Product development is revolving around universal models, more integrated functions and designs.

China manufacturers of remote controls are moving away from the traditional single-device infrared models to boost quality and broaden product range. As part of the industry’s shift to midrange and high-end versions, suppliers are integrating more functions into latest releases, developing universal configurations and adopting other wireless protocols.

While basic IR units continue to take up 80 percent of supply, output of universal variants will increase as makers match climbing demand.

Current selections of the latter type are compatible with at least two A/V devices. Many support four to 12 products. These have a large code library and learning function, and manage a number of home entertainment appliances simultaneously. Several models also include LCDs, touch keypads and touchscreens.

Makers such as Shenzhen C&D Electronics Co. Ltd, DeQing Dusun Electron Co. Ltd and Suzhou Qunda Electronics Co. Ltd have released universal designs.

The URCT-52N IR model from the first is compatible with most TVs, DVD/CD players, VCRs, DVRs, auxiliary devices, and satellite and cable equipment. It includes Windows Vista and Media Center remote code and touchscreen function.

DeQing Dusun’s DSR-0001 model has a large code library for TVs, VCRs, satellite and DVD/VCD players, and auxiliary devices. The unit can be customized into a 4 or 10-in-1 product with teletext and fastext capability.

Another universal type is the QD-CMO1 model from Suzhou Qunda, which features dual screens. The LCD shows information, while the touchscreen acts as the control panel.

Companies targeting the high end are rolling out RF, Bluetooth, ZigBee and even Wi-Fi varieties. Suppliers are optimistic that despite the prohibitive cost of developing wireless versions, the four standards will set the trend for future rollouts. Some have started making products based on these technologies.

Qingdao Haier Intelligent Electronics Co. Ltd has announced the model CH-028 ZigBee remote control, which is compatible with digital TVs and voting and interactive teaching systems. The high-end device uses a network synchronization beacon to guarantee reliable network communication. It also has an LCD and a metal button. The company develops about 190 new IR and RF units a year.

Besides value-added features, more releases adopt novelty designs, including toys, cartoon characters and animal figures.

The J-5010 model from Guangzhou Rcking Electronics Co. Ltd is a 56-key IR remote control shaped like a handheld game console. It works with DVD players and gaming devices. The company releases 30 to 40 variants per year and offers customization services. It will focus on novelty housings in coming months.

 

Export growth

Makers predict up to 40 percent export growth in the next 12 months. One of the drivers is the recovery of the home entertainment sector from the effects of the economic crunch.

Worldwide TV shipments, for instance, are predicted to jump from 205 million units in 2009 to 218 million by end-2010, according to DisplaySearch. Set-top box deliveries will rise from 147.8 million this year to 193.9 million by 2014, iSuppli forecasts. TVs and STBs are expected to spur sales of remote controls as these are the two most-common applications.

To boost overseas business, companies are conducting targeted marketing. The majority of makers ship their basic and midrange products to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America. Novelty items and units with better price-to-performance ratio have prospective buyers in these destinations.

The upper midlevel and high-end types are exported to the US, Canada and Europe, where there is greater demand for quality variants. For more on “Industry shifting to midrange, high end”.