Android alternatives to the iPod touch (Late 2013 edition)

Modern smartphones let you do much more than make phone calls: You can play games, surf the web, listen to music, watch videos and run thousands of apps that let you do everything from creating artwork to monitoring your fitness.

But you don’t necessarily need to sign a contract with a phone company to do those things — and you don’t necessarily need to buy a large tablet either. Apple offers a line of iPod touch devices that are basically iPhones without the ability to make phone calls. They’re also a bit thinner and cheaper than iPhones.

Google Android media players

Some folks would rather have a pocketable device that runs Android than iOS though.

We did a roundup of Android alternatives to the iPod touch a few years ago, and while many of the devices we featured are still available, the specs are starting to look a little dated. So it’s time for an update.

Most Android device makers have spent the past few years focused on phones and tablets rather than portable media players — but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a few good iPod touch alternatives… or sort of make your own by picking up a cheap Android phone and using it without a SIM card.

Motorola Moto G ($179 and up)

In fact, let’s start there — the Motorola Moto G is a smartphone. But it’s a reasonably good phone with a reasonably low price tag. You can pick one up for just $179. You never have to pay a dime for a phone contract if you don’t want to.

That means you can pick up a fully functional Android phone for less than the price of a modern iPod touch.

Motorola Moto G

Here’s what you get for the money:

  • 4.5 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel display
  • 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor
  • 5MP rear camera, 1.3 MP front-facing camera
  • 8GB or 16GB of storage
  • 1GB  of RAM
  • Android 4.3 (or later)
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, GLONASS
  • 2070mAh battery

Motorola also offers a line of colorful back covers, letting you customize the look and feel of the phone.

Another nice benefit is that if you decide you do want to use the Moto G as a phone, all you have to do is slide in a SIM card for a compatible wireless network. Some carriers offer significantly lower monthly rates if you bring your own phone.

Other cheap phones

The Moto G may be one of the best Android phones you can buy without a contract for $200 or less, but it’s hardly the only model.

BLU makes a line of phones that sell for as  little as little as $120, featuring Android 4.0 or later, with a range of screen and processor options.

blu studio 5.5

There’s also no shortage of inexpensive Android phones from Chinese companies as sites such as PandaWill, ChinaGrabber, GeekBuying, and AliExpress.

While these phones are of varying quality, and many won’t work with 3G or faster networks in the US, they’re generally pretty cheap and if you don’t care about cellular connectivity, they might make decent portable media players, gaming consoles, or day planners.

And of course, you can always find good deals on older phones at eBay or other sites that sell used and refurbished products — but these days it’s not difficult to find a reasonably good Android phone that sells for $200 or less, unlocked. So you don’t necessarily need to go with an older device to save money.

Ematic FunTab mini 2 ($50 and up)

While major device makers haven’t really done much to offer true alternatives to the iPod touch lately, makers of tablets for kids actually have a few interesting options — and they tend to be dirt cheap.

Ematic offers a line of kid-friendly devices with 4.3 inch displays thick plastic cases, a Kids mode user interface, and a parent mode that lets adults access apps that wouldn’t be available to kids.

The latest model is the FunTab mini 2, and it’s available from Walmart for $50.

ematic funtab mini 2

The device sports a 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor, a 4.3 inch, 480 x 272 pixel touchscreen display, WiFi, 3MP front and 1.9MP rear cameras, 4GB of storage, and a microSD card slot.

It runs Android 4.0, but features a custom user interface designed for kids. Unlike most adult tablets, you won’t get access to the Google Play Store with the FunTab mini 2, but the little device does come with a number of popular games including Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope, and Where’s my Water.

There’s also educational software, and parents can see how much time kids spend with different apps, or use built-in software to read a story that kids can listen to later. Parents can also block access to content selectively.

Ematic says the Funtab mini 2 should get up to 5.5 hours of battery life.

Fuhu Nabi Jr ($100)

Another kid’s tablet maker has a device that’s a bit bigger, and a bit more powerful than the FunTab mini 2. The Fuju Nabi Jr. features a 5 inch, 800 x 480 pixel display, an NVIDIA Tegra 2 ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage.

It’s available from retailers such as B&H for about $100.

Fuhu Nabi Jr.

