Wednesday, January 4, 2012

$40 mp3 player with wifi, speaker, linux support (palm pixi plus)

For almost 4 years I have used a mp3 player from Creative Labs named "ZEN Stone Plus with built-in speaker". It was used it to play music for our toddler all night long, nearly every night.

It was an absolutely wonderful product. Battery life via rechargeable battery was excellent, it was small enough to forget about in your pocket, and the speaker was sufficient for what we needed

The only deficiency in my opinion was that it could not play music while plugged into AC power. That meant that a.) the battery would have to last the 10+ hours every night and b.) we had to plug it into AC power every morning to charge it. In the end, it was the latter that caused me to need to replace it. After probably 1000+ plug-in and remove (many by a child under 5 years old) the pins in the USB connection eventually failed.

If you're looking for a portable MP3 player with a built-in speaker, your options are very few. The Ipod Touch (and Iphone) are perfectly good solutions, but come a hefty price tag even used. So, I had to get creative.

I'd seen the Palm Pixi appear on a couple "deal-a-day" websites at the $30 price range, and that lead me to consider the Palm Pixi Plus. The Pixi Plus has the following features that made it look *very* tempting:

  • 8GB storage
  • Internal Speaker
  • wifi
  • web browser
  • GPS
  • Camera
  • Touch screen and physical keyboard
  • can play music while charging
  • runs linux! (just geeky)
  • open development platform

However, I googling left me unsure about a couple things:

  • Could I use the pixi's wifi without first activating it with some carrier? I had no interest in a phone, or a monthly bill. It did seem that worst case, I could activate on a pay-as-you-go provider and get going for probably less than $10 total.
  • If I could manage to avoid activation, could I still have access to the Palm WebOS Store? Having an "App Store" was an unnecessary upgrade from the zen stone we had before, but sure would be nice.

In the end, the answer to each of the above questions was 'Yes'. I now have a MP3 player with a builtin speaker, that also has all the functions generally associated with a smart phone (see above). I'm really happy with it. It cost me $40 shipped in 2 days (I do have amazon prime, so total cost may be a little bit more). The only two issues at the moment are:

  • Getting it plugged in for charge is a bit of a pain, and it seems to me that likely the thing that will end up failing is that connection, because its not 100% trivial (and remember, toddlers/young kids are using it). There is, however, a $15 solution for that. I've not purchased it yet, so I'm not 100% certain, but it looks like I can get a Touchstone Palm Pixi Charging Dock and Palm Pixi Touchstone Cover shipped for under $10.
  • The music player stops somewhere after 2 hours or so when its on repeat of a single song. Obviously this is not an issue for many people, but it affects my use case.

In Summary, if you think an 8GB mp3 player with GPS, speaker, camera would be a generally cool toy for $40, then buy one today. I'm really happy with this one. I'll try to write another article soon that describes how to use Meta Doctor to flash with activation disabled and then run the first use program to set up a profile.