Android still lacks iPod Touch alternative

galaxyplayerWhy is there still no good Android alternative to the iPod Touch?

I last posed this question over two years ago, when Apple’s imposition of the 30% fee policies to apps with stores first caused me to question whether it was worth staying with the platform. At the time, there just weren’t any good options, though the Galaxy Player on the horizon looked promising. At the moment, there still aren’t (though plenty of people have been calling for one). My iPod Touch is getting pretty long in the tooth, and I’d like to replace it with an Android device. My main use case for it is running Google’s three-factor verification app and playing music, and it would be nice to have the greater versatility Android offers over iOS.

According to a friend of mine who follows the Android market, the best alternatives out there are the Creative Zen Touch 2, the Philips Android Connect, and the Archos 32. They’re all cheap enough (the Galaxy Player is also still around, though discontinued, but it’s pricier), but the biggest problem is that all current Android media mini-tabs, including the Galaxy Player, just run Android 2, not 4. Which means they’re not going to be compatible with the latest app store or applications. (Well, you can apparently hack the Galaxy Player into running Jelly Bean with CyanogenMod, the same as I did my Nook HD, but that’s a little risky.) There are rumors of a Galaxy Player II in the offing that would have Jelly Bean, but it hasn’t materialized yet.

On the other hand, I could always do what one of my co-workers suggested and get an Android pay-as-you-go phone and just not activate it. Or, for that matter, I could buy one and activate it. Virgin Mobile has the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Kyocera Rise for $70 (I like the way it has a slider keyboard and touchscreen keyboard capability), or Kyocera Event for $50 with no contract. The Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Samsung Galaxy Ring is just $150. While they don’t have a huge amount of memory, I could put a 32 GB SD card in them with room for plenty of music on it. And while I prefer a Tracfone plan where I buy cards with minutes, a $35/mo 300 min + unlimited messages/data plan from Virgin Mobile wouldn’t be a huge bite out of my pocketbook relatively speaking.

In fact, that honestly might just be why there are no good Android iPod Touch alternatives. The iPod Touch doesn’t have an SD card slot, so if you want to have a 32 GB iPod Touch, you have to buy one with that built in. But if you could take a $50 smartphone and add a $21 memory card and use it as a 32 GB media player, why would anyone want to bother with a $100+ media player that you can’t use as a phone?

But on the other hand, if they can make a $50 Android no-contract smartphone with cellphone capability, why can’t they make a $50 media player without one? A phone-free media player is useful as an Internet-browsing, email, and e-reading device for kids who you don’t want to give potentially costly cellphone access yet. (Granted, these phones didn’t start out that cheap, but still.) But then again, there’s no reason a parent would necessarily have to activate such a phone for their kid. If they got it for media player and Wi-Fi use only, they could always activate it later on when the kid was ready for it.

11 Comments on Android still lacks iPod Touch alternative

  1. You can use an old Android phone without activating on a carrier. There’s a technique were you touch the corners of the screen during activation that bypasses the carrier setup.

  2. You can get a “refurbished” fourth gen 32 GB iPod touch from Apple with a 1 year warranty for $179 (free shipping) so why suffer with cobbled together solutions? Skype works well over WiFi which is often available for free or via various paid services such as AT&T. Skype and WiFi form a viable alternative where connectivity isn’t a 24/7 necessity.

  3. Because I want something that runs Android. I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my Apple products in recent months. Granted, part of this is because they’re both first-generation (iPod Touch and iPad) and so they’re increasingly encountering programs they can’t run. But beyond that, I’m limited to just the one keyboard (no Swype input) and the only voice input I get is if I use the Dragon app, I can’t just speak my keyboard commands.

    And when you get right down to it, I’d like the convenience of having an all-in-one modern device in my pocket without having to pay through the nose either to get the phone or for monthly service, and without having to fiddle with a third-party wifi solution as much. (I’d still need it for my tablet no matter what, of course.) I can get a decent no-contract Android phone (LJ Optimus) for $150. The most recent iPhone is $550-$750.

  4. It is annoying. Modern phones don’t fit in my pockets, and my Nexus 4 popped out and fell into a lake a week ago, so I got a the LTE Nexus 7 and I’m using that instead of a phone. And I got a Tracfone for the rare occasion I need a real phone. But I still want something to listen to music/podcasts on, and I’d like it to have GPS for Endomondo. There just aren’t any good options except getting a Galaxy Player on eBay and putting CM10 on it. Even if I wanted to pay for an iPod Touch, it doesn’t have GPS or Google Play Music or a flash for the camera.

