For the last 18 months or so, the collection of design concepts featured on the website of Korean portable media player maker Mintpass has been steadily growing in number. The company says it will continue to push the idea envelope until a "concept is developed into a hot product that sweeps the market." With its retro styling, analog displays and tactile control interface - will the Mintcube concept be the next big thing?

Mintpass states its aim as exploring design ideas and pushing perception boundaries. It does this by featuring conceptual design ideas in a section of its website named Select and then judging the public's reaction to each by way of comments. The first was uploaded in May of 2008 (an idea for a multi-directional wheel - the Del-ee-ble "wheels within a wheel" concept) and there are now more than a hundred designs for everything from mirrors to robots to air fresheners to cameras to lighting.

Style in a cube

One of the latest to appear is an MP3 player dubbed the Mintcube. Mintpass says that this one is for the boys, noting that rather than wear players as fashion accessories most male-types tend to hide such devices from sight in pockets or bags. They only ever see the light of day when the user needs to change the track or up the volume and such like - which perhaps makes the hours of toil undertaken by MP3 player designers to make something appealing to the eye all a bit of a waste.

That's not to say that the Mintcube player is not visually appealing, on the contrary its retro styling and simple lines are very in vogue at the moment. Although the 50mm (just under 2 in) cube would not likely take up very much room it would no doubt prove a little uncomfortable for the trouser pocket. Mintpass sees the device being thrown in a bag or backpack and acknowledges that Bluetooth functionality would be a useful addition should the concept ever become actual product.

Going analog

To the front and on either side are circular backlit windows revealing analog indicators with needles for battery strength, volume level and frequency for the FM radio. The retro feel continues with the control interface which is represented by ten 10 by 10mm (0.4 by 0.4in) buttons (owners of huge hands beware) across the top front edge of the player. Not unlike the kind of buttons you might find on a cassette deck of yester-year, they control the music or radio selection, the backlight, track shuffle, volume up and down, track repeat, previous and next track selection and play or stop or power on. To the rear of the unit is the lock/hold switch to prevent accidental button pressing together with the USB port and earphone socket

As there is no LCD display such a player would very much fall into the old Shuffle or Stone category for track selection and playback, and there is no mention of audio format support. However, with the company's ARM-powered touchscreen portable media player, personal organizer, camera and Internet device, the mintpad, catering for MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, APE and FLAC formats there's no reason not to assume that the cube would be similarly capable.

There's no word on the kind of storage sizes prospective users could enjoy either but being a concept gives it the advantage of utilizing the latest storage technology at the time of production. Could this be the "hot product" Mintpass has been waiting for? Unlikely given the cutthroat world of MP3 player retail but I think it would be a great shame if it remained as just an idea.

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