By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New York — Two suppliers are readying new portable MP3 players designed to offer alternative features to the ever-dominant Apple iPod.
Samsung is launching this month a near-nano-sized portable MP3 player that embeds a slide out speaker, so it doubles as both a wearable portable MP3 player and a mini boombox, said the company.
SanDisk, ranked as the No. 2 MP3 supplier by The NPD Group, will ship in October one of the first 2GB players to break the $100 price barrier.
Also, a third, Taiwanese supplier X-Micro, announced its entry into the market with a video-capable MP3 player with a color OLED screen starting at $100.
Samsung's new K5 has a speaker that delivers sound “loud enough to fill a room,” according to the company. The speaker slides out along the side of the unit and pivots to an angle so that the device can rest on a flat surface. It also has a built-in alarm clock to wake users to stored music. By adding these features, Samsung has included two of the more popular MP3-add-on devices into its player.
The K5 has a 1.7-inch OLED LCD display with picture viewing and slide show capability. It claims a battery life of up to 30 hours using earphones or six hours in speaker mode, and is available at a $209 suggested retail for a 2GB version and $259 for a 4GB version.
Samsung said the product was the result of consumer focus groups that showed that people want to share their music.
The company is supporting the product with a new “MPFreedom” campaign that seems to target market rival Apple. The campaign highlights “the freedom” to choose music subscription services,” said Samsung.
SanDisk's new Sansa c200 series offers a color LCD display and a microSD slot and will be available in two models, with 1GB and 2GB flash memory. The memory can be expanded with an optional SanDisk microSD card, now available in capacities from 256MB to 2GB, so that the c200 can store 2,000 songs when the 2GB model is used with a 2GB micro SD.
The c200 has an FM radio and voice recorder and supports WMA, MP3 and protected WMA DRM at a suggested retail of $79.99 for the 1GB version and $99.99 for the 2GB unit.
SanDisk is credited by NPD with a 9.7 percent market share in MP3 players, making it a distant runner-up to Apple's leading share of 75.6 percent.
X-Micro, which supplies products for Acer and other companies in Europe, is launching a line of MP3 players in the United States.
The company entered the Canadian market 18 months ago and is now expanding to the United States with a new MP3 player, the X-VDO F610 MP4 that offers a 1.5 inch screen with a color OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) display.
X-Micro said it is in the process of hiring manufacturer reps in the United States. It currently sells to Best Buy and Office Depot and approximately 600 independent stores in Canada, said Amrit Chera, president of eDistributor.ca which handles branch operations for X-Micro in Canada, the United States and Latin America.
The new F610 has a 262,000 color display. It plays MP3/WMA files and has video capability. It ships with a CD to convert video files to video formats recognized by the player. It offers FM reception and a photo viewer, digital voice recorder and storage capacities of 512MB, 1GB and 2GB at respective suggested retail prices of $99, $124 and $149.
A model F620 with a 1.8-inch screen and SD expansion slot will be available in November. Both the F610 and F620 will also be released in 4GB versions.
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