Ask a Tech-Savvy Teacher: Use a Cheap Android Phone as an “Android Touch” Platform (Part 1)


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I recently received this email from the “Ask a Tech-Savvy Teacher” page on the blog:

Hey Tech-Savvy Teachers!

My iPod Touch just played its last iTune after five years of faithful service.  I want a good media player to replace it.  Any ideas?  I know that Apple is rumored to be releasing new iPods soon (Editor’s Note: released!) but I am hoping for something cheaper.  Is there an Android version of an iPod Touch?

Thanks,
Abba-less in Boise

Dear Abba-less,

I hear you sister!  The new iPod Touch hardware is awesome, but there are times when an inexpensive alternative is quite justified.  I hear from a number of parents of younger kids that they wish there was a cheaper phone alternative that their kiddos can use on wifi without a data plan as well as power users and casual users alike that want a cheap device for exercising, recreating or traveling.

I have several suggestions as options for rolling your own “Android Touch.”

Samsung Galaxy Player

Samsung attempted to move into this market with their Galaxy players (available in a variety of sizes, including 4 inches and 5 inches).  These were iPod Touch-like devices with wifi that featured an Android phone-like experience: access to the Google Play store and the ability to install most Android apps.  If you search around enough, you can still find new versions of these now-discontinued devices in places like Amazon.com.

I never owned one of these devices, but, I did have an opportunity to use one that was owned by a friend.  They were roughly on par with using an iPod Touch: they were slightly underpowered compared to their phone counterparts, but, were capable of downloading most apps, including games and productivity apps, without issue.

Sadly, Samsung is no longer making these devices.  You may be able to find a used one somewhere on the Internet, but, it won’t run even last generation’s Android software and may not be a satisfying solution.  I also doubt that these could run modern apps.

Repurpose an Old Cell Phone

Most cell phone plans allow you to upgrade cell phones every two years.  From my informal surveys, many tech-savvy teachers do just that: it allows you to get the latest and greatest technologies with a fairly minimal amount of investment.  If you have a lot of old cell phones lying around, you may be able to utilize that as a free portable media player.  All you need to do is pull the sim card out (if your device has one) and ignore any message about the phone lacking a sim card.  You might also consider putting the phone in airplane mode and then turn wifi on back on.

No old cell phone?  You have a ton of options!  I have had success purchasing old cell phones for projects from eBay (of course, buyer beware… use your best Spidey Sense here!) and at Gazelle, a company that purchased and refurbishes old mobile devices.  For example, I recently purchased a two-year old HTC Windows Phone 8X so I could experience the upcoming release of Windows 10 Mobile without investing in a new phone.  After looking for some time on eBay, I found a used version from a well-rated merchant for just $50.

Gazelle has a great selection of used, but “certified” devices.  You can pick from “good” or “excellent” condition and all devices come with a 30-day warrantee that allows you to return the device, no questions asked.  You will pay more here, but, you can buy with confidence that the phone works.

For example, you can pick up a “good” version of the Galaxy SIII with a relatively recent version of Android, 4.3 Jelly Bean for just $139.00. The devices comes with 16gb of memory.  For just over $20, you can add a 64gb microSD card to store most of your movies, music and some apps making this a 64gb Android Touch for just $159.

Looking for a Project?  Use a Inexpensive New or Refurbished Pre-Paid Android Phone!

For those looking for a project, there is an even cheaper option.  In the last two years, there has been a proliferation of inexpensive Android devices from a number of familiar manufactures that have come onto the market.  Most of these phones are aimed at “pre-paid” cell carriers like TextNow, FreedomPop, Boost Mobile, AT&T GoPhone, StraightTalk and Republic Wireless.  Often times, devices locked to these carriers are offered at a steep discount via marketplaces like Amazon and BestBuy in an attempt to drum up business.

For example, you can pick up the well-reviewed Moto E for Verizon Prepaid for just under $70 bucks on Amazon.  This phone takes microSD cards up to 32gb, which means a small investment of just over $10 makes this a 32gb Android Touch for around $80!

I’ve also had excellent lucking finding cheap prepaid cell phones utilize the excellent site DealNews.com.  There are prepaid deals posted there every couple of weeks and I have found phones for as little as $20 that would work just fine as an Android Touch.  Here is a quick screengrab of a recent visit there so you can see my strategy:

DealNews

At the time of this writing, there are several potential options, many under $60.00.

But… are these cheap phones worth it?  Is it useable?

Good question.  I am going to test this very question in upcoming weeks.  I am going to purchase a $50-or-less Android phone and see how it handles as an Android Touch.  My goal is to find a device that will take a 32gb or 64gb SD card with a recent version of Android.  I’ll report back here on the blog!

So, Abba-less, you have a number of great options here.  Let us know how it goes!

Love,
The Tech-Savvy Teachers

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