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Communication support boosts car multimedia player segment

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Car multimedia player

Shenzhen Aoedi’s AD-622 model has up to 4GB built-in flash memory.

3G, GPS and turn-by-turn navigation and other service platforms enliven the maturing car multimedia player line.

Feature integration is defining China’s car multimedia player industry, with suppliers turning to value add-ons to spur a line squeezed by competition from media-rich portable devices such as smartphones. Makers are concentrating product development efforts on merging infotainment and intelligent security functions. To boost sales, companies are also improving the device’s Internet connection capability and introducing new designs.

Vehicle communication and service platform are increasingly becoming buzzwords among manufacturers. With GPS and wireless technologies, enabled devices are able to support car security and information services apart from the usual music and movie playback. The emergency service feature assists users in contacting local rescue units during road accidents.

Turn-by-turn navigation is another value-added function. The driver just needs to tell the destination and the system will download the navigation data onto the vehicle.

Shenzhen Soling Industrial Co. Ltd has recently released its G-Car.S platform, which supports on-button navigation and emergency call. It provides weather forecasts, news, online radio, music and movie playback, virtual disc box, Bluetooth and GPS.

Some suppliers are going a step further by integrating advanced car security and diagnostics features, including remote lock/unlock and stolen vehicle positioning, into high-end variants. Enterprises, however, said these systems need to be developed in collaboration with automotive manufacturers.

Most large and midrange enterprises are using 3G mobile network technologies such as W-CDMA to enable models to support email, e-book reader, and music and movie search, play and download. Interviewed companies added that other customized services, which may cover ticket and hotel reservation or online traffic situation display, can be added on request. Examples of units carrying these functions are Coagent’s E-Car series, Shenzhen Roadrover’s iBook and FlyAudio’s G-Box.

China’s car multimedia player segment is currently dominated by in-dash types, even though portable variants also abound. In the former category, models without CD/DVD mechanisms are slowly gaining ground, but traditional types with this feature will continue to lead supply. The first is 30 percent less expensive than conventional releases. Its growing popularity rides on the practice of playing digital music and movie from USB devices and SD cards, which have larger storage capacity and are more convenient to carry around.

Models without CD/DVD mechanisms support movie files in AVI, VOB, DAT, RM and RMVB formats, and music in MP3 and WMA. A USB interface, an SD card slot and an AM/FM radio are standard configurations. Most products feature 4x45 or 4x50W power output. Remote control, auxiliary and rearview camera input, built-in Bluetooth, DVB-T receiver and GPS moduleare optional. The majority of 2-DIN models have a 6.2 to 7in LCD screen with a resolution of 800x480 pixels. Some 1-DIN units employ a 3in display and an external monitor. The bulk of the output adopts universal front panels, but companies can develop customized designs.

For in-dash car multimedia players in general, high-resolution screens and new UI designs are the major R&D directions. Displays sized 6 or 7in with 800x480- or 1024x768-pixel resolution are breaching the mainstream, and are gradually replacing models with 480x234 or 480x272 pixels.

Meanwhile, manufacturers of portable types are largely concentrating on cosmetic and structural enhancements such as the use of vivid colors and unique shapes. Others adopt split configurations, which allow the device to be plugged into the car cigarette lighter or mounted on the dashboard.

Quotes for car multimedia players range from $10 to more than $500. Despite the appreciation of the yuan and the increase in production outlay, companies forecast reduced pricesfor low-end models to stay competitive in the line.

In-dash releases edge out traditional variants

Car multimedia player
In-dash models will continue to dominate supply, which also includes portable, sun visor, headrest and roof-mount orientations.

Mainstream in-dash models are usually 1 or 2-DIN, and support AM/FM radio, music and movie playback, USB interface, SD card slot and 4x45 or 4x50W power output. These read MP3, WMA and WAV audio, and AVI, MPEG and DAT video. Some variants are compatible with Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, APE, FLV, 3GP, RM and RMVB. Optional functions include a CD/DVD mechanism, Bluetooth, handsfree phone, iPod connector, analog/digital TV and GPS.

Releases based on 1-DIN configuration feature LED or OLED screens. As they are based on the standard format, models are suitable for use in various cars. Releases have 2 to 3in LCDs for movie playback. High-end types use larger, foldable displays of 5 to 7in. Meanwhile, 2-DIN units adopt panels similar to upscale 1-DIN variants, with touchscreen options. Makers offer both universal and customized front panels. Mainstream models in this category support WinCE OS and have a rearview camera port, and optional built-in GPS and DVB-T receivers.

Car multimedia players in 1-DIN format with an LED indicator and MP3, RM and RMVB playback capability are priced at $45, or $55 for models without a mechanism. Those with a built-in 3in LCD screen are $80. Models in 2-DIN configuration with a 6.2in touchscreen LCD and a rearview camera port and can read MP3, WMA and AVI files are quoted at $150. An upscale 2-DIN model with GPS and DVD player starts at $250. An iPod connection and a built-in Bluetooth module require an additional $5 to $10 each. Models with 3G network capability list at $500.

Portable MP3/MP4 players and GPS devices with FM transmission function are classified under the traditional segment. Powered by a car cigarette lighter or a built-in battery, these can transmit music to car radios via an FM broadcast. Basic models play MP3 and WMA formats, while upscale variants work with RM. The latter also comes with a small LCD or OLED screen.

