We thought all-singing, all-dancing, all-music-and-movie-playing smart phones had killed off the MP3 player, but new models like the Philips GoGear Connect 3 with Wi-Fi show that we were wrong. We gave the Android-powered GoGear a going over at its IFA launch in Germany to see if the Connect 3 connects with us.
The Connect 3 is the latest rival to the still-popular iPod touch, falling in with Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 5.0 and disappointing Samsung Galaxy Player 50. Although UK prices haven't been confirmed, we hear it'll cost around £160 for the 16GB model and £130 for the 8GB version.
Like the Galaxy S Wi-Fi 5.0, the Connect 3 is powered by Android. To be precise, it runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which is most often seen on smart phones. In fact, the Connect 3 is basically a smart phone without the phone part.
You can personalise the player with widgets that display information on your home screens, and you can download apps too. There are apps for everything from telling you the weather or latest headlines to checking your email, tracking how much exercise you're getting, or adding special effects to your pictures.
Other apps access particular websites, such as Facebook or Twitter, and make the pages fit neatly on the smaller screen. And that's not to mention all the games available, like Cut the Rope or the smash-hit Angry Birds.
You can search for apps in the Android Market, and download them to your Connect 3 over Wi-Fi without having to plug the device into a computer.
The Connect 3 sports a bright, 3.2-inch touchscreen, perfectly suited to your finger swipes. It's a capacitive touchscreen, so it's more responsive than the increasingly rare resistive variety. The screen could have been bigger, though -- there's not much point in the size of the physical menu, home and back buttons, or the Philips logo, beneath the screen.
On the subject of buttons, we like the chunky, round, copper-coloured buttons on the side of the device. They feel like they'd be easy to locate in a pocket, so you could quickly dial the volume up or down without having to hoist the device out of your jeans.
A bigger screen would be appreciated for video, too. The Connect plays high-definition movies and YouTube videos up to a resolution of 720p, but this will only be noticeable when you're outputting the flicks to a suitably hi-def TV. Watching a Hollywood blockbuster on a screen the size of a chocolate bar -- and listening via the puny built-in speaker or headphones -- isn't exactly living up to the high-definition experience.
Philips has plenty of experience building televisions, sound systems and MP3 players, so the built-in 'FullSound', 'Sound Personalisation' and 'Surround for Movies' technology could make the best of the Connect 3's audio. But the Connect 3 still won't offer anywhere near as good a media experience as a larger screen and decent speakers.
Still, you can use the Connect 3 to transport movies around and then watch them on bigger screens. Your movies, music and photos can be beamed wirelessly to other Wi-Fi or DLNA-compatible kit, such as your television, stereo, camera or digital photo frame.
You can plonk your tunes onto the Connect 3 with Philips' Songbird software, which runs on your computer. If you want a mix of music in your pocket, pick one song and click the 'LikeMusic' button. Songbird will then whip you up a playlist of similar tunes. It's similar to the Genius feature in iTunes.
While you can store movies, music and photos on your Connect 3, you can't actually record video or take pictures, as the device lacks a camera.
The Philips GoGear Connect 3 looks like a decent media player, but it lacks the market-leading iPod touch's camera, FaceTime video calling, and eye-scorchingly detailed screen. The presence of other Android rivals, such as the new Sony Android Walkman and the various Samsung Galaxy S WiFi devices, also means the Connect 3 may only prove a contender if it comes at a suitably low price.
Edited by Charles Kloet