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FRS suppliers this year are taking a cue from the cellular phone market by following the "smaller is better" approach and by offering selectable colorful front panels.
In addition, nearly every FRS supplier is sporting new, sexier designs, and many continue to add unique features or concepts-such as Midland, which is showing the first FRS with a built-in scanner, and Radio-Shack, which is shipping an FRS built into a car antenna.
Audiovox recently joined Cobra in announcing new switchable front panels, noting that the concept is popular in the cellphone market. The company debuted the FR 1420, a 14-channel, ultracompact model with a removable decorative front panel. The step-up FR 1428 adds 38 subcodes and comes with two additional exchangeable front panels.
Both units offer VOX, roger beep, channel scan and dual watch, and both come in twin packs at approximately $45.99 per pack for the FR 1420 and approximately $89.99 per pack for the FR 1428.
Cobra's new 2001 microTALK lineup accepts 30 SNAP faceplates that are available in different styles and range in price from $4.95 to $9.95.
Midland's new Speakeasy line stresses small size and light weight and includes the first FRS to offer a built-in scanner. Available by late second quarter will be seven models that are smaller than popular folding cellular phones, Midland said, and will include such features as call/paging, accessory jacks and in-unit battery chargers.
The line leads with the F-10, a basic 14-channel model that comes in an egg-shaped case designed to cradle easily in the hand. The step-up F-12, in the same egg-shaped case, adds 38 subcodes.
A new F-14 offers 121 subcodes, the F-15 has NOAA weather reception, and the F-17 trades weather reception for an FM radio tuner. Also new from Midland is the F-25, a 14-channel/38 subcode model with a folding antenna and voice-scrambling features, and the top-of-the-line F-28-which has a built-in 400MHZ scanner to pick up race-car radio frequencies, in addition to eVOX, stopwatch, folding antenna and vibrate call alert.
Midland said prices for the line have not yet been determined.
RadioShack debuted last fall the first car FRS, which consists of a radio built into the base station of an antenna that sits on the outside of the car. The unit ships with a control cable that comes inside the car with a microphone and LCD display to show the FRS channels.
The unit plugs into the cigarette lighter and has a range of three miles, longer than the typical FRS because of the antenna, said buyer Wayne Wilson. The model 21-1850 carries a suggested retail price of $79.99.
Motorola's new line, the Talkabout T6200 series, is claimed to be the smallest on the market. It offers a rugged water-resistant design in bright colors and has several extended privacy features. Both new 6200 models (the 6200 and 6220) offer hands-free VOX with optional accessories, talk confirmation tones, rechargeable batteries and vibrating call alert.
The step-up 6220 has an "Eavesdrop" feature that scrambles the user's voice so that only another Motorola user whose radio is set to the same channel and Eavesdrop setting can receive an unscrambled message. Eavesdrop offers three settings, effectively enhancing the privacy-code feature.
Also new is the QuieT6000 feature that suppresses the radio from receiving a ring unless it is from someone in the user's call group (a user must be on the same channel, code and QuieT6000 setting in order to send the recipient a call). QuieT6000 has two settings and is available on both the new 6200 and 6220.
The 6220 also adds NOAA weather reception and weather alert at a suggested retail price of $119.99, while the 6200 will carry a suggested retail price of $75.99. Both models are expected to ship in July.
Uniden is stressing stylized design and small size in its new line that features hang links and sport clips.
Shipping in June are three models, leading with what Uniden also claims is the world's smallest FRS: the Eco Link FRS 460. It has 14 channels and 38 privacy codes, with a temperature reading display, countdown timer and call ringer. It supports an NiMH rechargeable battery accessory and uses three AAAA batteries.
Sporting a hang-link design, the Eco Link has a suggested retail price of $79.99 and is joined by the Eco Trek series with a sport-clip design. The three Eco Trek models each have 14 channels and 38 privacy codes.
The basic model is the 400 at a suggested retail price of $29.99 each, followed by the 420 with vibrate alert at $39.99.
The top-of-the-line Eco Trek FRS440 adds an FM radio, 10 weather frequencies and vibrate alert. It also has a splash-proof design, temperature reading display and countdown timer. Suggested retail price for the FRS440 is $59.99 each.
Eco Terra is Uniden's new GMRS with a five-mile range. It has 14 FRS channels, eight GMRS channels and 38 subcodes and allows two-way conversation. Other features include vibrate alert, 10 weather frequencies and temperature reading display. The Eco Terra GMRS 480 is expected to ship in June at a suggested retail price of $99.99.
Kenwood is showing two new models for midyear delivery, including a model with FM stereo radio and an entry-level piece with an accessory port for optional microphones, speakers and headsets.
The FreeTalk (UBZ-GR14) is a 14-channel unit with 38 subcodes and has a built-in FM receiver. It comes with earbuds and is available in silver metallic and blue metallic colors.
Other features include backlit LCD display, channel scan and a speaker/ microphone jack for optional accessories. It is expected to ship in July at a suggested retail price of $89.95 each.
Kenwood's new entry-level FRS is the FreeTalk EX/ UBZ-AR14, which has 14 channels and 38 talk groups and includes a speaker/microphone jack for accessories. It comes in black or yellow with a backlit display and is expected to ship in June at a suggested retail price of $99.99 per pair.
New from Unwired is a lower-priced water-resistant FRS, called the UFR-840. The 14-channel unit has 20 subcodes and can be submerged in water. It will be available by early March at a suggested retail price of $69.99 a pair.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.