Most portable units support music and movie playback, e-book reader and picture viewer functions. They have a USB interface, an SD card slot and built-in memory. Some versions can connect to any portable multimedia player via a standard earphone jack. GPS-based devices usually have 4.3 to 7in LCDs.

Portable car multimedia players dominate the entry-level segment. Because of the low entry barrier, most suppliers of consumer electronics are capable of producing those devices and can release several new models each month.

Shenzhen Aoedi Technology Co. Ltd, for instance, launches 15 variants monthly. Some, however, pursue the line as a secondary business and manufacture only on request. Such customized types integrate FM transmitters into their MP3/MP4 players or GPS devices for use in vehicles.

Basic portable MP3 players without built-in memory are priced below $5, while variants with an MP4 player, 1.8in

LCD screen and 2GB capacity are about $12. Models with GPS, 4.3in LCD, and music and movie playback are quoted at $30.

The chipset is the key component of car multimedia players and a price determinant. The majority of makers source these from local providers such as Rockchip, Actions Semiconductor and ChinaChip for entry-level and midrange devices. Mainstream units, however, use imported ones from Samsung, Telechip, SigmaDesigns and TI. GPS solutions come from SiRF and MediaTek.

Guangdong province, particularly the cities of Shenzhen, Foshan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Guangzhou, is the major production hub for car multimedia players owed to its developed auto parts and electronics industries.

China has more than 300 makers of portable car multimedia players, and about 50 in-dash variants. Tier 1 companies focus on the latter, with most conducting the bulk of processes in-house and employing over 100 R&D engineers. These suppliers can produce more than 30,000 units monthly. Foryou General, Coagent, FlyAudio, Shenzhen Soling and Shenzhen Roadrover belong to this group.

Tier 2 businesses emphasize in-dash players, but have a monthly capacity of up to 10,000 units only. R&D is supervised by 10 to 20 engineers.

Small manufacturers turn out portable models and have a staff complement exceeding 500 employees and 20 development engineers. The monthly output ranges from 4,000 to 6,000.

Almost all enterprises specialize in the aftermarket, with about 20 to 30 percent of output shipped to overseas clients in the US, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Taiwan: Bluetooth 3.0, iPod/iPhone connectivity

Car multimedia player

E-Lead’s EL-825-TMC model has a 6.5in digital touchscreen LCD and supports DVD, VCD, CD, MP3 and WMA playback.

Taiwan car multimedia player makers are integrating infotainment, and value-added computing and navigation functions to spur the line further. New models from the island support Bluetooth 3.0 and iPod/iPhone connectivity.

Suppliers are boosting their R&D efforts to compete with personal navigation devices or PNDs and portable media players or PMPs that have similar features. Companies are likewise thwarting the threat posed by the entry of large 3C suppliers such as Quanta, Foxconn and Compal, which are releasing their own models.

Taiwan businesses are concentrating on both modularized devices or customized designs for the overseas OEM and aftermarket segments. Many are collaborating with major car manufacturers in the US, Japan, mainland China and South Korea, a strategy seen as key to staying in the line. Enterprises are also acquiring patents and providing a diverse selection to serve as one-stop shops.

Mainstream models are either 1 or 2-DIN and have a 6.5 or 7in touchscreen LCD with auto night backlight adjustment. They come with a USB 2.0 port, an SD/microSD slot, an FM radio, a digital equalizer and a CCD video camera. The media formats supported are DVD, VCD, CD, MP3, AVI and JPEG.

Related article:
In-dash DVD players: Car DVD players are evolving into all-in-one units

Product gallery

Car multimedia player

E-Lead Electronic Co. Ltd

Model: EL-825-TMC
MOQ: 500 units
Description: 6.5in digital touchscreen LCD; iPod connectivity; DVD, VCD, CD, MP3, WMA playback; built-in SD card slot; USB port; AM/FM radio

Car multimedia player

E.Star Co. Ltd

Model: Car MP4 player
Description: 18in TFT/CSTN screen; MP3, WMA, JPEG, AMV, AVI playback; 206 frequency points; intelligent memory frequency, remote control; digital song selection; 3.5mm audio cable jack

Car multimedia player

Shenzhen Aoedi Technology Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: AD-622
Description: 1 to 4GB built-in flash memory; built-in lithium battery; detachable joint, host part can be used as MP3 and U-disk; LCD screen; MP3 and WMA playback; folder switch; 12 to 24VDC

Car multimedia player

Shenzhen Aoedi Technology Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: AD-658
MOQ: 100 units
Delivery: 5 days
Description: 1 to 4GB built-in flash memory; built-in lithium battery; detachable joint,
host part can be used as MP3 and U-disk;
LCD screen; MP3 and WMA playback; folder
switch; 12 to 24VDC; 18 languages optional

Car multimedia player

Shenzhen Aoedi Technology Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: AD-959
MOQ: 100 units
Delivery: 5 days
Description: LED screen; built-in flash
memory; MP3 playback, external USB, SD card; line-in function; optional LCD screen, 206 channels, 87.5 to 109MHz

Car multimedia player

Supa Technology Co. Ltd

Model: S3030T
Description: 5in touchscreen TFT-LCD PND;
488x272-pixel resolution; dual Arm 926 480MHz processor; 48-channel Morning Star GPS chipset; 64MB SDRAM; 2G internal flash; SDHC, microSD slot; Mini-USB 2.0 port; DVB-T module embedded with dual antennas; 1W built-in speaker

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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