The idea of an Android based iPod touch competitor is so attractive and seems so simple yet so many manufacturers have failed miserably in creating such a market. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Philips GoGear Connect 3, which sports a 3.2” capacitive touch screen, packs in 8 or 16 GB of storage, and runs a (almost) stock build of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Is this the iPod touch killer we’ve been waiting for?
- Access to thousands of apps and games via Googly Play (formerly Android Market)
- High-speed Wi-Fi for fast internet access and app download
- HD video playback (720p) for crisp and clear video quality
- Surround for movies to put you in the middle of the action
- Philips Songbird: one simple program to discover, play, sync
The GoGear Connect 3 comes in a modestly sized cardboard box with the MP3 player, a microUSB cable, a set of nice in ear headphones, and a small stack of manuals.
Design and Build Quality
The plastic build of the player isn’t terrible - while we didn’t feel like it was going to break on us at any given time, it felt like a toy next to its competition.
Three massive physical buttons, which provide a solid tactile response, consume about two thirds of the surface of the device - a back, home, and menu button accompanied by a Philips logo at the bottom.
The right side of the device features three metallic orange buttons - two volume ones at the top and a sleep/wake button near the bottom. The sleep/wake button placement is rather inconvenient as you’ll be pressing it with either your left hand’s pinky finger or using your other hand to activate it. It boggles our minds as to why Philips would put the power button where a camera key usually is; in our opinion the power button should always be at the top of the device. The left side is mostly featureless aside from a small reset hole and model number print while the top has a lanyard slot in the middle.
Unfortunately, the GoGear Connect 3 has no front or rear cameras to speak of.
A microUSB port, microphone, and 3.5 mm headphone jack can be found at the bottom of the device.
It’s just about the same length and width as the iPhone 4 although a tad bit thicker. Compared to the current 4th generation iPod touch, the GoGear Connect 3 is ridiculously thick and cheap feeling.
It’s pretty evident that spec-wise, the GoGear Connect 3 is not a competitor to the Galaxy S III’s of the world. Its 800 MHz single core processor and 400 MB of RAM put it in the hardware category of 2010’s Nexus One (1 GHz single core processor and 512 MB of RAM). How does it perform? Well, let’s start with the launcher. In order to ensure we were getting the best experience we could out of the GoGear, we replaced the stock launcher (more on this later) with LauncherPro, which sped things up considerably. We’d say that the GoGear is reasonably responsive and not tremendously laggy considering its low end specs.
While browser performance was hardly anything to brag about, full websites like The Verge were able to load. Pinching and zooming is not smooth and neither is scrolling but it’ll definitely get any light web browsing done. As for gaming, we wouldn’t go as far as to say Fruit Ninja ran smoothly, but it was definitely playable. The same goes for Temple Run - there isn’t any perceivable lag that significantly impacts gameplay but it definitely isn’t as smooth as any modern mobile devices. The non removable battery will get you through a day of light usage with Wi-Fi on but if you want to do any serious music listening, you’re going to have to flick the Airplane Mode switch. The GoGear Connect 3 is definitely not the most impressive piece of hardware. Not by a long shot. However, it gets the job done for an MP3 player intended for light usage in other departments.
The primary physical characteristic of any mobile device today is its screen and the one on the GoGear Connect 3 isn’t a very good one at that. For starters, 3.2” is not an ideal size for a media consumption device. It’s 480 x 320 resolution (same resolution as the first generation iPhone’s 3.5” display) certainly doesn’t help that at all. Viewing angles and color reproduction are pretty horrid and you’re going to want to crank up the brightness to see things more clearly. Even with the screen brightness at maximum, the contrast and color reproduction were terribly odd, making any on screen elements difficult to view properly. Although we’ll admit our eyes have been spoiled by the iPhone’s Retina Display, the Connect 3’s display isn’t even a question of “which screen technology is the best,” as popularly posed when comparing modern devices. The screen is so bad on this device that it’s distracting and more than anything detracts from the user experience.
For apps, the GoGear provides 484 MB of internal storage, less than 50MB of which is taken up by preinstalled apps. The 8 GB of storage space shows up as 6.32 GB of free space on an SD card. It’s pretty disappointing that Philips seals in the SD card, forcing the buyer to pay for the premium model, if 16 GB is desired, and to stick with whatever capacity they choose. Especially given the rapidly decreasing price of SD cards, the removable storage is one of the main advantages of Android devices. While its understandable to have built in storage on phones, it’s just plain lame to lock in storage on a non-Apple music player.
The GoGear Connect 3 runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and comes with many media apps, such as MOG, Philips Songbird, Rhapsody, 7digital, Audible, AUPEO! Personal Radio, and Viewster, preinstalled. There’s also an app called Folder View that’s essentially a file explorer. The stock launcher isn’t necessarily bad or unusably laggy. It does come with a ton of widgets and shortcuts to preinstalled apps. Although the GoGear Connect 3 is Google Play sanctioned, many apps such as Facebook or Twitter are not available (they just don’t show up), likely due to hardware requirements.
As an MP3 player, the Connect 3 isn’t half bad. We wouldn’t say the audio output was any better or worse than our iPod Classic although the built in speakers are pretty tinny-sounding and practically useless. There are a myriad of different music players installed and available in the Google Play Store, Google Play Music being one of the most attractive cloud based ones. Many file types are supported so you won’t have any trouble playing those FLAC’s. Philips’ music player, Songbird, isn’t the prettiest music player out there but it does provide a decent selection of toggles and settings. Disappointingly, the FullSound function seems to be primarily a gimmick. Although it isn’t necessarily common in Android devices, the Connect 3 has a built in FM radio, a handy feature on any Wi-Fi only device. The included in ear headphones are pretty decent for pack-ins. They’re not the best we’ve heard but are superior to the white earbuds that come with Apple products.
We wouldn’t say the GoGear Connect 3 is a bad product. Although the screen is pretty terrible, it’s a fun Android based Wi-Fi device. The main issue all comes down to pricing. At $180, it’s a ridiculously tough sell against the $200 iPod touch. For a mere $20 more you get an “iPhone minus the phone” that does everything the GoGear does ten times better, and more. Now if Philips put out the GoGear Connect 3 at $99, then we’d be talking about a product that could compete.
At the time of this review, the GoGear Connect 3.5 has already been announced. With that product, here’s our recommendation for Philips - beef up the specs to a modern level and come in at a an aggressive price point. There isn’t much going for the GoGear versus an iPod touch so once the specs are there, price is going to be the only thing that draws buyers.
- Good sound quality
- Built in FM radio
- Google Play support
- Terrible screen
- No expandable storage
- Pricing isn’t competitive enough
Where to buy