By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The FRS market is undergoing a dramatic shift to more powerful GMRS/FRS radios, with most suppliers eliminating FRS products completely from their 2003 lines.
Where GMRS represented only 20 percent of sales in 2002, according to Motorola, by the first quarter next year, "sales will be almost totally GMRS," said Cobra senior VP Tony Mirabelli. Audiovox, Cobra, Midland, Topaz 3, Uniden and US Electronics say they will stop offering FRS products next year, mainly because GMRS chips are now only a small cost above FRS.
Total sales for FRS and GMRS in 2002 are expected to range from slightly down to up 5 percent over 2001, depending on consumer spending in the fourth quarter. Prices in the category have continued to plunge by 35 percent to 40 percent, however, prompting several vendors to add more features or branch into new form factors to boost prices.
At International CES next month, expect to see new GMRS/FRS wristwatches; GMRS base stations and more products with high range, including the first 8-mile capable GMRS/ FRS from Cobra.
In addition, suppliers will continue to offer more dual packs and accessory bundles. Low-end GMRS/FRS products should be available for as little as $19 per pair, suppliers said.
First out of the gate with a wristwatch product this year was US Electronics, which shipped a 22-channel GMRS/FRS watch this month, called the X2X under the new XAct brand. The ½-watt watch is available at $29.95 and will be joined at CES by a second watch under the BellSouth brand. Also with 22 FRS/GMRS channels, the BellSouth watch has a 1.5-mile range and is expected to ship in January at approximately $35 to $39.
Audiovox is also entering the wristwatch category with its GMRS 200W, to ship in April. It has a range of two miles, with 22 GMRS/FRS channels. The sports watch comes with rechargeable batteries, ear buds and interchangeable wristbands. The GMRS 200W is VOX capable so it can be used hands free and is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $59.95.
Cobra is announcing at CES next month the longest range GMRS/FRS to date. Called the PR4000WX, it can achieve an 8-mile range by combining a new RF circuit and antenna matching system, Cobra said. The three-watt unit has 22 GMRS/ FRS channels and 38 subcodes. It incorporates NOAA weather alert, built in VOX, vibration alert, clock, alarm, stop watch and water resistance to IP54 standards. The PR 4000WX will be available either as a single unit with NiMH rechargeable battery at $79.95 or as a pair at $119.95. Shipping is expected in April.
Uniden said it is offering the first 7-mile range product to achieve an extended battery life of up to 20 hours, compared with the typical 8 to 10 hours, the company said. Uniden's new Bandit GMRS750 is a 22-channel unit with 38 subcodes, waterproof case (JIS4) and rubber grip designed for outside, heavy weather use. The Bandit GMRS750, is expected to ship in mid 2003 at a mass market price to be announced. A step-down model will offer similar features with watertight case.
Here are some other products to look for at CES:
Audiovox is highlighting several new step-up products next year, including a GMRS/FRS base station called the GMRS 3000PK. It has a 5-mile capacity with 22 channels, 38 subcodes, built-in rechargeable handset, VOX capability and NOAA weather alert in the base station. The handset can recharge in the base station and it comes with rechargeable batteries. Shipping is expected in January at a suggested retail of $79.95.
Audiovox said all its new GMRS/FRS units for 2003 would incorporate quick-release swivel belt clips that operate similarly to a cellphone holster. The company will also offer a 7-mile range unit in two configurations with 22 channels and 38 subcodes. The 7-mile twin pack will have a suggested retail of $89.95 and the single pack with battery pack and charger will carry a retail price of $59.95. Shipping is expected in April or May.
In the 5-mile range, the company will show four 22-channel GMRS/ FRS models, all with 38 subcodes, beginning at a suggested retail price of $79.95 for a twin pack.
Also new is a GPS model aimed at enthusiasts and campers and a unit with built-in FM radio. The GMRGPS120 is a combination GPS unit with a 5-mile range, 22 channels and 38 subcodes as well as GPS. It is expected to ship in May at $149. It is joined by the Micro GMRSPW1, a 2-mile unit with 22 channels, built-in FM radio, and hands-free VOX boom mic. Aimed at the youth market, it comes with swoop headphones and is expected to ship in April at $49.95.
Cobra's new line leads with the PR135-2, a ½-watt, 22 channel GMRS/ FRS model with 2-mile range, key lock and a selectable Roger beep for hunters or fisherman who are in quiet environments. The PR135-2 will carry an everyday price of $39.95 for a two pack. Cobra's step-up model is the PR240, a 1-watt model with 5-mile range, 22 channels, and 38 subcodes. It is water-resistant and carries a list price of $49.95 for a two pack. Next in line is the PR350WX, which adds NOAA weather and a higher degree of water resistance at $59.95 per pair followed by a 6-mile unit called the PR3000 at $79.95 per pair.
Motorola said it would offer a total of 15 GMRS/FRS units at CES with prices starting at approximately $19.99 for a dual pack. The company said it is also working on "some new alternative wireless communication products for 2004," according to a spokesman.
Midland said it expects to ship a new line of GMRS/FRS units featuring new cosmetics, ranging in price from under $50 to $65 per pair. The company is also developing a GMRS/FRS base station for the future.
Maxon will also show new GMRS/ FRS models including two camouflage units, also with a GMRS/FRS base station planned for the second half.
Kenwood is offering a new multi-charger accessory, which holds up to six Kenwood radios for charging.
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