Makers are strengthening the digital photo frames premiums line, while exploring the high end with multifunction releases.
China makers of digital photo frames are stepping up differentiation efforts to break homogeneity in this highly competitive line. Suppliers are packing more features and larger screens into streamlined housings, a growing number of which boast novelty designs. Besides multiple functions, companies are integrating wireless connectivity to add value.
Entry-level products, targeted generally at the gifts and promotional markets, remain a key business for companies. Many expect demand from these segments to stay robust. Midrange releases, however, will continue to dominate output. Some makers are also migrating to the high end to broaden reach. Versions intended for home entertainment, advertising and educational applications are forecast to increase.
Models with 7 to 9in screens are mainstream, but buyers will find ample selections of 1.1 to 25in types. In terms of functionality, suppliers are investing in wireless technologies and high definition. Most units can connect to the iPod, iPhone and iPad. For greater security, they have password function.
Slim, elegant designs are also prevalent, with several companies having released varieties as thin as 9mm. For a touch of novelty, recent releases include products encased in toys, watches and key rings.
The D0807 model from Shenzhen Digiview Technology Co. Ltd is only 6.5mm. The K25 model from Huihong Technology Co. Ltd resembles a cosmetic case with a built-in mirror and a 1.8in color TFT LCD. Running on a 3.7V lithium battery, the unit supports JPEG, BMP and GIF. It can be customized with a different boot-up logo, menu and color. Huihong offers 1.1 to 15in frames, of which 1.5, 2.4, 7 and 8in variants are mainstream.
To bolster their technical capability, makers such as Somy Technology Co. Ltd work with international partners. Somy is cooperating with Motorola for the design of digital photo frames for an advertising show. Further, makers stay abreast of latest developments in smart and 3G digital photo frames. The first consists of varieties integrating an OS, while the latter has a 3G module for surfing the Web, sharing photos, and sending and receiving e-mail and RSS feeds.
Suppliers see no threat from units with larger screens, better CPUs and OS, and bigger storage capacity such as mobile Internet devices or MIDs and tablet PCs. These are targeted at the high-end consumer markets, while digital photo frames are exploring the gifts, novelty and promotional advertising sectors.
Large-screen digital photo frames lead
Stable export business
Hong Kong: Upgrades revolve around entertainment features
The mainstream selection consists of 7, 8 and 9in models with a resolution ranging from 480x234 to 800x600 pixels. Variants with 10in and bigger displays are expected to rise in number in the months ahead. The majority of units support most A/V formats and incorporate USB ports, SD/MMC slots and earphone jacks. They also come equipped with a speaker and a remote control.
The DPF-N90 model from Shenzhen Jingguanzun Electronic Technology Co. Ltd is a 19in digital photo frame with 1024×768-pixel resolution. It reads JPEG, MP3, WMA, MPEG-1/2/4, AVI, VOB and MPEG files, and SD, MMC, MS, xD and CF cards. Calendar, clock, alarm, remote control and multilanguage functions are built-in.
Midrange variants dominate supply in China with a 50 percent share. Housed in acrylic, wood, ABS or metal alloy, these products have 7 to 9in LCDs and are compatible with GIF, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, APE, M-JPEG and MPEG-1/2/4. A stereo speaker, an e-book reader, games, a G-sensor and a CF/MS/xD slot are typical. A/V and TV out, and touch button are also incorporated. A growing number of releases have infrared modules that automatically power up the device upon detecting a body within the allowed range.
Entry-level products make up 30 percent of China’s yield in this line. These models, often encased in acrylic or ABS housing, generally feature 1.1 to 5in screens and allow JPEG, BMP, WAV, MP3, WMA, 3GP and AVI formats. They support auto-slideshow, calendar, alarm, clock and zoom in/out. Most integrate a USB port, SD/MMC slot, FM radio, earphone jack, speaker and remote control.
High-end products represent 20 percent of output. They typically sport 10in or larger screens, delivering 720p and 1080i/p. Besides reading RM, RMVB, MOV and VOB, such devices enable weather forecasts and mobile digital TV. HDMI ports, USB OTG, multiple speakers, touchscreen, GPRS, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are standard.
