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iRiver Adds 1GB Flash Player

What could be the first 1GB flash-memory music portables available for U.S. distribution will be available from iRiver at a suggested $399.

A 1GB model is part of the new iFP-700 series and the Best Buy-exclusive iFP-800 series. Each series consists of four portables, all with embedded flash memory for music storage.

Although 1.5GB hard disk drive (HDD) portables are available at prices down to about $249, iRiver sees opportunity for pricier 1GB flash models. They would appeal to active users fearful of HDD crashes during intense activity, and they deliver a 40-hour battery life on a single AA, handily exceeding an HDD player’s battery life, an iRiver spokesman said. HDD portables generally peter out after 10 hours of use, although new models planned later this year could deliver about 20 hours.

At least one other marketer isn’t sure of the potential for 1GB models, given the high price of 1GB flash memory. The marketer said he recently shopped a 1GB model to retailers who unanimously rejected the player because of cost. The dealers also doubted whether people who exercise need 1,000 minutes of music on a portable when 256MB of music would be enough, he claimed.

Whatever the potential demand for 1GB models, iRiver is moving ahead with a model in each of its two new four-SKU series of flash players. Models with 128MB, 256MB, 512MB and 1GB in both series will retail for a suggested $129, $179, $279 and $399, respectively. Compared to flash-memory models in iRiver’s previous series, the new models will support the Windows Media Audio (WMA) digital rights management (DRM) technology, feature USB 2.0, raise battery life to 40 hours from 24 hours, and add a timer to record at a preset time off the devices’ internal FM tuner.

Like before, the models feature MP3 encoders to record music from any source, including home CD players, without using a computer.

The 128MB and 256MB units are shipping, and the others will ship shortly, the spokesman said in early May.