    I just wish there was a thin 4″ or smaller android device with GPS and an OK camera to have with me when I didn’t want to take my tablet. 4.7″ phones are the worst of everything. The battery doesn’t last for a day. It’s too big for girl pockets. And a tablet is a lot better for actually reading or doing something. The Nexus 7 is awesome for $229. I just wish I could get something small that’s even half as good for that price.

  5. @ raquel foster, my 5g iPod touch has an excellent flash. The camera isn’t as good as an iPhone but it is close and I’m not paying a minimum of $90/mo for cellular which, btw, is necessary to GPS. My iPod touch uses WiFi to do location awareness and I’ve found that works very well as long as I am within WiFi range. When I need to make a telephone call, I use Skype, again when I’m in WiFi range. Still, I wish that the iPod touch had a cellular option like the iPad. With a cellular iPad, you have a pay-as-you-go, month to month, no contract, cellular capability for as little as $15 per month. Minimum cost is $229 from Apple. I am looking forward to installing iOS 7 for free tomorrow.

  6. Cellular is not necessary for GPS. Endomondo needs GPS, but it doesn’t need data. Google Maps navigation needs GPS, but if you’re on Wi-Fi when you get the route it works without data. And there are other navigation apps which work totally offline as long as you have a device with GPS sensors. But I mostly just like tracking my workouts with Endomondo, which definitely doesn’t need a cellular/data connection. But the iPod Touch does not have GPS sensors. I didn’t realize it had a flash. But really what I miss about my phone is being able to run and use Endomondo, and listen to Pocket Casts and Play Music synced with my other devices. And the only one of those things that works on an iPod Touch is Pocket Casts. I guess I could get an old iPod Touch with the old connector and get a GPS thingy that plugs into the dock connector, but if I’m going to get used stuff I could just get a Galaxy Player for about $65 on eBay.

  7. @raquel,
    The GPS system requires the ability to receive radio signals from orbiting satellites. These systems are often supplemented with WiFi methods such as collecting and analyzing data on nearby cel towers, WiFi hot spots and so on. This, plus the overreaching claims of some developers, can be a source of confusion. To receive GPS radio signals in real time, one must have a proper antenna and GPS firmware either on a separate chip or, more likely, integrated with one or more cellular radios. There simply is no other way to get these signals directly.
    None of this is contradicted by the fact that WiFi can be used to perform location-based tasks or that one can use static spatial data when offline.

  8. To confirm. I have an Android phone with GPS but no data plan. I do use WiFi with the phone. I used Endomondo to set up a few routes for biking to work. Turns out that Endomondo requires a data plan to work. It will not work only off the GPS.

    I am not sure if it will work for you if you have a continuous WiFi signal as well as the GPS.

    It is stupid as there is no reason for them to use the data stream while recording a ride. All the data could be synced the next time it is on WiFi

  9. I’ve used Mapquest and GoogleMaps on my Toshiba Thrive while driving down a highway in the middle of nowhere. Just load the maps ahead of time and it works fine. I don’t have any kind of data plan, I just use wifi.

  10. Frank: There are so many devices with GPS that don’t need Wi-Fi or cellular data, I don’t really know where to begin… You used to be able to save maps offline in Google Maps, and I’ve was in the middle of nowhere with no Wi-Fi access points anywhere, and the GPS could pinpoint my location on the map — on an old Nexus 7 with no cellular radio.

    BOB: That’s crazy! I was actually considering getting an old iPod Touch and getting the Bad Elf GPS thingy that plugs into the dock connector just for Endomondo. Glad I didn’t.

    Endomondo probably just uses data from Google Maps to find routes, and it just doesn’t know what to do when you’re not online?

    But it looks like Runkeeper, Strava and Map My Run work with the iPod Touch without data:
    https://getsatisfaction.com/endomondo/topics/ipod_touch_support_would_be_great

  11. Have you looked at the Polaroid 4.3″ tablets? I don’t know if it’s any good, but they do have an Android 4.0 model.

    http://www.amazon.com/Polaroid-4-3-inch-Android-Internet-Tablet/dp/B00AR4HJBM

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