Flashback: Android makers tried to emulate iPod touch, but failed
Apple introduced the original iPhone in January 2007 and a few months later took advantage of the new all-touch interface to add a new branch to the iPod family tree. Although the iPod touch outsold the iPhone, it was still very successful – Apple celebrated 100 million units sold in 2013.
Naturally, Android makers wanted to have their own iPod touch. In 2009, the Archos 5 internet tablet came onto the scene. It was billed as a “PMP”, Portable Media Player, and it may have been the first of its kind to run Android (v1.6 Donut). It could play MP3, AAC, FLAC as well as various video formats and had a large screen for the time of 4.8 inches.
At IFA 2010, Samsung showed off the Galaxy Player 50 and said it was the first of its kind, although that might require some asterisks. Anyway, the 8GB model cost £150, which was £40 less than an 8GB iPod touch at the time. There was also a 16GB model, but a cheaper way to get more storage was with microSD (cards up to 32GB were supported).
Galaxy Player 50
It ran Android 2.1 Eclair and had full access to Android Marketplace, allowing you to install apps and games. There was no 3G connectivity, of course, although there was Wi-Fi for apps that needed internet connectivity.
With a 3.2-inch WVGA screen, it was also a video player with built-in DivX support. For example, the browser supports Flash, so you can browse the entire web at home or in a cafe.
A few months later, several other models appeared: Galaxy Player 3.6, 4.0, 4.0, 5.0. These were alternately known as “Galaxy S WiFi” followed by the same numbers (which indicated display size).
The Samsung Galaxy Player 5.8 was huge
The (almost) last attempt was 2012’s Galaxy Player 5.8. With its 5.8-inch 540 x 960 pixel screen, it’s bigger than a Galaxy Note II, although its hardware looks more like the original Note (1.2 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 processor, 1 GB of RAM).
Sony is the company that invented tiny personal audio players with the first Walkman and they didn’t want to be left out. The Sony Walkman Z100 arrived in January 2012 – the $250 player was inspired by the design of the Xperia Arc series and featured a 4.3-inch WVGA LCD screen.
Sony Walkman Z-1000
It had 8, 16, 32, and 64 GB versions (the latter was a Japanese exclusive) and ran Android 2.3 Gingerbread on a Tegra 2 with a 1 GHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of RAM. It had a microHDMI port as well as a proprietary connector for docks, it could also stream video to your TV via DLNA. It had familiar Sony technology like S-Master MX, DSEE and so on.
If you’ll allow us a quick detour, we want to mention a few music streaming services. It’s no longer with us, but Sony’s Music Unlimited wanted to compete with Spotify and iTunes. For $4 a month you could listen to Internet radio, $10/month got you on-demand playback.
The service can also sync your personal music library from your PC to the cloud and then to your Walkman Z (or your Xperia phone). This included offline reading, as mobile data was still quite expensive back then. Music Unlimited was shut down in 2017.
Samsung had its own streaming service for a short time, Milk Music was introduced in early 2015 (powered by Slacker Radio) with ad-supported and ad-free subscriptions. Samsung started shutting down the service a year later, and it disappeared altogether in 2017.
Back to Android MP3 players. Sony may have given up on being a streaming music company, but it hasn’t given up on players. In January, it unveiled the NW-A300 and NW-ZX700.
Sony Walkman NW-A300 and NW-ZX700
The latter is no joke, it costs JPY 104,500 in Japan (€720) and has features like 96kHz 24-bit FLAC support and a balanced 4.4mm headphone output. The A300 is a bit more reasonable at €400 but is clearly still in audiophile territory.
Of course, nowadays most people use wireless headphones and if they want to listen to music on the go – but don’t want to take their smartphone with them – they can listen to music on their smartwatches.
Do you think there is still a market for portable media players running Android or is it something extremely specialized (eg people who know what a 4.4mm balanced output is)?
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