Value-added features and trendier Internet radio styles cater to various buyers, especially the youth.
China’s Internet radio manufacturing industry is riding on the popularity of wireless networking and video playback in mapping out product development. Many companies are likewise highlighting portable models to cater to users of Wi-Fi hotspots and leverage mobility trends.
Makers are rolling out slimmer and trendier form factors, targeting their devices at Internet-savvy students, young professionals and middle-aged buyers. Varieties with sleek designs, however, are generally for the midrange and upscale markets given their relatively higher production outlay. The bulk of output goes to North America and EU countries. But while this type accounts for only a small portion of the total yield, companies predict that the number will increase in coming months.
Under efforts to position the line better as an entertainment device, suppliers are adding video capability. Most releases already incorporate an LCD screen of about 1.5 to 3.5in. Manufacturers predict A/V integration will become the next big thing in the sector.
Some of the latest releases follow these two trends. The superslim GEIR0002 model from Shenzhen Good&Easy Technology Co. Ltd measures 125x72.9x23.1mm. It can receive more than 12,000 Internet radio stations via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and support RealAudio, MP3 and WMA, and FM and RDS.
Shenzhen Full-Join Technology Co. Ltd’s NMP001 model has a 2.4in TFT LCD. It can display nearly 2,000 Internet TV stations and accommodate MPEG-4, FLV and RealMedia formats. It receives more than 30,000 radio channels and enables UPnP. It is 159x62.5x22mm thin.
A few companies are incorporating features based on buyers’ requirements. Shenzhen Full-Join, for example, is looking at social network service or SNS as a future add-on. The Kamzon Ltd added digital photo frame and radio recording functions to its DC-017 model. Dongguan Synst Electronics Co. Ltd improved the sound output of its IR-F4 model through a 10W built-in speaker.
Internet radios run on LAN, Wi-Fi
Internet radio production & export trends
Hong Kong: Docking stations, color displays & touch controls lead R&D
Taiwan: Home-use models dominate line
LAN and Wi-Fi are still the key technologies used in China-made Internet radios. Mainstream products offer such connections, receiving more than 10,000 Internet stations. They have an LCD screen, a speaker, a USB port, an infrared remote control and an earphone jack.
Entry-level models, which make up 40 percent of the total output, support fewer than 10,000 channels. In addition to the standard specifi cations, these ABS-encased units can play MP3, WAV and WMA files, and have SD/MMC slots, clocks, alarms and power adapters.
Variants in the midrange category take up 50 percent of production. Such devices receive signals from more than 12,000 radio stations via Wi-Fi, and have WEP and WPA security. They run JPEG, RealAudio, Ogg Vorbis and AAC formats, and provide FM and RDS functions. The LCDs are usually larger than those of low-end types, and the designs include a built-in speaker, an e-book reader and a USB port for charging. Housings are made of PC, wood or metal.
Upscale products, which account for a mere 10 percent of China’s aggregate yield in the line, boast Internet TV reception, multiple internal speakers and DAB radio. These support AVI, MPEG-4, FLV and RM/RMVB formats, and WPA2 protocol. Some models also function as docking and charging stations for the iPod, iPhone and iPad. High-end versions come in metal housings and offer radio recording, SNS, weather forecast and UPnP.
Internet radios rely mainly on the quality of chips used. Most China companies take advantage of the stable supply of ICs in Hong Kong or among local agents of foreign providers such as CSR and Frontier Silicon.
Speakers and LCD panels, meanwhile, are sourced from Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan and Jiangmen in Guangdong province. The last, together with Zhejiang and Jiangsu, is a key production base for lithium batteries for the line.
China manufacturers forecast generally stable prices in the next six months, following recent upward adjustments due to higher component, raw material and labor costs. Most companies are working on minimizing overhead spending to keep products affordable and retain competitive edge. They said low quotes for Internet radios make them attractive to a wider market than other consumer electronics that incorporate the function as an add-on, including tablet PCs. The former also uses special chips and firmware that deliver better sound reception than multipurpose entertainment units that install Internet radio software.
China has close to 50 Internet radio companies, 80 percent of which are small and midsize operations. They concentrate on OEM and ODM business. The average monthly output ranges from 3,000 to 50,000 units. Exports are projected to stabilize or increase by at most 5 percent in coming months because of two main factors. The first is the rising demand from markets in the US, the EU and Japan.