The Nabi Jr. might be a little chunky to fit in your pocket. Not only does it have a thick plastic case to help protect it from the abuse of little hands, but it also has an optional rubbery case.

The device runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but like most devices aimed at kids it has a custom user interface and doesn’t come with access to the Google Play Store. But it does support side-loading, which means that you can install virtually any app if you can get your hands on an APK installer file.

The Nabi Jr has WiFi, Bluetooth, a 2MP camera that rotates to face the front or back, and a 2350mAh battery. It also features parental control software that lets you monitor or filter the content your kids user.

Sony Walkman (around $250 and up)

Sony is one of the few companies offering a true alternative to an iPod touch at the moment. The company’s Walkman F-Series digital media players look a bit like smartphones, but they’re pocket-sized Android devices designed first and foremost for media playback. They don’t make phone calls unless you install Skype or another voice-over-internet app.

Unfortunately the Sony Walkman F-Series has something else in common with the latest iPod touch models: They don’t come cheap.

The most recent Sony Walkman F880/F886 series devices aren’t yet officially available in the US, but you can pick one up from eBay for between $350 and $400.

Sony Walkman F886

These devices feature 4 inch, 854 x 480 pixel displays, 24-bit, 192 KHz audio playback support, up to 35 hours of MP3 audio playback, Android 4.1 software, WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC wireless capabilities.

It has a TI OMAP 4430 ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage.

While most of the specs don’t sound all that impressive — there isn’t even a camera — the Walkman F886 stands apart from the competition primarily through its support for high-quality audio.

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, you can save a few bucks by picking up an older, discontinued Sony Walkman. Previous-generation devices with NVIDIA Tegra 2 processors and Android 2.3 software, for instance, sell for about $248 – but at that point you’d probably be better off picking up a Moto G or a different phone.

Samsung Galaxy Player

It’s been more than a year since Samsung has introduced a new Galaxy Player, but if you look hard enough you can probably still find a good price on the Galaxy Player 3.6, Galaxy Player 4.2, or Galaxy Player 5.0.

Those numbers tell you about the screen sizes for these devices, which typically feature Android 2.3 software, front and rear cameras, and microSD card slots.

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2

Some models feature Bluetooth and GPS, and all models feature WiFi and access to the Google Play Store.

There aren’t many reasons to pick up a Galaxy Player instead of a cheap, unlocked Android phone these days. But if you’re specifically looking for a device that doesn’t have any cellular capabilities at all, you might want to check eBay, Amazon, or other marketplaces for a used or refurbished Galaxy Player. It’ll probably be a much cheaper option than a Sony Walkman F.

Conclusion

Apple’s iPod touch is almost an iPhone without phone calling capabilities. It has a similar display, similar processor, and supports most of the same apps. There aren’t really any Android device makers offering exactly that kind of experience right now — Sony’s Walkman line might come the closest, but even the company’s latest devices don’t have all the same features as the latest Sony smartphones.

But there’s a big difference between the Android and iOS landscape: You can find Android phones that sell for less than the price of an iPod touch, and just use it without a SIM card. If you want a cheap unlocked iPhone, you’re going to have to get one that’s at least a few generations old.

So if you’re in the market for an Android alternative to an iPod touch, my recommendation in late 2013 is to buy a Motorola Moto G or another phone. If you’re looking for something for kids, take a look at the latest devices from Fuhu or Ematic. And if you really want a slightly more adult device, but want one without a cellular radio, you might be able to find what you need from a Sony Walkman or older Samsung Galaxy Player.

But it’d be nice if a few more phone or tablet makers would make decent phone-sized Android devices for folks that don’t want or need to make phone calls.

  • Daniel Lundh

    Things to consider, if you buy an iPod you know you get appx. 2 years of software updates. With the devices above, with some even shipping with 2.x versions of Android. Well…

    • Nexus5Forum.com

      Motorola has said the Moto G is guaranteed to get Android 4.4 KitKat after the New Year. They’re likely to continue supporting the Moto G for several years into the future. I agree with the no name chinese brands though…in those cases you’re gonna be out of luck.

    • jabroney

      Haha, well, unlike Apple, Android phones allow you to use apps more than 2 years newer than your device, and only limit your access to apps if you absolutely cannot technically run them on your phone/device. Whereas Apple basically bricked my ipod after maybe 2 years, none of the apps can run without updates, and none of the updates or new apps can run because they are restricted to newer OS. I can still run gmail, the stock browser, and of course, the music player, so it’s not useless, but it could be so much more.