The major components for digital photo frames are the LCD, NAND flash memory and chip, which combined account for 70 percent of production expenditure. The other key inputs are the capacitors, resistors and PCBs. With requirement supply generally expected to remain stable, costs are also projected to be steady. Rates for 7, 8 and 9in LCD panels are from $11 to $13, $19 to $20.90, and $20.10 to $22.10, respectively.
Manufacturers are nonetheless monitoring outlay for housing materials such as plastic and metal, and the yuan appreciation, which can affect price movements. Most mainland China companies source LCD panels locally and from Taiwan providers Innolux and AU Optronics. Some noted a slight shortage in 7 to 9in variants due to growing demand from MIDs and tablet PCs, but overall supply is forecast to remain stable.
Chips are purchased from Taiwan and US partners. AppoTech ICs are often used for 1.1 to 3.5in models, while 5in frames have CheerTek, Amlogic, Sunplus, ESS or SigmaTel solutions.
For the NAND flash memory, companies turn to Samsung and Hynix. The typical capacity supported are 2, 4 and 8G.
Digital photo frames for gifts, promotional and advertising purposes are expected to generate better sales this year than traditional segments. These applications will ensure steady exports, with a 5 percent increase forecast for the next six months.
The industry in China is supported by more than 400 makers, about 80 percent of which can be found in Guangdong province. The key centers are Shenzhen, Dongguan, Guangzhou and Zhongshan. The majority of businesses are small and midsize private operations that offer a range of electronics devices.
Digital photo frames account for greater than 50 percent of their revenue.
In general, OEM is the main thrust of most enterprises, but many are boosting their ODM and OBM portfolios to enhance competitiveness. Shenzhen Digiview, for instance, plans to increase its 20 percent share of business for ODM projects. Shenzhen Jingguanzun likewise aims to raise the current 20 percent ratio allotted to ODM and OBM contracts.
The main export markets are Japan, the US and Europe. Shenzhen Jingguanzun and Mit Electronic Shenzhen Co. Ltd’s exports to Europe and the US account for 70 to 80 percent of their respective shipments. Both predict deliveries to the two locations will remain stable. About 90 percent of Huihong’s products go to the US, France and the UK.
Shenzhen Jingguanzun plans to boost shipments to Australia, which currently absorbs 20 to 30 percent of total exports. Somy is expanding its markets in South America and the Middle East. Shenzhen Digiview is looking at a 5 percent increase in its shipments to Australia, the Middle East and South America.
New product development in Hong Kong’s digital photo frame industry is slowing as makers hold off rollouts to focus instead on adding value to existing units. Promotions for current selections are likewise more subdued compared with previous years. Some companies manufacture only in EMS capacity.
Upgrades center on entertainment features and A/V I/O functions, the latter enabling models to double as a monitor for TVs, DVD players and surveillance cameras. Many suppliers are incorporating utility applications via a digital clock, alarm, calendar and temperature display. These are accessed through the display or via separate LED panels in front. Releases with weather station capability supporting indoor and outdoor readings are also available.
Most suppliers are steering clear of high-end features such as Wi-Fi and e-mail/SMS to remain competitive pricewise. Combination phones and digital photo frames, however, are rising in popularity. Caller ID phones with 7in or smaller digital photo frames are on offer, as are DECT handsets integrating photo caller ID-enabled digital photo frames.
Several suppliers are bundling portable scanners with their releases. Jewelry boxes embedded with 1.8in digital photo frames have been introduced as well.
Exterior designs reflect trends in regular photo frames. The common materials used are wood, plastic, metal, glass and leather. Besides slim profiles, makers keen to achieve a more contemporary look aim for a mirror surface finish.
Small-screen models are more likely to adopt nonrectangular shapes. Keychain-type releases are suitable for children and teenagers.
Coby Mfg Co. Ltd’s collection of digital photo frames includes 3.5in units with music playback and temperature display, and 7 to 14in variants with MPEG-4, H.264 and M-JPEG capability. The maker also offers 1.5 and 1.8in keychain versions and 2.4in types with digital clock and calendar display.
Luck HK Electronics Co. supplies 7in models with an aluminum frame, built-in 2x2W speakers and video playback capability. It has 8 and 10.4in varieties in antique-style and walnut wood frames, respectively.
Coby Mfg Co. Ltd
Huihong Technology Co. Ltd
Mit Electronics (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Digiview Technology Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Jingguanzun Electronic Technology Co. Ltd
Somy 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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