Water-resistant units account for only a small portion of China’s MP3 player output, but the entire line’s widening market is expected to boost this niche segment. The youth sector, particularly those who engage in aqua sports and entertainment, will drive growth.
To address the requirements of young and trendy users, manufacturers in China are releasing sunglasses, necklace, armband, watch and goggle-clipped models. Some of these categories are traditional MP3 players in terms of music capability.
But on top of difference in the way they are worn and the materials used, these variants have special applications. Such devices are suited for swimming, snorkeling, surfing, jet skiing, windsurfing and other similar activities. Several can even be used in hot springs.
To ensure robust constructions, companies are eyeing higher IP ratings. Many are adopting housing materials that improve leak prevention. Some are incorporating LCD and OLED screens for a better user interface.
The MP370 model from Shenzhen Leading Technology Co. Ltd is IPX8-rated. It has a 1.1in OLED panel, USB port, touch button, e-book reader and FM radio. It supports WAV, MP3, WMA and ASF formats. It also carries a patent for the external design.
Although water-resistant MP3 players are considered a secondary line in China, most interviewed suppliers predict exports will increase in the next six months. More than 70 percent of the country’s output currently ships overseas, mainly to Europe and the US.
More Star Industrial Group Ltd, a major manufacturer in this category, is developing a goggle-clipped version that can be used up to 3m underwater. It is made of silicone. The company expects to start mass production in mid-2011. One of the challenges it faces is the creation of private molds, which can exceed $30,400 each.
HTD International Development Co. Ltd has released a necklace design, the HTD-W3 model. Compatible with MP3 and WMA files, it includes a touch button, USB 2.0 port and built-in rechargeable battery. It complies with RoHS requirements.
Shenzhen BettersupplyInd Co. Ltd’s BS-D1013 model can be used as an armband unit or attached to the back of the user’s goggles. This IPX8-rated MP3/WMA player is made of ABS and incorporates a rechargeable Li-ion battery and a USB port. The manufacturer is planning to launch an upgrade with an LCD screen in 2H11.
Some companies are exploring emerging destinations, including the Middle East, Asia and Australia, to boost sales further. Shenzhen Bettersupply is increasing its presence in the last. Shenzhen Leading and HTD are targeting Saudi Arabia, and Japan and Malaysia, respectively. Makers ship midrange and high-end products to these markets.
To compete with international brands such as Sony and Speedo, enterprises leverage their capability in designing water-resistant devices, including earphones, speakers, bags and cases.
China manufacturers target the midrange and high-end segments with MP3 players that are pricier than traditional models.
The former represents 45 percent of the total output. These products support MP3, WAV, WMA and ASF formats but have no screens. A USB port, earphone jack, touch button, e-book reader and built-in lithium battery are standard. Rated IPX5 to 7, the units can be submerged up to 3m deep.
High-end variants account for 25 percent of China’s supply. These have 1 to 2in LCDs or OLED displays and accept AAC, OggVorbis, APE and FLAC audio files. Most also have FM radio functions. Housed in IPX7- or IPX8-rated enclosures, they can be used in depths of as much as 10m.
Low-end versions, meanwhile, take up 30 percent of production. Such varieties support MP3, WAV and WMA, and have a USB port and earphone jack, but have no screens. Cases boast IPX2 to 4 rating.
Interviewed suppliers predict export prices will either remain stable or decrease by less than 5 percent in the next six to 12 months.
The key components for MP3 player production are the chip, LCD or OLED panel, and NAND flash memory. For housings, enterprises use high-grade ABS, silicone or metal alloy.
Mainland China manufacturers source ICs from local and Taiwan-based partners such as Rockchip, Actions, Sunplus and Ali. Since makers keep a long-term relationship with component providers, supply of chips is expected to remain stable.
For the displays, most companies use 1 to 1.5in panels, purchasing them from Shenzhen and Dongguan in Guangdong province. They usually keep stocks in advance to ensure availability. Manufacturers source NAND flash from South Korea providers. The popular storage capacity options are 1, 2, 4 and 8GB.
The housing materials utilized in water-resistant models are about 50 percent pricier than those of regular versions. Makers obtain these from local factories.
As regards quality management, China suppliers emphasize IP grade evaluation. The procedures are either conducted by third-party testing centers based on IP grade testing requirements or handled and paid for by the customer.
Factories also undertake low- and high-temperature, aging, water depth and pressure tests.
Shenzhen Bettersupply Ind Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Kunming Technology Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Leading Technology Co. Ltd
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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