The MP3 player market looks set for substantial growth, a recent survey claims.

Research conducted among 656 US consumers aged between 18 and 35. In a strange twist for iPod news watchers, the research was conducted on behalf of SigmaTel - the company purported to be manufacturing flash memory for a future flash-based iPod product from Apple.

The research claims that 59 per cent of would-be purchasers plan to give MP3 players as gifts.

Twenty-nine per cent of those surveyed will focus on the cost of a music player when they buy one: 39 per cent will spend up to $100 and 24 per cent would spend up to $150.

In an interesting pattern, 31 per cent of those surveyed who already own music players would be willing to spend between $150-$249 for a player with a larger storage capacity than they currently have.

Survey results also claim that brand lags behind price and storage capacity with just nine per cent of respondents citing it as their main decision influencer.

IDC senior analyst Susan Kevorkian said: "In the US, the portable MP3 player category has expanded far beyond early adopters. A compelling selection of device form factors, storage capacities, price points and compatible online music services has driven this expansion. Younger consumers have been on the cutting edge of this trend, which is only gaining momentum during this holiday season."

Heartened by the findings, SigmaTel president and CEO Ron Edgerton said: "The MP3 player market has moved beyond its infancy stage and is poised for significant growth." He promised his company would "develop the technology that will meet their needs."

Asked why they would consider buying a music player, 63 per cent of would-be buyers mentioned new music download services and 69 per cent mentioned audio quality.