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Samsung Player: First True Android iPod Touch Competitor?

Samsung has decided to use Android (s goog) and its success with the Galaxy franchise to take on Apple’s iPod touch with a music playing app device that, like Apple’s product, offers the mobile web, apps, navigation and media playback, but no cellular voice. An updated device — the Samsung Galaxy Player — will reportedly be shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) says the Samsung Hub blog. Unlike the currently available Galaxy Player 50, an early attempt at an iPod touch competitor using Android, the hardware specs of the new Player look to compare extremely well to Apple’s (s aapl) current iPod touch, now in its fourth product generation.

See for yourself with the reported features: There’s no “retina display,” but there is a 4-inch touchscreen with 800 x 480 resolution, front and rear-facing cameras, integrated GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and a Samsung 1 GHz processor, most likely the Hummingbird found in Samsung’s Galaxy S handsets. Indeed, looking both at the feature-set and at Samsung’s successful “one size fits all” approach with its Galaxy line of smartphones, the new Player shouldn’t really surprise. Samsung is on track to sell 10 million Galaxy handsets, and the similar Player will likely appeal to those who crave a high-end Android device but don’t want a monthly voice or data bill.

Interesting to me is that the Player is expected to have access to the official Android Market, which I think is integral to the success of any Android handheld. Back in April, I said Google was missing a huge opportunity on non-smartphones because it wasn’t allowing Market access to such devices. Google is clearly easing up on the hardware restrictions because it wants Android everywhere. Although smartphone sales continue to increase at a torrid pace, there’s plenty of potential for Android devices that don’t offer voice or cellular data services. My new Galaxy Tab is a perfect example, because the voice capability is disabled. That’s fine (although I may hack it to get voice working) but I’m very dependent on the device’s Android Market access, else I’m stuck with the apps that Samsung includes. Market access opens up the possibilities to fun apps such as Angry Birds and useful utilities and productivity software.

It’s also worth noting that Samsung’s chip battle is likely stoking the fire in a competition with Apple. Prior to Apple’s design of the A4, chip which powers the current iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, the company used Samsung application processors in its mobile devices. With Apple’s A4 chip arriving last year, Apple has no need for Samsung processors, including the current Hummingbird and future dual-core Orion chip. Samsung already has a solid iPhone competitor in its Galaxy S, so why not use that design — and the chip that powers it — to take a stab at Apple’s iPod touch?

I’m happy enough with my 7-inch Galaxy Tab; even though it’s larger than a phone, it’s still small enough to take everywhere. So at this point, I’m not interested in an Android-powered “iPod” device. But I’m betting some of you are, provided you can live without iTunes to sync music. For that, I recommend DoubleTwist, which supports Android devices and a multitude of others. How about it? Is anyone interested in an Android device without phone capabilities, if the price is right? Even better: What might happen to demand for the Galaxy Player if Google ever adds VoIP to phone capability to Google Chat like it has for the desktop client?

Related GigaOM Pro Research (sub req’d):

43 Responses to “Samsung Player: First True Android iPod Touch Competitor?”

  1. Kevin, you seem like a fair reviewer. How about an article on the long held assumption that the smaller devices like the Galaxy Tab are better for thumb-typing on (and therefore better portable computers), than the iPad? I’d love to see someone get some real data on this instead of always hearing it and never knowing for sure if it’s true. How about a “type-off” between various iOS and Android devices including the iPad and the Tab? Just a thought.

    • Love the idea! Bear in mind that there are numerous keyboard options on Android that iOS doesn’t have, so would likely have to use the stock input methods in addition to the enhanced options (Swype, 3rd party keyboards, etc….)

      Everyone is different of course, but based on my experience with both an iPad and a Galaxy Tab, I can type far faster on the Tab in portrait than on iPad in portrait. Landscape is trickier though because Tab is a bit wide in my small hands. iPad is even wider, but works better in landscape on my lap or on a stand. Again, just early impressions based on my usage. Thx!

