CTIA: Camphone Market Comes Into Clearer Focus

CTIA: Camphone Market Comes Into Clearer Focus

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Similar to the way a woodpecker diligently hammers away at a tree trunk, the camera phone market has been pecking away at the digital camera market for years now.

Seen as nothing more that a curiosity when first introduced in the early part of this decade, the category has slowly but surely evolved to the point where many of the newer devices are now capable of taking excellent pictures and are offering consumers a variety of new tools for sharing and archiving their images.

With both of the major wireless shows now past (Mobile World Congress/MWC and CTIA), the wave of higher-end camera phones continues to crest. Clearly, what was once considered an unimportant “add-on” feature, the ability for a cellphone to capture images is now front and center in the category.

"There has been a major shift in consumer preference towards higher resolution camera phones,” explained Lauren Sosik, a wireless market analyst from New York. “We expect the focus in this market will continue to shift towards handsets with higher camera resolution and additional functionality that more competitively aligns them to a digital camera.”

Adding some weight to Sosik’s feelings, witness the following announcements over the last several months in the camera phone arena:

At MWC, Sony Ericsson announced the Idou, a 12MP camera phone with a 3.5-inch LCD panel, built-in flash, auto focus, touchscreen UI and microSD removable media. If the rumor mill out of MWC holds true you can expect LG to hit the market soon with a 12MPer of their own.

Samsung introduced the 8-megapixel Memoir, a camera phone that comes equipped with a Xenon flash, CMOS auto focus and 16x digital zoom. The Memior also allows users to set special effects on an image, including black and white, sepia, negative and watercolor. Add features like blink detection, face detection, anti-shake to reduce blur, and geo-tagging, along with the ability to record video for up to 60 minutes and you’ve got a very interesting new entry into this space from Samsung.

The Kodak/Motorola partnership that recently produced the “Zine” is interesting on a few fronts but of major note was the fact Kodak (a digital camera manufacturer) was pushing this one as a camera that could replace a point-and-shoot. This model also answers the call for more affordable handsets in this space as for $99 with a service contract you’re good to go. We’re talking 5-megapixels, rich colors, automatic white balance and red-eye reduction and the Zine even looks like a camera from the back, with a gleaming purple shutter button and a lens cover that slides open to reveal that full Xenon flash.

Nokia’s N86 is an 8MP cam phone that features wide-angle Carl Zeiss optics and is specifically designed for both bright and low light conditions. The company claims that N86’s fast mechanical shutter ensures pictures with less motion blur while the dual LED camera flash is powerful enough, “for excellent photography and video capture.”

"Society is moving into an era of ubiquitous imaging that offers the ability to capture, store, send, print, and view an image anywhere," commented Jeff Hayes, a Director at InfoTrends/CAP Ventures. "We believe mobile imaging will have the kind of impact that e-mail had on document communications in the 1990s. We project that the total number of images captured on camera phones will reach 227 billion by 2009, exceeding the number of photos taken on digital still cameras and film cameras combined!"

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