When Samsung announced the Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 yesterday, one question immediately sprang to mind: why? Why would Samsung — which already makes a Galaxy S WiFi 3.6, 4.0, and 5.2, not to mention the virtually identical Galaxy Player 4.0 and 5.0 — need yet another phone-without-the-phone media player device? We headed over to Samsung's booth at MWC to play with the device, and though we can't say it answered our questions about the models in general, this is at least a giant improvement in the mold. The hardware is really nice: the white device is only 8.9mm thick, and it feels great to hold, though it still falls prey to the slightly cheap, plasticky feeling most Samsung devices have. It has a physical home button — always a plus on a device like this — flanked by Menu and Back buttons, underneath a 4.2-inch, 800 x 480 LCD display. That there's no Super AMOLED is a shame, but the screen looks pretty good. It's powered by a 1GHz processor, and you can get either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage (plus there's a Micro SD slot). It's also running Gingerbread, which seems like a wasted opportunity — a lot of people would likely jump on a no-contract device running Android 4.0, especially since it will likely only cost about $200 (the price of the previous models).
There are a few media- and gaming-friendly tweaks for the device. A six-axis gyroscope lets you tilt the device and have it react, and it's a neat trick in a game like Need for Speed — tilt the whole device forward and you accelerate, pull back and you brake. There are stereo speakers on the top and bottom of the device's front face; they output legitimately stereo sound when you hold the device sideways, and they're surprisingly loud and clear for a product this size.
The Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 is, without a doubt, the best Android-based media player I've seen yet. But its problems are still enormous: the iPod touch has more (and arguably better) apps and games, its music app is much more refined, and it has the whole iTunes ecosystem at its disposal. Google Music has done a lot to close the iTunes gap in the last few months, but the other differences remain stark. Given all that, it's hard to get excited about the Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 — it's the very best Android-based media player, but that market doesn't and probably shouldn't exist.