  2. I agree there is a huge potential for android powered ipod like devices. But as we have seen new ipod nano-touch this year..i am sure Apple will not sit idle and they surely take current ipod touch much ahead next year

  3. I still don’t understand why Samsung/T-Mobile haven’t upgraded my Vibrant (a T-Mobile Galaxy S) above Android 2.1. It’s infuriating. Why, just the other day, I read an article that said that the Vibrant in Canada was getting Android 2.2 this week… but, we Americans are stuck. Why?? I just don’t get it.

    I sure hope they keep the upgrade schedule going with their new products, like this Galaxy Player. Good luck, if you get it from T-Mobile in America…!

  4. I am quite surprised to know that Samsung competing with Apple’s iPod. I really like to know about that Samsung has decided to use android operating system for Its new launched. And I am sure that Samsung’s new launched give strong competition to Apple’s product.

  5. I doubt the Samsung Player will take much marketshare from Apple. Apple has already dominated that market. And what can Android really offer over the iPod Touch? The 3.2 megapixel camera? If you are going to buy a non-phone touch device you may as well buy an iPod Touch because the whole point of it is for people who can’t buy an iPhone.

    Unless of course it is significantly cheaper than the iPod Touch, but that seems unlikely, considering the price of the Galaxy Tab.

    Oh and P.S. Apple’s A4 chips are still manufactured by Samsung.

  6. iTunes lock-in has been a huge barrier to entry for any manufacturer attempting to enter the iPod market.

    By the way, I’ve found the Music Player on the Galaxy Tab to be quite nice.

    • Shame on me, Richard: in the 2 weeks that I’ve had a Tab, I didn’t even hit the Music app. I just popped in the microSD card with my music library from my Nexus One and you’re right: Samsung did a nice job with it. Maybe this application will suffice on the Galaxy Player. Thanks to mentioning it!

  7. Roshan Shrestha

    Having used the tab quite a bit, one limitation I found is that the touch buttons (home, back, search) is extremely sensitive. When asking my fellow co-workers to use our software on this device, they frequently (and inadvertently) pressed (“touched” would be more accurate) one of these buttons, especially when held in landscape mode, where their palm would somehow touch one of these buttons. I have noticed this with quite a few users.

    I have also observed this behavior with users when they were playing the included car-racing game, “Asphalt”.

    I wish these were more of “push” buttons that would not respond to casual touch.

    • Roshan, your experience is spot-on with mine: capacitive touch buttons are nice to have in theory, but in practice, they can cause issues as we’ve both seen. I have a short list of what I’d like to see Samsung improve in a next-generation Tab and that’s tops on my list. Maybe that merits a post for some audience participation on what needs to be “fixed” on the Tab? ;)

      • I have my Galaxy Tab in a Verizon/Samsung’s “Scuba” Folio case, and it has a little leather border between the touch screen and the “buttons”. I find that prevents accidental button touches. It’s a nice case overall. Not as nice as Apple’s iPad case, but similar in function.

  8. $150 Android Ipod (as good as Ipod touch latest) is here 2011 JUNE powered by Qualcom chipset. once they remove Radios from chipset it is ‘Android Pod touch’.

    Once the Qualcom chipset is ready , it will change the whole Ipod touch market.
    Broadcom (BRCM) last week announced its BCM2157 – Mass-Market 3G HSDPA “Android” Baseband chipset. The platform provides everything a modern smartphone builder needs: a dual core ARM processor, Bluetooth, GPS, support for up to a 5-megapixel camera, support for capacitive HVGA (320×480 like iPhone 3GS) or or WQVGA (~240×400) displays. That’s pretty much your current baseline Android smartphone, like the Samsung Intercept.

  9. “With Apple’s A4 chip arriving last year, Apple has no need for Samsung processors, including the current Hummingbird and future dual-core Orion chip.”

    Umm,the A4 is a Samsung chip with some Apple mods and branding.

      • Logged in after being forced to use a WP login at a different site, Kevin. You didn’t actually think I cared about protecting my relatively anonymous identity (or even thought a different login would) because I was reprimanding you, did you? That’s cute.

        And, again, making repeated requests for information that everyone else agrees is known but will never be confirmed at the risk of violating an Apple NDA isn’t making your wrong information correct.

