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The US portable player market has been forecast to witness double-digit declines in volume and value over the next five years as their relevance will largely fade.
Volume sales are expected to decline by 53%, with the largest declines expected in portable mp3 players and portable multimedia players. Only 27 million portable players are expected to be sold through retail in 2016, compared with 57 million in 2011.
Global giant Apple Inc accounted for 34% of retail volume in portable players on the strength of the company's iPod and iPad brands. In portable media players alone, the company controlled 49% of unit volumes, up from 48% in 2010.
Apple has managed to keep their grip on the mp3 player market by releasing several different versions of the Apple iPod. The main iPod has now been through many generations and although the design is largely similar to the original, it has been made more compact and available with much large storage capacities. The latest models can display colour photos, movies and even take photos or videos with the built in camera.
The company's most significant competitor in portable players is Amazon.com Inc, with its Kindle controlling 63% of US e-reader volume sales in 2011, with Barnes & Noble Inc and Kobo Inc in second and third places respectively.
Since the Kindle's launch in late 2007 and the iPad's release in the spring of 2010, both tablets and e-readers have become part of mainstream mass markets relatively quickly. In 2010, an estimated 10.3 million tablets and 6.7 million e-readers were sold.
Looking ahead, e-readers will face insurmountable competition from media tablets with superior functionality and increasingly affordable price points. Likewise, portable media players will be made redundant by smartphones that offer identical features.
Portable players must innovate or risk collapse, with a need to find a market niche in order to survive. Manufacturers and retailers must do a better job of explaining why portable media players remain relevant to the US consumer.
For more information on the US portable player market, see the latest research: US Portable Player Market
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