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Samsung, SanDisk Fire Up New MP3 Players

Singing a different tune than market leader Apple, Samsung's latest MP3 player is designed for sharing music.

The K5 Digital Audio Player from Samsung is a Flash memory-based MP3 player with slide out speakers. Standard ear buds for solo listening are also included in the package, which is set for release September 10. A 2GB version of the K5 will retail for $209.99 and the 4GB version for $259.99.

Apple's iPod is heavily marketed with images of people lost in their own world, listening to music via the player's ear buds. Of course, there are third-party and Apple  speakers you can connect to your iPod, but that adds to the weight and eliminates the portability of the package.

Analyst Tim Bajarin said Samsung is one of many companies poised to open up the portable online music experience to more sharing. He notes Microsoft's  forthcoming Zune music player is rumored to include Wi-Fi connectivity and the ability to share play lists with others.

"There is no question the last word hasn't been written in MP3 players, we're going to see a lot more innovation," Bajarin, analyst and founder of Creative Strategies, told internetnews.com. "The ability to let others hear what you're listening to on the spot without having to hand off the ear buds is a nice feature. I'm looking forward to hearing it, because my main concern with speakers that small is whether the quality is good."

Samsung said the slide-out speakers deliver "rich, smooth audio," can be set up to play on any flat surface and don't require any extra wiring. In speaker mode, the system is designed to provide up to six hours of battery life; using earphones the battery life extends to 30 hours.

K5 Digital Audio Player from Samsung

Addressing what it said has been a most-requested feature, the K5 includes an alarm clock allowing users to wake up to their favorite songs. The K5's display is 1.7-inch color screen and users can set up slide shows synched to various tunes of their choosing.

Apple slowed the introduction of new iPods after a flurry of product debuts earlier this year. But Bajarin said he's sure Apple has plenty of competitive new iPods in development.

Separately today, SanDisk  unveiled the Sansa c200 MP3 player in Berlin at IFA, the world's largest consumer electronics show. The c200 includes a color screen and 2GB storage for under $100.

Sandisk's Sansa c200 MP3.
Source: Sandisk

Suggested retail price is $79.99 for the 1GB unit and $99.99 for the 2GB units which are expected to be available in the U.S. in October.

Other features include an FM tuner/recorder with presets for 20 channels, a voice recorder and a user-replaceable lithium-ion battery that provides up to 15 hours of continuous playback

As one of the biggest providers of flash memory, SanDisk has a level of manufacturing expertise and pricing leverage over competitors.

"SanDisk has a lot of advantages being vertically integrated," said Bajarin. "But you have to applaud them for emphasizing style, form and function as well. Not just price."