    • It’s all in semantics. Even if Samsung is manufacturing the chip, it doesn’t make it a Samsung chip. IIRC, there was a post… on Engadget or Venture Beat, maybe? … last winter in which the commenters deconstructed the likely design process.

      Apple designed the chip. Period. It’s not like they just slap their name and a few mods on a Samsung chip. That design would enable them to have any chip manufacturer build it. EETimes took them both apart this summer and determined that while the chips were similar, it was NOT a mod design, but in fact, a unique design:–and-tantalizing

      So no, it’s not a reliance on Samsung chips, but rather, a reliance on Samsung manufacturing of Apple’s own chip. Semantics, yes, but still means the paragraph isn’t incorrect.

      • Sure, it does. It NEVER would have been a Samsung chip by your definition: we’ve always known it is an ARM chip even when we knew it was manufactured by Samsung. Kevin is specifically saying that Samsung was spurned by Apple, lost their business, and is now gunning for Apple in retaliation. None of which is true no matter how you parse “Samsung chip.”

        Kevin, keeps pretending he will attempt to confirm mine and several other posters claim; why doesn’t he try to found anything that will confirm his claim?

      • pgattocpa

        There seems to be some “back story” between Kevin and some of the posters. Not sure what it is and really don’t care. Also, I am not a tech specialist or even a dilettante. I do, however, know a bit about contract manufacturing and, more importantly, I know how to read an article without interjecting my own bias and changing the meaning of what is actually written.

        First, let’s see what we can agree on. 1) Aple purchased PA Semi and Intrinsity; 2) Apple, therefore, designed the A4 chip; 3) the A4 chip is protected by patents. Let’s assume we can all agree on these three “facts”.

        We can assume for these purposes that Samsung is the contract manufacturer of the A4. Let’s also assume that Samsung is the only manufacturer in the world that has the capability of manufacturing the A4 chip to the proper design specifications. Even that fact would not make it a “Samsung chip” and would not make Kevin’s paragraph incorrect.

        Kevin writes, “It’s also worth noting that Samsung’s chip battle is likely stoking the fire in a competition with Apple.” Samsung has its chip patents and Apple has its chip patents. To the extent Samsung (or anyone else) ups the ante with respect to chip design / capabilities enough to outweigh the “Apple glow” (or whatever else you want to call the Apple design advantages perceived by many people), Apple will need to design better chips in response. And vice versa.

        Now, Kevin also writes, “With Apple’s A4 chip arriving last year, Apple has no need for Samsung processors . . .” However, Tim F. interprets that as, “Kevin is specifically saying that Samsung was spurned by Apple, lost their business, and is now gunning for Apple in retaliation.”

        Uh, no, unless you believe 1) that designing a chip so that a mobile device can do what you want it to do rather than designing a mobile device to do only what some other company’s chip will allow it to do equals “spurning” and 2) competition equals “retaliation”. Further, Kevin made no mention that Apple was no longer using Samsung’s contract manufacturing capabilities (i.e., that Samsung “lost their business”).

        Now, I had you all assume that Samsung was the only company with the capability to manufacture the A4 chip. Samsung could hold Apple hostage and 1) raise the price of manufacturing the chip or 2) let the current contract expire and refuse to manufacture the chip.

        Steve Jobs is many things, good and bad, but I don’t thaink anyone believes he is stupid. 1) Jobs would not let Apple put itslef in a position to be held hostage, so I doubt Samsung is the only company that could manufacture the A4. 2) If Samsung was the only company, Jobs would be working on getting another manufacture “up to speed” in order to have another supply. ($50 billion in cash allows for flexibility.)

        The A4 is not a Samsung chip. No if, ands, buts or even semantics.

        One could say that the A4 is influenced by previous chips designed by Samsung, but the current batch of electronic calculators were influenced by cash registers. Does that mean that National Cash Register (or whoever invented the cash register) also invented the electronic calculator? No.

        Further, what if in todays intertwined world of intellectual property that Apple licenses some Samsung intellectual property into the A4 design? It still does not make it a “Samsung chip”. What makes the A4 an Apple chip are the Apple intellectual property components and designs integrated into the chip.

        I’m no Apple fanboy, but jeez, let’s not let our personal feelings “against” Apple and / or Kevin or “for” Samsung / Android stand in the way of reason.

