No longer content with firing potshots at Apple's iPhone in the ongoing war of the smart phones, Samsung has chosen to open a new front, taking on the iPod touch media player. Like its rival, Samsung's Galaxy Player does more than just play music.
Running on Android 2.1, it offers all the features of a smart phone but without the call capability. You can buy apps from the Android Market and Samsung's store, use Google's mobile services, and, if you're near a wireless hotspot, browse the Web. As added incentives, the Galaxy Player has a detachable battery and a 2-megapixel camera.
Music player palaver
While the Galaxy Player offers a host of features, its primary function is to play music. Despite this, its music player is the least impressive part of the whole package. The device runs the bare-bones version of Android, and Samsung hasn't added any new code or features to improve the music player's interface or functionality. As a result, the music player just isn't very inspiring.
We stuffed as much music as we could onto our 8GB Galaxy Player, and found that there was actually only room for 6GB of music. That left no room for storing photos or videos.
While the sound quality was pretty good, the music player proved incredibly sluggish. We often found ourselves having to wait up to 10 seconds for it to respond to our commands. In fact, navigating the interface as a whole will really try your patience.
Additionally, the player inexplicably failed to recognise our headphones on occasion. The problem occurred when we exited the music player or tried to change artists after a period of inactivity. The player would cut the sound going to the earphones while acting like the song was still playing normally. The problem continued to occur even after we changed the earphones we were using.
This issue can be easily resolved by unplugging the headphones and plugging them in again. But you shouldn't have to put with this in a device of this price.
Flies in the ointment
If you want your MP3 player to do nothing but play music, then the Galaxy Player isn't for you. There are multiple dedicated music players on the market that do a better job and cost less. If, however, you want to enjoy all the benefits of a smart phone, minus calls and mobile-contract fees, the Galaxy player might still be of interest.
Despite the average performance of the music player, we found that the rest of the Galaxy Player's features worked quite well. The Android Market contained all the applications we could want, including the ludicrously addictive Angry Birds. Surfing the Internet proved speedy, and we could smoothly stream YouTube videos without having to wait for them to load. The Galaxy Player's screen isn't as crisp as the iPod touch's, but videos are still perfectly watchable.
The main problem we endured while using such features was the nagging voice in our head that kept reminding us we could get an 8GB iPod touch for £40 more than an 8GB Galaxy Player. Compared to the touch, the Galaxy Player feels unbearably sluggish. The touchscreen is also smaller (3.2 inches compared to 3.5 inches) and less responsive, and the interface isn't as intuitive.
The Galaxy Player just isn't as good as its Apple-flavoured rival. If it were significantly cheaper, that would be less of an issue. For £150, we expected a slicker device.
Another key problem is that, for roughly the same amount of money, you could get a pretty decent pay as you go Android phone with all the same features, as well as the ability to make calls. For example, the HTC Wildfire is currently available for £170 from Carphone Warehouse, and the Huawei Ideos is available for £150 SIM-free from Expansys, among other retailers. Check out our round-up of the best cheap Android phones for more ideas.
The Samsung Galaxy Player 50 aims to be the Android version of the iPod touch, injecting some much-needed competition into the media-player market. But it fails, due to a number of flaws that make it feel rushed and incomplete. It's not absolutely terrible but there are plenty of rival devices that do what it does better, or for less money. If you want an Android media player, we'd steer clear of the Galaxy Player 50 and see if Samsung's next model rectifies the problems.
Edited by Charles Kloet