Kamzon, Dongguan Synst and Shenzhen Full-Join ship their entire yield overseas. Ninety percent of the first’s outbound deliveries go to the US and the EU, while 80 percent of Shenzhen Full-Join’s is transported to the last destination. Dongguan Synst foresees a higher export volume to Japan in coming months. Most shipments to these aforementioned regions are midrange and high-end products that receive more Internet radio stations and adopt better solutions and housing materials.
Increase deliveries to Southeast Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa, which are considered emerging markets, will also contribute to an export upswing. The first two areas account for 30 percent of More Star Industrial Group Ltd’s exports. For Dongguan Synst, Israel and Saudi Arabia will be target destinations. Shenzhen Good&Easy’s exports to South America will rise by 5 to 10 percent, with Brazil as the primary growth spot.
For these emerging markets, companies will focus on offering better price-to-performance ratio. Some products will also incorporate media player functions as added value.
Hong Kong manufacturers of Internet radios are enhancing functionality and user interface to prepare the line for emerging applications. Topping the R&D trend is the integration of iPod or iPhone docks in the latest designs. Makers have also introduced color displays and touch control, thereby enabling movie playback and photo viewing as optional functions.
Tabletop models still dominate output, especially in the low-end segment. Prices have remained stable during the past 12 months, staying in the $60 to $75 range even as suppliers struggled to survive rising labor costs and the yuan appreciation. Upscale variants such as those with enhanced speaker output start at $150. In the past two years, enterprises have been pushing high-value products to spur sales. Versions with 15, 25 and 30W speakers are part of this category.
In addition to the 30-pin connector, Apple’s influence on the line is reflected in the increasing number of downloadable applications on the iPhone, which is turning the device into virtual Internet radios. Some interviewed companies are concerned this might affect the long-term development of stand-alone versions. A few makers from the portable desktop and pocket Internet radio segments have released their own Internet radio phones.
Hong Kong is home to about 25 suppliers, many of which have extensive manufacturing experience in other radio types. The majority works with OEM clients. Those that promote in-house brands seek distributors and sales agents. One of the channels makers are actively exploring is the hospitality industry, where the product can become a premium service.
Among the major players in the territory is Hip Shing Electronics Ltd, which is one of the first to release Internet radios in the area. Its Lumber model utilizes Wi-Fi networks and receives more than 10,000 radio stations worldwide. It has a dot-matrix LCD, an FM radio with a rod antenna, and a 2x10W rms speaker. The device provides audio streaming and integrates clock and alarm functions. DAB/DAB+ and LAN are optional.
Ria Co. Ltd of the Honwell Group is one of the newer players in the line. It offers a base design in the IR1004 model, which can be customized to support DAB and FM radio, iPhone dock, time projector and other features.
Global Marketing Development Ltd, a radio supplier since 1998, has released the WF900i model, a Wi-Fi version that includes an iPod 30-pin socket with charger. It has a PLL FM radio, 128x64 dot-matrix display and 2x2W speakers.
Internet radios from Taiwan manufacturers are designed mainly for home use because of network considerations. Most basic models have no speaker or built-in networking capability and therefore have to be connected to a PC or speaker system. Some stand-alone versions with media players feature wireless or Ethernet connectivity. High-end variants, on the other hand, can play MP3 and WMA audio files, support Wi-Fi and Ethernet LAN, and come with remote controls or LCDs.
Makers are increasing value-added designs to attract a bigger market. Single-function products are no longer that popular. Some of the latest releases have USB flash memory, and allow online e-book reading, flash games, news and Internet TV.
Major industry players such as MTech Corp. also emphasize software expansion, especially in relation to user interface. Current selections from the company allow simultaneous audio playback, news broadcast and e-book download. User-friendly features are also included, covering news clips, e-mail forwarding, scheduled recording, 16-language support and list of favorites.
Wired and wireless stand-alone models are between $40 and $60. Those that connect to an iPod or iPhone, and have high-end speakers and built-in flash memory exceed $60. Variants with basic radio functions are below $40.
Apacer Technology Inc.
Global Marketing Development Ltd
Hip Shing Electronics Ltd
More Star Industrial Group 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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