- Android 2.2 OS
- 3.2in capacitive touchscreen
- 8/16GB storage
- Android Market access
At IFA 2011, Philips unveiled its new GoGear Connect music player. It runs Android, has a 3.2in screen and has access to the Android Market. But does it really have the chops to take on the mighty Apple iPod Touch? We checked out the new device to assess its chances.
Several media players have tried to challenge the iPod Touch’s dominance in the app-enabled media player sphere. Archos tried it. Samsung tried it. Both failed.
With the GoGear Connect, Philips has thrown its hat into the ring. It’s a plastic-bodied music, video and app player with a 3.2in touchscreen. First, let’s see what it does right.
Two features are key. The GoGear Connect uses a capacitive touchscreen, essential to get that reponsive feel in a finger-operated device like this. It also has Android Market access, in spite of not being a mobile phone. Many non-phone devices have had to make do with inferior third-party app stores, but not the GoGear Connect. With it, you can sift though the gems (and the dross) the Market has to offer.
What should be the key app for a device like this is its media player, and it places its bets on the Philips Songbird app. It acts as the main media player, and also a discovery tool. Unfortunately, it’s nothing special and we’d be tempted to look into the app stores wares for something a bit slicker. It’s no iOS-beater.
A neat built-in feature is SimplyShare which uses DLNA protocols to distribute music and video to other devices. As with any DLNA-related endeavors, though, you’ll probably need a lot of patience to get it working. We’ll test it out fully at review.
In media playback terms, it’s a little more flexible than the iPod Touch, but it doesn’t have the dimensions to make it desirable on the same level. It comes across like a chunky Android phone, not unlike the early Androids from back in 2008.
The back is plastic, and it’s fairly chunky by today’s slim-obsessed standards. This impression isn’t helped by the soft keys, which are very large. It gives the GoGear Connect a large expanse of glossy black plastic expanding the area under its screen. It’s not an ugly device, but it’s no beauty either.
Just as much of a problem as its comparison with the iPod Touch is the innate rivalry it will have with Android phones, many of which offer the same specs (and more) you’ll find here. The screen’s nothing special, suffering from contrast shift and middling overall quality, and there’s little significant optimisation in the software. Aside from SongBird and SimplyShare, you’re largely dealing with vanilla Android here.
At least it’s a decent version of Android, though. The unit we saw on the show floor at IFA was an Android 2.2 FroYo device, benfiting from the significant speed boosts that version introduced. We didn’t get to check out any taxing games on the device to check its CPU power – we’ll have to wait until we get our review unit for that privilege.
We did encounter the issue we often find with 3.2in devices though. The screen is just that little bit too small to make typing away in portrait mode completely comfortable. Some optimisation in the virtual keyboard itself would help, but the bog-standard Android keyboard features here. Once again, we can’t help but bring up the comparison to the iPod Touch, with its slightly larger 3.5in screen and better virtual keyboard. Of course, being an Android device with full Market access, there’s plenty of scope to indulge in a bit of app-based DIY improvement.
We have a feeling this will be the case throughout the GoGear Connect. At heart, it’s not that much different from a mid-range Android phone. It has more memory – coming with 8GB or 16GB of memory built-in – and no cellular ability, but to get the most out of it you’ll need to spend a while tinkering away at it with gems harvested from the Android Market.
While it may trump the awful Samsung Android media player and Archos’s 43, it won’t have the USP to lure buyers away from forking out for a budget Android phone or an iPod Touch. But hopefully we’ll change our minds when our review unit arrives, eh?
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