Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Camera Phones Won't Take Over Entry-Level Digicams Just Yet

A few months ago, I talked about how camera phones are continually getting better, and could eventually take over the entry-level digital camera market. According to a new study by market research firm In-Stat, digital camera manufacturers need not worry just yet, as we're far from this actually happening.

The study found that mobile phone digicams are most popular among - no surprise here - the GenZ consumer, which represents those aged 13-24. Overall, only 15% of consumers of all ages say they use their camera phone as a primary means of taking photos; while 65% say they prefer a dedicated digital camera. (I have no idea what the other 20% use, but that's a different issue altogether).

Why aren't camera phones up to the task just yet? Although customers are quite satisfied with their operation and features (heck, many go so far as to include things like flash, zoom, and even white balance!), they aren't too happy about print quality and "the cost of sharing/receiving photos." I agree with the first reason and, if anything, it's a good indication that people are in fact still interested in printing images. I can only assume that the pricing concerns are in relation to sharing and receiving the images from mobile-to-mobile which, indeed, is oddly expensive.

For example, it costs $0.50 to send a picture message through Rogers Wireless; and if the recipient needs to log onto his mobile browser to view it, he'll incur charges of about $0.05/kb. (Of course this depends on the specific plan, but these are the pay-per-use rates).

However, there are other, more cost-effective ways to share camera phones images, albeit not instantaneously. Most camera phones use flash memory cards, or can connect to a PC via USB cable. Once an image is on your computer, you can do with it as you like: e-mail it to a friend, upload it to a photo-sharing site, and even post it to a social networking site. Once a more advanced Bluetooth standard comes into play, we might even be able to send high-res images from phone-to-phone by simply putting the two devices in close proximity to one another. And, after all, there's no way to "instantly" share images from a dedicated digital camera either, so this shouldn't be considered a "disadvantage" with camera phones.

Personally, I still use a dedicated digital camera, and use my cell phone camera (which boasts an impressive 3.2 MP of resolution!) for "emergencies only". I can, however, foresee a time when the two devices merge into one. Heck, Mio Technologies just launched a portable GPS unit that doubles as a media player and triples as a 2 MP digital camera. The possibilities of convergence are simply limitless.

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