HOME Technology Nov 2007
Mobile media madness
Multimedia on the move
We’ve come a long way from the ‘old school’ portable CD and Walkman to slimline, fashionable pocket sized media players; now there’s a battle on to see who survives the next transition to TV receiver, games console and broadband connected communications device. 

While the market was flooded with options in 2006 a maturing of vendor products and consumer understanding has seen a move away from shonky imports and price, to quality, capacity and clarity.  And the design teams have obviously been hard at work with more appealing, simpler to operate devices now in evidence.


According to Roy Morgan Research the number of New Zealanders with mobile media players nearly tripled from 14 percent in April this year to 30 percent in August. Major players vying for position include Apple, Creative, SanDisk, Genius, Samsung, Kingston, iRiver, Sony, Philips and LG.

While it wasn’t the first to market the iPod had certainly pushed itself to the forefront through its close alignment with the iTunes music and movie download stores, and made sure its profile remained high with its sleek 1Gb-8Gb shuffle and nano models ($150-$350).


Higher end models with internal hard disk capacity stretch out to 30Gb - 160Gb ($400 - $600). Apple’s latest entry is the wifi enabled, touch screen-based iTouch, with a 3.5inch widescreen for better movie and photo display.


LG Electronics Touch Me player is geared for movies, music in MP3, .wav and .wma formats, has an FM radio and easy access voice recorder plus built-in Flash games. Everything is accessible literally at your fingertips from a 2.4 inch, full color LCD screen and it’s protected in a black brushed case with aluminum finish. It comes in two models with 2Gb ($299) and 4Gb ($379).

Philips is also making serious moves into the portable media player market with a range of units offering 1Gb-4Gb integrated Flash memory including the high end Philips SA6045 video player which has a 2.2 inch screen ($229). Product Manager Jeremy Andrews believes the debate is getting stronger about whether people really want to be locked in to using Apple's iTunes or prefer using their own music software.

Meanwhile media player owners can choose from a growing range of accessories including new skins and carry cases, high quality headphones, extension speakers and even add-on screens for video and photo viewing.

In the smartphone market there’s also huge activity with Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Motorola and LG all pushing the boundaries. In the mix is Telecom, and its exclusive arrangement with Okta for a touch screen phone running Microsoft’s Mobile Windows 6.0, allowing users to surf the web, send and receive emails, chat on Instant Messenger and send files. The $800 touch screen-based Okta Touch features a 2Mpxl camera, a slot for a 2Gb microSD card and synchronises with Microsoft’s Outlook contact and calendar functions.


More powerful devices that further blur the distinction between phone, personal digital assistant, camera and media player will continue to lift customer expectations.  Apple’s much hyped iPhone for example and Hewlett Packard’s new phones that converge the capabilities of its iPAQ handheld computer with larger keyboards, GPS navigation, wifi and broadband connectivity. Even Google is building its own mobile device.


Some media watchers believe combination phones may eventually win the battle over portable music and video players. Nokia sold more music phones than Apple sold iPods worldwide over the past year and Apple, hedging its bets with iTunes, iPod players and its new iPhone, may be pointing the way forward for the mobile market.

As phones get smarter, with more storage, bigger screens, and become TV receivers hooked up to faster wifi and broadband networks, why would you want two devices?


  Back2front    General Interest Webzine