Models with screens continue to be the mainstream flash MP3 players. Value add-ons include touch controls and HDMI ports.
Audio quality improvements are directing development initiatives in China’s flash MP3 player industry. Most companies have been concentrating on adding LCDs to keep up with digital device trends, but many are realizing the need to compete on the product’s core attribute, sound. This is also to address buyers’ growing preference for music formats other than MP3, WAV and WMA that pack better audio output.
Suppliers such as Shenzhen Neostra Technology Co. Ltd are using the latest ICs from Actions Semiconductor. An example of this is the manufacturer’s SG005B model launched last year, which reads FLAC, MP3, WMA and WAV, and delivers an S/N ratio of 90dB. The SG111B model, meanwhile, plays AAC, APE and FLAC.
More Star Industrial Group Ltd adopts Ali solutions, which can support almost all music formats.
Under efforts to match customers’ requirements, a growing number of companies are tapping buyer feedback when purchasing chips and components as these affect sound quality. Several are improving the PCB layout, optimizing the design of the shield layer and circuit route, and adopting software algorithms. Others are enhancing display features and adding multiple functions.
E-Ran Technology Co. Ltd’s ER-S10 model has a 1.5W external speaker that provides more than three hours of play time. The FHM-131 model from Feihong Industry Co. Ltd has a 3in touchscreen for easier operation. It incorporates gaming function and supports mainstream audio and video formats.
Given previous years’ emphasis on display technologies, flash MP3 players with LCD or OLED panels will continue to dominate supply. About 80 percent of output has 1 to 4.3in LCDs, while the rest have 2in OLEDs or smaller counterparts.
Screen-equipped variants account for about 90 percent of More Star’s selection. Its MP2807C model features a 1.8in LCD, and supports MP3, WMA, WAV, RM/RMVB, AVI, JPEG, BMP and GIF. A saturated market, decreasing demand, and tough competition from multifunction digital devices such as portable media players and even smartphones are squeezing the line in China. Makers nevertheless see a 5 percent increase in exports owed to strong demand from the US and Europe, especially for midrange and high-end categories. Shenzhen Kaixuan Electronics Co. Ltd ships 70 percent of its output to the two areas, and sees a steady rise in deliveries there.
Although E-Ran said demand from these locations will reach saturation in coming years, it still forecasts a surge in international orders in the next six months. More Star’s total foreign trade is projected to hit $2.4 million in the next six months, with the US and Europe accounting for about 90 percent.
Other companies are exploring emerging markets to improve sales. Flash MP3 players designed for the promotional and gifts markets go to South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The first absorbs 20 percent of E-Ran’s overseas business, which is forecast to grow in the near term. Shenzhen Neostra predicts demand from the area and the Middle East will climb in the next six to 12 months.
There are currently over 300 makers in China, mostly based in Guangdong province. The majority of enterprises concentrate on OEM and ODM business. About 90 percent of More Star’s output goes to such clients, while 98 percent of Feihong’s production is dedicated to OEM.
Small operations generally turn out 10,000 to 40,000 units every month, and midsize ones about 60,000. Large suppliers yield over 100,000 flash MP3 players monthly.
Releases from China generally come with 1.2 to 1.8in LCD or OLED screens, FM radios, built-in microphones, voice recorders, earphone jacks and USB ports. They play multiple music formats and run on AA, AAA or rechargeable lithium batteries.
Entry-level and midrange models are currently mainstream, with units belonging to the latter category expected to increase as makers shift upmarket. More high-end ones will likewise be rolled out.
Basic variants have no screens or are equipped with 1 to 1.1in LCDs or OLEDs. These incorporate 2GB NAND flash memory, a USB port and an earphone jack. Powered by AA or AAA batteries, the units support MP3, WAV and WMA formats.
Midrange models have 1.2 to 2in LCD or OLED displays, 4GB NAND, dual earphone jacks, speakers, FM radios and transmitters, microphones, voice recorders and e-book readers. They enable lyrics synchronization and TTS. Most boast touch controls and SD/MMC slots. Power comes from rechargeable lithium batteries. The files supported include AAC, Ogg Vorbis, APE, FLAC, JPEG, AMV, 3GP and WMV.
HDMI ports and 8GB memory characterize high-end products. Such upscale versions support RA, BMP, GIF, PNG, RM, RMVB, AVI, MPEG-4, MOV and 720p playback. They incorporate cameras, TV-out and games.
The main components and raw materials for the line are the flash memory, chipset, panel and battery. LCD and OLED screens and batteries can be purchased locally, while IC solutions are sourced from Taiwan and the US.
Most interviewed companies are optimistic export prices will remain steady in the next six months. Several are looking at a 5 percent reduction to strengthen competitiveness.
Flash MP3 player supply in Hong Kong constitutes low-end plastic models without displays and expensive multifunction versions with high-resolution color TFT panels, touchscreens, multimedia support and metallic cases. Some manufacturers offer two-in-one units such as combination players and digital voice recorders, which are generally priced more than regular flash MP3 players with voice recording function. Gaming variants provide another example. These pack better electronic circuits and dedicated gaming keys.
Special categories include toy flash MP3 players, weather-resistant, and solar- and dynamo-powered types. The last is mainly targeted at campers, travelers, and the gifts and premium markets. Makers add further value via LED flashlights, FM radios, sirens and even mobile phone charging functions.
Many suppliers are augmenting their flash MP3 player lineups with portable, desktop configurations incorporating speakers, USB ports, auxiliary inputs and SD slots. Similar to their thumb-sized counterparts, such tabletop versions can integrate customer-specified storage capacity and rechargeable battery.
Companies usually release at least five models with new exterior designs and features every trade show season, expanding buyers’ options. They strive to develop novelty housings, experimenting with new molds, materials, interface and surface finishes. Some offer units shaped like a heart, credit card, lipstick tube, animal, shoes and cartoon figures.
Hong Kong has more than 30 suppliers of flash MP3 players. Tight competition and squeezed margins have been contracting the maker pool in the past three years. Surviving companies mostly concentrate on OEM projects to stay afloat.
Coby Mfg Co. Ltd is one of the territory’s major players in this line. Its MP826 model features a 2.8in widescreen TFT with touch controls. Besides FM radio transmission, the unit enables PC synchronization, music and video playback, and image and text viewing.
Ria Co. Ltd’s flash MP3 players are mainly desktop types that are also marketed as portable multimedia speakers. The WS1002 model packs an equalizer and an FM radio tuner.
Sys-Link Technology Co. Ltd specializes in flash MP3 players, USB flash drives, USB hubs and digital voice recorders. Its model MP-801 novelty flash MP3 player, suitable as a corporate premium, supports MP3 and WMA formats, and USB 2.0.
E-Ran Technology Co. Ltd
Feihong Industry Co. Ltd
More Star Industrial Group Ltd
More Star Industrial Group Ltd
Ria Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Kaixuan Electronics Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Neostra Technology Co. Ltd
Sys-Link 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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