South Korean giant Samsung Electronics predicts the market for MP3 audio players in Hong Kong will double this year. A total of 80,000 MP3 players were sold in Hong Kong last year and over 120,000 have been sold this year, according to Keith Chan, sales manager at Samsung Hong Kong. He said Samsung was leading the local market for MP3 players with a share of about 35 to 40 per cent. Samsung last week launched four new MP3 players in its Yepp product line. Targeting the predominantly young people who buy these devices, the new Samsung Yepp was intended to cater to growing demand for high-end players, said Mr Chan. 'The low-end market is already too crowded with products from all over the world. What the customers want is some trendy stuff which they can show off to their peers. Price is not a significant factor to them,' he said. The 64-megabyte YP-700S and the 128MB YP-700H support both MP3 and Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA) formats. They feature built-in FM tuners and remote controls. They have USB and Smart Media slots and are compatible with both Apple and Windows-based personal computers. Unusually for MP3 players, both can record audio, with the 700S offering up to four hours of voice recording, and the 700Hrecording up to eight hours. Both models reportedly offer 20 hours of playback on an Ni-MH rechargeable battery but users can also use two AAA batteries with an external case. The YP-700S is priced at HK$1,780 while YP-700H costs HK$2,280. Samsung also released two new compact MP3 players. The YP-30SH has 128MB of memory and offers voice recording and USB. It is priced at HK$1,880. The TP-90S comes in a distinctive tear shape and is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. It has 64MB memory and offers 15 hours of playback and four hours of voice recording. It runs on two AAA batteries and costs HK$1,580. All of the players offer FM radio and backlit LCDs that support both English and Chinese characters. 'The market below HK$1,000 is too keen. And there are too many restrictions on function and design,' said Mr Chan. However, the Korean company is not alone in the high-end market. It is facing increasing competition from other audio makers like Sony. The Japanese powerhouse recently launched a network Walkman which supports compact disc, MP3, waveform (WAV) and WMA files, all of which are converted into the Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (Atrac-R) format. Sony's device comes bundled with a 128MB Memory Stick which can store up to 240 minutes of digital content. At the top of the market, Denmark's Bang & Olufsen has introduced the BeoSound 2 digital music player. The egg-shaped device comes with a 128 MB SD memory card and retails at about HK$2,980. Samsung also faces competition from computer industry players such as Apple, with its iPod MP3 player. The iPod can store up to 10 gigabytes of music, or 2,000 songs. The 5GB version costs HK$3,100 and the 10GB edition HK$3,900. Also rivals of Samsung are the growing number of mobile phones and personal digital assistants that now offer MP3 functions. 'For those all-in-one products, MP3 is just a value-added solution. The entire MP3 market is growing as more people are surfing the Internet. This is the most convenient way to download music. We believe there is still much room for it,' said Mr Chan.