      • Dave Algonquin

        Also unlike Apple, I bet your device won’t turn into a paperweight in 2 years when the battery dies. Apple wants $70 to replace the battery in my iPod nano. No thanks. I can become a non-Apple household for less than that.

  • Bryan

    This article is for me. I live in Seoul, a city with ubiquitous wifi for $7 per month–in the subway stations, on the trains, in buses, and basically everywhere I walk, so in order to text message with people I just use wifi.

    Originally I went with an iPod Touch for a while, but prefer Android. Recently I’ve been using a Nexus 7, but it’s just too big to replace a phone with. Its great for using at home, but I don’t like to carry it on the subway with me. I’ll probably make the switch to the Moto G or Nexus 5.

    People who text with me sometimes find out after months of contact, even through Kakaocall (a popular IM clients VoIP service) that I pay about $80 less than them per month to keep in touch, with their fully loaded data and calling plans plus device fee. That’s how I save money for plane tickets to tropical countries twice per year.

    • widi

      Just use Talkatone with Google Voice.

      • widi

        nvm… just realized Seoul is in South Korea, not in US or Canada :O

  • BoloMKXXVIII

    I have a Blu Life Play and I have received 2 updates in the last couple of months. Not all of these phones are “sell and forget”. The Moto G would be a good deal but 16 GB isn’t much storage for a media device. Now, if you primarily use Netflix and Pandora on Wifi it might be the right fit.

  • NeedName

    I would look toward the Moto G then the Nexus 5 — the Moto G for the lowend and Nexus 5 for the highend. . . don’t really see anything else that competes with these two devices, even as an ipod replacement — unless you need a kid friendly device, of course. Furthermore, custom ROM support will certainly be ubiquitous for the Nexus 5 and probably very good for the Moto G.

  • digi_owl

    Alongside the other kid-focused devices there is this:
    http://www.kurioworld.com/k/se/parents/products/4s/

    And here you can even drop out of the kid centered interface and get full android.

  • John Morris

    The Moto G would be a good option…. if it had a memory slot. If you are carrying everything in the device it needs storage space.

    But if you want a music player, expand your horizons. Lots of sub $50 devices running Android if you look beyond Best Buy or Amazon’s featured products. Try someplace like biglots, they currently have three small android devices selling for $49.99 or less, all running 4.3. No idea if you can root em, but the cheaper they are the better the odds and these are cheep.

  • Michael Thompson

    I myself picked up a 43 dollar special on a 4.3-inch Android tablet that I will be using for exactly this purpose.

    • noob

      Sound like the JXD S18?

  • Cal Rankin

    I wish the Sony model came with cameras and memory expansion. Even then, at that cost it’s better to buy one of the cheap unlocked smartphones.

  • karen

    I am glad to read this article. I’ll check whether my Samsung S4 get this function. http://www.ikinkoo.com/

  • Drem

    No Cowon D3/Z2?

  • anon

    If it is “ipod alternative” you desire, why Android? Why not Lumia 520? it is going for around $70 in Target and Walmart this holiday season. and gets you free offline Nokia radio.

  • Guest

    With reliable stable apps, a 4 inch Retina HD display and the same apps to watch TV and movies as the iPad or iPhone (including my favorites Netflix, huluplus, Amazon Prime and DirecTV Anywhere), why would anyone choose an Android alternative?

    • Cal Rankin

      because Android also has reliable stable apps, and the same apps for TV and movies as iOS.
      Display tech, not so much in some cases, but not that the Moto G has a higher resolution than the iPod.
      Note that the resolution for the iPod touch is 1136*640. The minimum to be considered HD is 1280*720. Retina, yes; HD, no. I don’t blame you, though. Stupid buzz words tend to have that effect on people.

    • Sergio Ortiz

      Because iTunes is the worst piece of software ever written?

  • John

    The lumia 520 has similar specs to the 16GB 5th generation ipod touch and sells for about 1/3 the price.

  • buzz86us

    why are people spending so much on these things if their not going to be using cellphone service? A good place to look for a nice android device is craigslist or ebay 3g phones are going for next to nothing lately while still being very usable HTC EVO Design goes for roughly $60 and can be coupled with freedompop.

