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Oakley MP3 Player Offers Eye, Ear Candy

Oakley, the supplier and retailer of outdoor apparel and accessories, shipped its second-generation MP3 sunglasses with embedded memory, and it promises to expand its selection of wearable electronics.

The company’s products are sold through electronics, sporting goods and sunglass specialty stores and through 50 owned-and-operated “O” stores, which sell the company’s full range of products. They include prescription and nonprescription sunglasses, performance apparel, backpacks, footwear and watches. The company also owns sunglass specialty stores operating under such names as Sunglass Icon.

The sunglasses are designed for consumers who don’t want to deal with wires and cables while jogging or engaging in other outdoor activities.

The company, which posted worldwide net sales of $485.7 million for the nine months ending September, said it became the first company to offer MP3 sunglasses in the United States starting in 2004 and was followed by automaker BMW. The company continues to offer its first-generation Thump 1 sunglasses and Bluetooth-equipped Razrwire sunglasses, which retail for $295 with nonprescription lenses and more with prescription lenses. The latter is marketed by Oakley and by Motorola.

The newest MP3 sunglasses, called Thump 2, offer multiple improvements, including memory capacity of up to 1GB, downsized electronics and the ability to accept prescription lenses. Like its predecessor, Thump 2 is also available in 256MB and 512MB versions. All three versions come with black frames, but the 512MB version also comes in a white frame, and the 256MB frame comes in choice of black or brown smoke.

Thump 2’s suggested retails are $299, $349 and $449 for each capacity. Thump 1’s prices are a suggested $299 and $349 for the 256MB and 512MB versions, respectively.

Other Thump 2 enhancements include decoding of AAC files, not just MP3 and protected WMA files. Thump 2 plays protected WMA files downloaded from authorized sites, but it does not play AAC downloads from Apple’s iTunes site or WMA subscription downloads.

The device’s permanently attached speaker-boom system has been improved to move in six directions instead of three, enabling the earbuds to fit 96 percent of people, up from an estimated 80 percent, said engineer Colin Smith. The earbud housing has also been reduced in size for a better fit, and a rubber bellows was added for a better seal, increasing perceived loudness and bass response.

Both generations of MP3 sunglasses are equipped with on-frame controls for track seek and scan, volume and on/off. The frames also include a battery-level indicator. Both are equipped with rechargeable lithium polymer battery that delivers six hours of worst-case play time, which Smith described as maxxing out volume and using the less-battery-efficient WMA decoder. The battery can be charged up to 500 times.

Smith didn’t outline when the next wearable electronics would arrive.

In November, Thump2 will appear in Circuit City, CompUSA, and additional sunglass specialty stores, having already turned up in Oakley stores and select sunglass stores.

In January, the Bluetooth-equipped Razrwire will put in a CES appearance at the Motorola booth. It retails for $295 with non-prescription lenses and more with prescription lenses.