We reported earlier on Cowon's announcement of their flash-based iAudio 7 MP3 player, and now we have the photos to prove it exists. We've heard directly from Cowon that the iAudio 7 will be available for purchase in the U.S. the first week of July. The product we received is still not the finished version, so we can't subject it to a real review yet. So far, it looks and behaves nearly identical to its microdrive predecessor, the iAudio 6. That's not such a bad thing, given what an outstanding player the iAudio 6 was. It's a little surprising, however, that the player's thickness hasn't come down at all, now that they've tossed out the microdrive. It also seems to weigh exactly the same.
Regardless, the real substance of this upgrade isn't cosmetic--it's the rated battery life of 60 hours and the increased reliability that comes with flash-based memory. The only player that can really beat the iAudio 7 on battery life is the MobiBlu B153, which can handle 153 hours of playback, but maxes out at a 2GB capacity and is relatively light on features. By comparison, the iAudio 7 has features in spades, including support for FLAC and OGG file formats, Janus DRM support for online music rental services, and an amazing suite of EQs and sound enhancements. We should get a real price on this soon.