4 June 2007
Pictures To Go(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 06,2007)
Digital Photo Frames
This digital photo frame with weather station from Chinese mainland manufacturer Moniscm Co Ltd has optional features such as MP3 audio playback, USB host port and MPEG1/MPEG4 video playback
Some digital photo frames display photos directly from a camera's memory card, while others have their own internal memory storage. Basic and full-function models (MP3 and MPEG4 capabilities, voice recording, clock, calendar and so on) each have their own devotees, while demand for all types continues to grow with manufacturers looking forward to strong orders ahead.
For example, Moniscm Co Ltd's newest digital photo frame features an optional weather station panel that includes temperature and humidity readings, daily weather icons, and time, date and alarm clock functions. Other optional features include FM radio and 256MB to 1GB memory. A remote, MP3 audio playback, MPEG1/MPEG4 video playback and USB host port are all standard functions. Screens can be ordered in 5.6-, 7- and 8-inch sizes.
"The unit has a sensor so the heat from the digital frame doesn't affect the barometric temperature readings," says sales manager Steven Zhang. "This is a really good item to put on a desktop at the office where it is also convenient to have information on the weather."
Established in 2001, Chinese mainland-based (Shenzhen) Moniscm can produce 100,000 digital photo frames per month. The firm also manufactures GPS systems and portable digital TVs. Moniscm's factory employs 1,000 people and is ISO 9001-, ISO 9002- and CE-certified.
The firm processes OEM/ODM orders from Europe, North America and the mainland that account for more than 80% of all business. On the mainland, some products are sold under the company's own Moniscm or INCO brands.
With digital frames a fast-moving item, Zhang sees production increasing and prices falling by as much as 30% by the end of 2007. "Our major focus is on Western Europe and North America but we think the mainland will be our main market in the future," predicts Zhang, adding that the minimum order is 1,000 pieces for delivery 30 days after order confirmation.
Meanwhile, with 20 or so digital photo frame models on offer, Disruptive China claims it has something to suit everyone. A subsidiary of UK-based consumer electronics provider Disruptive Ltd, the company offers photo frames in LCD screen sizes ranging from 7-15 inches and with memory capacities from 128MB to 1GB.
The firm's best-selling model is a chic, modern, digital photo frame (LAB574) with remote control that also features a built-in 128MB MP3 player and supports various compact flash cards. "We probably sell tens of thousands of this model per month," says marketing director Tom Old, adding that both glass and wood frames are available.
Some models are equipped with Bluetooth technology for easy transfer of photos from a digital camera to the photo frame. "We expect Bluetooth to be a really big hit," Old predicts, adding that digital photo frames fill the gap left by traditional photo albums from the pre-digital era. "They are helping to revive the whole photo album concept."
Europe and Australia are two of the company's strongest markets. "We'd also like to break into the US market," he states, adding that a minimum order is 500 pieces for delivery about eight weeks after order confirmation.
The company subcontracts to several hundred factories in Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland, and claims virtually unlimited production capacity. Disruptive also sells under its iLab brand in addition to OEM terms.
"Now that digital photo frames are catching on," Old concludes, "we should see technical improvements that will include larger screens and better photo resolutions."
On the other hand, GB Electronics Co Ltd's 13 digital photo frame models offer a comprehensive series of low- to high-priced and basic to full-function units.
This three-year-old mainland-based (Shenzhen) firm's newest full-function model (GB-706) has a 7-inch screen, reads up to 2GB of memory, features audio and video output and has clock, alarm and calendar functions.
The outer frame of the model can be easily removed and changed. "We have wooden frames and different colours of plastic frames in many different styles," says sales manager Jerry Chen.
Basic, photo-only digital photo frames are also extremely popular. "They're medium-priced units and we sell them in supermarkets and to distributors," he adds, noting that an oval digital photo frame measuring 45.4x54.2x20.2mm that comes with a 1.1-inch screen and a 56-photo capacity is the company's smallest unit on offer.
No minimum order is required and deliveries go out 15-20 days after order confirmation. If stock is available, merchandise can be on its way in as little as three days.
As demand for digital photo frames surges, the OEM/ODM firm is making every effort to anticipate consumer needs. "We've been making digital photo frames for one year, and we have 10 engineers who can design two new photo frame models each month," Chen says.
"Our main markets are the UK and Italy, and we also export to France, Germany and Poland. While demand in South America is improving, we'd like to sell more on the mainland."
Another producer is Apollo Worldwide Ltd, which manufactures iPod loudspeakers, mobile TVs and tablet DVD players and has introduced its first digital photo frame under its NEXTbase brand name. The unit features an 8-inch TFT screen, high picture quality and a sturdy, retractable and adjustable stand. In addition to photo slideshows, the device can play music and videos.
"The screen's panel density is more than three times higher than an ordinary analogue panel and the 8-inch size is a bit bigger than others, too," claims corporate marketing manager Evon Chow.
"Another selling point is that other companies have frames that are fixed to the screen whereas ours allows the user to buy a desired frame and place it over the one supplied so people match the product to the interior design. There's also a hole in the back for hanging the photo frame on a wall," he adds, noting that the unit has no built-in memory storage but can read up to 4GB of data with an SD card.
This OEM/ODM firm operates an ISO 9001-, QS 9000- and CE-certified factory in Xinhui on the mainland and exports primarily to Europe and the US. Minimum order is 2,000 units, with shipments going out 30 days after order confirmation.
The 10-year-old Hong Kong-based company hopes its low- to medium-priced digital photo frames will account for 5%-10% of its orders this year. "This is our first entry, and we plan to add several more models with extra functions, such as a clock and a calendar," Chow says. "We're marketing our photo frames as gift items, so we don't want them to be too expensive."
Safety-oriented digital photo frames with rubber borders, rounded corners and acrylic covers for the screen are part of Shenzhen Elephant Technology Development Co Ltd's new Colour Field Series (ET-7DPF8800/8DPF8900) of digital photo frames.
The acrylic cover protects the screen, the rubber border keeps the unit from scratching furniture and, if children are in the vicinity, rounded corners are safer than pointed edges. The frames can be ordered in any colour or colour combination, adding a fashionably decorative element to displays at home, the office or a hotel.
Established in 2000, the Shenzhen-based firm can produce 30,000-50,000 units in the Colour Field Series per month. The models also have music and video playback capabilities. Minimum order is 500 pieces, for delivery one month after order confirmation.
The US and Europe are the company's best markets. "Our sales of photo frames have gone up recently and we think they'll increase even more," says president Tony Wang. "They've become more of a standard item in the home."
Wang and other manufacturers have a lot of optimism about future sales of digital photo frames and, with improved versions and more features on the horizon, the picture looks very bright.
TEXT BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
Apollo Worldwide Ltd
Units 2-3, 20/F,
Chevalier Commercial Centre
8 Wang Hoi Rd, Kowloon Bay
Kowloon, Hong Kong
4 Blenheim Rd, Cressex Business Park
High Wycombe, Bucks, HP12 3RS UK
GB Electronic Co Ltd
5/F, Blk 4, Lianchuang Tech Park
Lilang Rd, Buji Town, Shenzhen, China
Moniscm Co Ltd
A600, Bldg R4, Hi-Tec Park
Nanshan District, Shenzhen,
Shenzhen Elephant Technology Development Co Ltd
1/F, No. 1 Ind Bldg,
Fu Tian Thermal Power Plant
#15 Kai Feng Rd,
Shang Meilin, Futian District
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
Sysbay Int'l Technology Ltd
5/F, Tung Kin Bldg,
196-198 Tsat Tsz Mui Rd
North Point Hong Kong