MP3 makers have iPod in their sights
By Dirk Averesch Sep 17, 2006, 5:33 GMT
Berlin - Mobile telephones and MP3 players are slowly but surely merging. The latter still have a role to play, though, especially for users who want more in the way of storage capacity and sound quality.
One thing stood out recently at the IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung), the world's largest consumer electronics trade fair held in Berlin: Almost all makers of mobile music and video players have come up with new designs in a bid to catch Apple Computer, the industry leader. Consumers are benefiting from the innovations and drop in prices - for accessories as well.
Samsung presented a new MP3 player featuring Bluetooth for wireless stereo headsets. The black Yepp YP-TP9 is hardly more than a centimetre thick and weighs less than 50 grams. Its 4-gigabyte (GB) flash memory stores not only MP3, WMA and OGG music files but also MPEG4 videos for playback on a colour screen with a resolution of 208 x 176 pixels. To operate the player, you mainly press cursor buttons with your thumb.
For radio fans, Samsung has the black or white YP-F2R with RDS tuner that displays station names and music titles.
Maxfield has refined its new G-Flash NG into a VHF transmitter. The classic stick-design MP3 player can send music a short distance - - to the car radio, for instance. Dnt and TrekStor also introduced FM transmitters - but without music players - at the IFA. The size of USB memory sticks, MusicFly (dnt) and f.ox (TrekStor) can be connected to any audio source with a jack plug. They draw power from a 12-volt outlet in the car, or from a battery.
Hama's RX2 Bluetooth HiFi Receiver can connect MP3 players and mobile telephones to stereo systems.
The Hypermedia Pico, a black flash-memory MP3 player by Yakumo, not only looks a lot like Apple's iPod Nano; its dimensions - 9 centimetres high, 4 centimetres wide and 0.7 centimetres deep - are the same almost to the millimetre. It differs in not having a scroll wheel, and in cost. The Pico with 1 GB storage capacity is priced at 100 euros (126 dollars), the 2-GB version at 130. The comparable iPod Nanos cost 150 and 200 euros, respectively.
Apple is offering flash memories no bigger than 4 GB for its iPod Nanos at present. Philips (GoGear SA9400) and Creative (Zen V Plus) have not exceeded that mark with their 50-gram colour-display MP3 players either.
But memory-card maker SanDisk set a new IFA record with its Sansa e280, which has an 8-GB flash memory that can be expanded to as much as 10 GB with an SD card. This MP3 player costs about 200 euros.
TrekStor has given Vibez, its latest MP3 player, a quite original design. Oval with two round surfaces in front - the upper one containing the display and the lower one serving as a scroll wheel - it would definitely even please the designer Luigi Colani. The stainless steel back resembles a case for eyeglasses.
Storage capacity - small hard disks are used - weighs in at either 8 GB (200 euros) or 15 GB (230 euros). A button can be assigned a preferred function, and the battery is replaceable. Vibez is compact: 10.5 centimetres high, 5 centimetres wide and 1.8 centimetres deep. In addition to MP3, WMA and WAV, it supports OGG and free lossless audio codec, or FLAC.
There was no lack of media players for videos along with music at this year's IFA either. Maxfield presented MAX-PMP20, a multi-format viewer with a 20-GB hard disk that plays MPEG4, ASF, AVI, WMV, DivX and XviD videos on its 4.3-inch display. Though it weighs just 260 grams, the 13 x 7.9 x 2-centimetre device - set to cost about 300 euros - has Bluetooth inside.
Archos had added the 604 Portable Media Player to its line of products. Priced at 380 euros, it is 13 x 7.8 x 1.6 centimetres in size, weighs 250 grams and has a 30-GB hard disk. The Archos 604 WiFi with WLAN and touch screen can surf the Web, send and receive e-mail and exchange data directly over the network. It costs 450 euros. Those who want their entire movie library at hand might be happy with Archos 504, which offers 160 GB of storage capacity for 600 euros.
Maxfield Toys brought Bandy to the IFA especially for children. Nearly 30 centimetres tall, weighing 500 grams and costing about 70 euros, this blue stuffed bear is actually an MP3 player. Without so much as grumbling, Bandy plays any SD or MMC memory card that you insert into the slot in his back.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur