Unsurprisingly, as smartphone ownership grows more and more common, the need for dedicated music players has waned significantly since the glory days of the iPod, and yes, even the Walkman. It seems like it has been ages since I was concerned with whatever new product might be added to the Sansa line (the e280 was a personal favorite), the Cowon D2 vs. the D2+, or the Nokia N810’s resistive touchscreen display.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that media players are a completely dead category, it simply means that they must become more specialized and distinguished from smartphones to survive. In a way, at least, the new Walkman NW-ZX2 from Sony is certainly impressive, at least at being a high-quality personal media player.
First off, the ZX2 has a significant 128GB of internal storage, which can even be expanded with a microSD card to store all, and we mean all, of your music. Additionally, there are several music-specific features, such as integrated HX digital amplifier as well as lead-free solder and gold plating to reduce interference. The battery can also power up to 60 hours of music playback, but naturally playing high quality audio or using the device for more than just music can reduce that number quite significantly.
Nevertheless, the NW-ZX2 (which is terribly named) is also technically an Android device as well, running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. As a result, the player includes a relatively small touchscreen, WiFi, Bluetooth with proprietary high quality encoding, NFC, and even access to the Google Play Store. It doesn’t seem likely that very many consumers will really be using the Walkman primarily as an Android device, but the inclusion of WiFi and an app store does make the device something of a competitor to the iPod Touch type of media player.
Of course, the ZX2 has one major downfall that keeps it from being a real competitor to the few who might still purchase an iPod Touch type device, and that is its $1,200 price tag. Without a doubt, this is a media player meant for a niche market that values audio quality over everything else, and may even already own a smartphone.
In a way, it is too bad that there isn’t a lower cost alternative to the iPod Touch from any major Android manufcaturer. It seems clear that the iPod touch isn’t nearly as popular as it once was, but even so I haven’t really seen a major Android-based media player since the Samsung Galaxy Player line back in 2011.
It seems like there could potentially be a market for Android devices that aren’t smartphones even today, but perhaps the people who would have gotten such a device just have smartphones or tablets instead. I suppose that would make audiophiles the only remaining users of dedicated media players, and for them this kind of Walkman might just make sense.