    Also the Moto G is a terrible replacement I’d say your better off with the Galaxy Light which has lte, quad-core and believe it or not a replaceable battery AND a micro sd slot so the only thing you lose is screen quality.

    Also if you do get these that function as phones you might as well pick up a lycamobile sim for $10 free incoming texting and calls to 800 numbers. If you do A LOT of texting $19 nets you a telna sim with 1000 texts per month.

  • underdog

    There really aren’t any alternatives to the ipod touch except for Sony. Because the ipod touch is really a mp3 player with extra capabilities. And ipod touch costs less than Sony. Thus either buy an ipod touch or spend a little bit more for Sony product.

    • AZgamer

      Uh, there is a lot more than just Sony if you read the article…

  • Cal Rankin

    I read that the older Android-powered Walkman was updated to Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s still old, but it’s better than Gingerbread.

  • norcal1953

    Good to think outside the box. I agree about the Moto G, I have one, but it is limited for carrying music around, as opposed to streaming music – 8gb is nothing, and 16gb is hardly much more. My solution, once upon a time, was to buy a Nokia Lumia 520 and drop a 64gb uSD into it, which was plenty for my modest music collection. I patted myself on the back for having a cheaper iPod Touch alternative, with a camera, and some internet chops when used WiFi only. My 520 was purchased in Asia and came unlocked, I’m not sure about using one purchased here but never “activated” – I know they are carrier-locked (even if “off contract”) but I don’t know if that extends to locking you out of WiFi use if you don’t sign up with the carrier who is selling it (AT&T for the 520, T-Mob for the 521).

    In any case the 525 with an upgrade in RAM to 1gb should be here soon, and I can no longer settle for 480p as resolution…

    Now my current substitute for an iPod Touch – in terms of camera, web browsing via WiFi, and access to handy apps – is my old Google Nexus 4 phone (which was replaced with the ironically slightly less capable, but newer, Moto G). When I moved to the Moto G, my Nexus 4 lost telephone connectivity, but it is still fast for games, has a good quality screen for video, and at 4.7″ is much nicer for videos than the iPod Touch. It has a more modern chip than the iPod Touch 5th gen, and a reasonably equivalent camera.

    I have discovered that music playing is slightly overrated, provided my choicest current albums can be downloaded locally (Google Play uploaded all my music, and let’s me then download it to portable devices like my old Nexus 4) and the rest streamed when I have WiFi (which is becoming more ubiquitous). What I really used my Touch for was web and apps and camera (including video calls), and honestly if you change phones every two years like many of us do, the best iPod Touch alternative is your last phone.

  • Celeste

    So-what can we call our cellphones that we dont use cell service? aPod Touch (Android Touch)? gPod Touch (Google Touch)? LOL Ive been using my VM Motorola Triumph this way for 2 yrs now. Originally bought to have a new toy to learn and to keep in touch w/my kid going away to college. Came home after 1 yr so I discontinued cell service. Now using wifi,, I play music, games, utilize calendar to keep track of my large family’s appts., text my siblings & share pics, hook up to my tv w/ mini hdmi connection to watch Saturday morning cartoons and other tv shows or movies on youtube with my younger kids, listen to EDM music on pandora even over the surround sound, find store coupons on wifi while at the mall, utilize internet in backyard instead of lugging out the laptop, take it camping to check the weather on their wifi, grocery and todo lists on my notepad app, use Shake calculator at stores or to figure tips at restaraunts, take pics, read free books from my local library, check my e-mail, kids have even played with it to make news reporter videos or to take sillI love it! I evenlove morethat I can go somewhere and no haveto y vaca pics and I dont worry if they drop it, and so much more! I love thgat I only pay $20/mo for my landline and $0 on cell service. It works for me.

  • thetruthtellah

    apple is shit because….
    you cant update it after 2 years (custom roms hahaa nope)
    itunes is the new realplayer (you probably know what happened to realplayer…)
    small screen (3.5 inch to 4 inch is tiny compared to even the lowest end of androids)
    not HD
    “the retina display” (you can get higher ppi on android)
    limited customisation (you cant get even widgets!!)
    jailbreaks are not even close to what you can do with unrooted android
    propietary cables (where is micro usb???)
    price for this shitstorm