Pantech shows flash music player phone

Pantech Co. Ltd. will launch this week in South Korea a new cell phone that combines a gigabyte of memory with a digital music player function.

Pantech will launch this week in South Korea a new cell phone that combines a gigabyte of memory with a digital music player function, it said Wednesday.

The IM-U110 is the latest in a string of cell phones that attempt to compete with stand-alone music players by offering a large built-in storage capacity. Most other phones with a music player function have limited storage capacity and require the user to buy a memory card to expand capacity, however some phone makers have already offered a few handsets that come ready to store hundreds of songs.

As in the music player market, cell phone makers face a choice between flash memory or a miniature hard-disk drive for storage.

The latter has been in favor among music player makers for some time because of the relatively high storage capacity and low price of drives, however falling prices of flash memory chips have pushed some companies to start employing flash memory where they once used disk drives. An example is market-leader Apple Computer, which recently ended its hard-disk drive-based iPod Mini player with the flash memory-based iPod nano.

Samsung Electronics has already put on sale a phone that uses a hard-disk drive and Pantech's new handset raises the bar for flash-memory based devices.

The Pantech phone's music function is compatible with AAC, AAC Plus and MP3 format files and the phone will also play MPEG4 and H.264 movie files, the company said. In addition to its music player functions, the IM-U110 has a 2 megapixel camera and is compatible with the PictBridge printing standard.

The handset is a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) handset and will be available in South Korea only. It will cost around US$650.

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