Last year, appliance manufacturer Haier America surprised me by producing its very first MP3 player. More specifically, I was confounded by the fact that the company actually made a decent one that offered a variety of compelling features most mainstream MP3 player companies had overlooked (wireless podcast updating, for example).
Now, Haier is updating its Rhapsody Ibiza line with--get this--the Mini and the Touch. Those certainly aren't the most original names (in fact, the words "blatant rip-off" come to mind), but to Haier's credit, the new players look nothing like the iPods of the same name.
First up is the Rhapsody Ibiza Mini, which will replace the current flash-based Ibiza Rhapsody. This pocketable player measures just 3.5 inches by 2 inches by 0.4 inch and features a 2.2-inch color QVGA screen dominating its face. Just below is a four-way directional pad composed of tactile controls for main navigation. Around the edges of the device, you'll find a dedicated volume rocker, a power button, and a Wi-Fi connect key.
Like most models in the Ibiza line, the Mini offers 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi connectivity for content browsing and downloading on the fly. The player has confirmed compatibility with Rhapsody (of course), Flick, and Audible, as well as a podcast aggregator, Internet radio, and Airskins themes (all provided by Varia Mobile). Haier is working on deals with YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Overall, audio and video support is decent: MP3, AAC, and WMA for the former and MPEG-4, H.264, VC-1, and DiVX 3/4/5 for the latter. The Mini will be available in capacities ranging from 8GB to 32GB.
The Rhapsody Ibiza Touch offers the same measurements as the Mini, but with the ever-popular 2.8-inch color WQVGA touch screen dominating its front. Thankfully, Haier elected to complement the touch controls with a dedicated tactile volume key on the side. The Touch is similar to the Mini in features but adds Bluetooth connectivity for streaming stereo audio to a compatible pair of A2DP headphones. It, too, will be available in capacities ranging from 8GB to 32GB.
As with previous models in the Rhapsody Ibiza line, the battery life estimates for both the Mini and the Touch are less than stellar. With the Mini, you can expect up to 14 hours for audio and 4 for video, while the Touch offers up to 15 hours for audio and a slightly more impressive 6 or so for video. No word yet on when the players are expected to hit shelves.