      • pgattocpa

        Richard L.:

        Yes, I did read the article and my comments reflect it. To what part do you object other than a non-responsive “did you read the article”?

        That the CPU cores are indistinguishable between the S5PC110 and the A4 does not make the S5PC110 and the A4 the same chip and likewise it does not make the A4 a “Samsung chip”.

        Did you read the article, and if so, I ask again, what do you object to? Leaving a comment such as yours is a waste of time for us to guess to what you object. Please take the time to offer insights / opinions or don’t bother at all.

      • @RichardL: Yes, I read it when first published and again when cited here. I suspect we agree a fair bit but don’t know because of your brevity. Or am I wrong?

        @pgattocpa: you make some strange assumptions. The EE story says that the A4 is hardly different than the S5PC110: the differences are the elimination of general computing blocks and changes in components through shrinking the process. It is most definitely a derivative chip and most definitely manufactured by Samsung. The S5PC110 is fundamentally an ARM core with a Samsung SOC surrounding it; however, there is little distinct about such an SOC. The distinct “Hummingbird” features are from Intrinsity before being purchased by Apple, when they were licensing their tech. There is no reason to assume Samsung is the only one capable of manufacturing such a chip; TI can, Motorola can, Nvidia can, and so on… Fundamentally, Samsung’s relationship with Apple (regarding SOCs for iOS devices) remains virtually unchanged — most of the IP belongs to others and/or could be swapped for others easily and the financial relationship is largely tied to manufacture. And Samsung is 100%, without a doubt, still the manufacturer of Apple SOCs. Kevin certainly implies there has been some change. Some new motivation since the A4 to be a rival. This is simply untrue.

        I could care less about Kevin other than the massive hole in this story, making it completely unreadable and leading me to question Kevin’s knowledge in future pieces.

      • pgattocpa

        Tim F:

        Also, from a legal perspective, the A4 is Apple’s. Samsung could make no claim whatsoever to the A4. If they could, they would have.

        My “assumption” that Samsung is the manufacturer of the A4 was to assuage anyone who has a doubt. I am sure they are the manufacturer, but it only serves to strengthen my points.

        My “assumption” that Samsung is the only company capable of manufacturing the A4 was also to make a point. In fact, I state, “I doubt Samsung is the only company that could manufacture the A4.”

        Finally, from the EE article:

        “Yes, the A4 is different, but not by more than one or two blocks. However, even if only one or two circuit blocks in Samsung’s Cortex-A8 generation of SoC are missing from Apple’s, we should be convinced the A4 is a custom design. It is also reasonable to describe it as evolutionary compared to the references.”
        END QUOTE

        You seem to have a hard time reading what is written; worse, you ignore what is written and add what has not been written. (For example, your quote, “Kevin is specifically saying . . .” and what you ascribe to Kevin is not in the article and is a long stretch, to the reasoned mind, to even imply or infer.) Further, you skew to the hyperbolic – “massive hole” / “completely unreadable” / etc.

        There is no reason for me to continue a discussion with respect to such intellectual dishonesty.

  10. I agree price point is key, but I even as an Android fan, I don’t think the way Android 2.2 handles music playback is as slick as the iPod Touch.

    To catch up on that front, it just takes some tweaks… maybe Samsung will do that, but stock Android 2.2 music playback vs. iOS… it falls short IMO.

  11. what is needed for sure in addition to a VOIP client is to have a speaker/mic in the proper location to allow the device to be held to the head like a cell phone when using VOIP.

    this would have a huge psychological effect on how people view the VOIP capabilities and would encourage far more people to use as a alternative to a cell phone that happens to only work in WiFi but saves tons of money every month.

  12. I’ve also been surprised at how long it has taken for someone to make an iPod competitor for Android, and like you I believe there are a lot of people that would love an inexpensive device such as this. . . excluding the costly carrier billing. Slap some VOIP on there and you’re set.

    • Key to this device might be the price: since it won’t be subsdized by a carrier (common in the U.S. for phones), we’ll have to see the price point. If comparable or less to an iPod touch, I think folks will strongly consider it.