Galaxy Players, which are basically 4- and 5-inch Galaxy S phones minus the phone parts — they still have full Android Market access, all the excellent Google apps, dual cameras, and solid internals.
In addition to the formidable challenge of competing with the iPod touch, the Players — at $229.99 for the 4.0 and $269.99 for the 5.0 — also have to deal with cheap, no-contract Android phones that keep their phone bits and still manage to be priced competitively with the Players. Can Samsung give them enough of an edge to make it worth the money? Read on to find out.
Hardware / design
The Galaxy Player 4.0 is the spitting image of the iPhone 3GS
While the Galaxy Player 5.0 is large enough to be unmistakable (at least until the Galaxy Note comes to the US), every single person who’s picked up the Player 4.0 review unit in our office has inevitably responded with some variant of "wow, this looks exactly like the iPhone 3GS." And indeed it does: the contours are similar, the plastic backs are similar, and even the silver bezel seems ripped directly from Apple’s design. The iPhone isn’t the worst design to copy, though, and the Player is good-looking if a little cheap-feeling. Both have black fronts and black or white backs, and otherwise adopt the look and feel of the original Samsung Galaxy S, only without with the Android search button.
There are odd differences between the two models
There’s 8GB of storage inside each Player, with a micro SD slot for up to 32GB more. Both support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and have front and rear cameras. There are some differences between the two Player models, though, and they’re both purely aesthetic and kind of puzzling. The Player 4.0’s headphone jack and USB port are both on the top of the device, while the 5.0’s are on the bottom; the 4.0’s power button and volume controls are on opposite sides, while the 5.0 crams them precariously close to each other on the right. The 4.0 also has a removable back with a microSD slot inside the case, while the 5.0 has a non-removable back and a microSD slot up top. Neither is necessarily a better strategy (though I preferred the 4.0’s layout), but it’s strange that Samsung wasn’t consistent with how it built the devices.
Samsung’s high-end phones seem to have landed somewhere between 4.3 and 4.5 inches, which is a pretty optimal size for a cell phone; for some reason Samsung decided to go bigger and smaller, and as a result both Players feel like they're the wrong size. The 4.9-inch tall, 2.5-inch wide Player 4.0 is easily usable in one hand, and is very pocketable, but it feels slightly too small next to Samsung’s phones. The 5.0, on the other hand, is humongous. Its 5.6 x 3.6-inch body feels too big to use in one hand or slip into a pocket, but it’s still too small to use comfortably with two hands. It’s a seriously thick .46 inches, even thicker than Samsung’s much larger tablets, and it weighs 6.4 ounces, which is pretty hefty compared to just 4.2 for the smaller Player. Both models have an 800 x 480 screen, which is relatively sharp on the 4.0, with the TFT LCD showing the same bright and vivid colors Samsung’s Galaxy S phones are known for. 800 x 480 looks comically bad blown up to 5 inches, though; everything is enormous, like it’s zoomed in for the partially blind.
Samsung’s nod to the iPod touch extends all the way to bundling Apple-style white earphones with the Players, though they’re different in one crucial respect: they don’t sound terrible. They’re not great, and don’t have a lot of bass response or dynamic range, but they’re more usable than most bundled earphones, and more comfortable thanks to the three different sets of tips included. There are two speakers on the back of both Player models, and they’re exactly what you’d expect — quiet, tinny, and prone to distortion, but decent enough to show a friend a YouTube video.