Apple contender: iPod Touch (Fourth generation $199, newest model $299)
Alternative: Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 ($199)
Apple's played this game with users for years, so why shouldn't Samsung? You take all of the elements people really like about your popular smartphone, yank out the phone element for folks who don't want to pay for airtime or parents who don't want the cost of their kid's toy added to their monthly phone bill and watch the money trickle in. This was the exact thinking behind the Galaxy Player, a 4-inch handheld that blazes past the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet with its front and rear cameras, GPS, Bluetooth and support for Google's suite of official mobile apps, including Gmail, Google Talk and the Android Market. The iPod Touch clearly has the better camera of the two and a smoother display, but the Galaxy supports more video formats, high-quality YouTube and Netflix ( NFLX) streaming, better sound quality for audio files with Samsung's SoundAlive audio enhancement settings and an FM tuner for old folks who still care to listen to the radio.
The latest Galaxy Player is competing with an Apple afterthought in a dying electronics segment, but Samsung's still taking the time to get it right. While not as impressive as the Galaxy S III, the Galaxy Player earned the same 90 rating from Decide as the latest iPod while selling for less. If price is the deciding factor, the Galaxy Player easily wins the day.