by Carlo Longino

Missing The Point Of Cameraphones

from the people-don't-make-slides-much-either dept

It must be a slow news week, as EE Times trots out a tired story breaking the big news that cameraphones don't take pretty good pictures, asserting that they must improve if they're ever to make "competitive headway" against standalone digital cameras. The problem is the reporter is completely missing the point -- the value of cameraphones isn't just in their image quality, but in that people are always carrying them and that they're connected to the network. The writer backs up their assertion by citing vendor statistics that 90% of cameraphone users never print their photos, which sounds like a lot until you consider the number of images taken with digital cameras that are never printed. People don't share photos only by exchanging prints -- they're far more likely to use online photo-sharing services or email. Then there's the further point that just because users are carrying a camera with them all the time -- whether it's in a phone or standalone -- doesn't mean they're always using it. Labeling cameraphones a failure because of their inferior image quality to standalone cameras, and particularly because people aren't printing the photos they take with them, is silly. After all, what's that saying photographers have: any camera you have with you is infinitely superior to a camera you don't.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    MissingFrame, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 10:39am

    I agree: Any camera you have with you is infinitely superior to a camera you don't.

    Just the other day I was asked "Why are you taking your camera?" because we weren't going anyplace special. So I left it at home and ended up taking 3 pictures with my phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Sean, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 11:03am


    I had this same argument with some tech goons a while back. They claimed the same point, cameras not being able to compete with digicams. Take into consideration too the _absolute_ function of a "phone" is just that, a telephone. When people start buying phones because of their 10 megapixel camera instead of the phone, then both industries are in a world of crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    darthservo, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 11:32am

    Pop Sensation

    What annoys me is the pop sensation of cameraphones.

    Granted, cameraphones more portable than carrying a separate device. However, I don't care to see pictures of you and your current girlfriend in front of the Orange Julius at the local mall on Flickr. Everyone in the world does not need to see your "sentimental" cameraphone pics. (mark them as private)

    Just because you have the ability to take a picture of anything anywhere, and immediately upload it, does not give you the warrant to proceed in doing so. "I feel like taking a picture of my reuben from Arby's, because I'm bored."

    If you're trying to take pictures for artistic sake, go out and buy a digicam. In the meantime, keep your useless and personal pics to yourselves and stop uploading them as 'public' on Flickr.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    slick, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    Re: Pop Sensation

    What the hell? Just because something is public doesn't mean you have to look at it. Why, is your opinion more important than the person who uploads the photo, or the site that is hosting it? Who cares if you don't like it, or don't find it interesting?

    Just because a picture is marked public doesn't mean the poster is seeking your approval. Move on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    DreadedOne509, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 11:51am

    I think camera phones are for the most part being used as a 'fad' would be. Not to say that they will go away after the novelty has worn off, rather their individual uses will become more evident. For instance, we had a citizen recently get some (low-quality) snap-shots of a robbery in progress and sent them to a local television station. They were being flashed across the air waves within the hour.

    They are nothing more or less than a mini-camera that a lot of people 'just happen' to have on them when things happen...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 11:52am


    While that's true, the fact remains that Japan has cameraphones with glass optics that can take decent pictures. Just because it's small and low-megapixel doesn't mean it has to be blurry too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Josh Erickson, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Pop Sensation

    Agreed. Just because something is public doesn't mean that it's for everyone. It could be that the person wants it to be easy for friends and family to see their pictures.

    I think the same applies to blogs in general. While mine isn't behind any sort of password system so only those I know can read it, it isn't really meant for the world at large either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 11:58am

    Video iPod screens are hard to see compared to larger LCD and Plasma standalone screens.

    Video iPod screens must get larger if they're ever to make competitive headway against their larger screened cousins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:00pm

    I tried to get the pics of chicks blowing me that i took with my cameraphone printed by shutterbug but they cancelled my account. so the whole, "people don't print cameraphone photos" thing is a bit of a chicken v. egg situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    JR, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:06pm

    More than a pop sensation

    I think the far bigger point here is that with networked cameras everywhere, the model of news reporting is being transformed and privacy expectations are due for turbulence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Topher3105, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:31pm

    Who is missing the point?

    Why should I want to take lots of crappy resolution and quality pictures just because I have a cellphone on me at all times?

    When did quality every lose to quantity?

    Instead, why not offer GOOD to EXCELLENT quality pictures from a camera phone by just putting in a decent 3 - 4 megapixel CCD in it. I mean, they are starting to offer lots of storage space and expansion slots on cellphones, so offering larger resolution CCD's make more sense.

    Where you are also missing the point is that since cell phones rely on subscription based data transfer charges, or even a per kilobyte charge, sending larger photo files will make cellular service providers more money because of more killobytes and longer transfers.

    Sorry, I don't use my cameraphone simply for the reason it takes crappy pictures. I have never emailed or sent a photo through my cell phone. From my perspective, cameraphones ARE a failure because my celluar provider has not earned one penny in profit by offering me a cheap cameraphone. Perhaps if I was able to take lots of good quality pictures on my camera phone, I would actually be a customer that paid for more digital data service, rather then using my cell phone just to talk on.

    ANY service on a cell phone is designed to increase profits by phone companies. Cameras, MP3's, Text messaging, ringtones, TV, video, etc are not put on cameraphones for our enjoyment, its to offer "value added" features that will make the phone comanies more money. If cameraphones are not generating revenue for phone companies, then they are a failure, period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:35pm

    Who cares one way or another! I mean really, why am I bothering to answer this ques.......

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:36pm

    HEY...you called me a coward! Oh yeh....I forgot. I never put my name in there! *lol*

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Sparky, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:37pm

    Blog It

    I like being able to instantly blog a photo taken with my phone. That is all. Carry On.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Sparky, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:39pm


    And phones do have 1.3 megapixel cameras now. The 4x6 prints come out just fine. We do it at our store (or at shows) via bluetooth to a photo printer all the time. Works well. Ok, now that is all. Carry on again...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:47pm

    OMG the world is gonna end!! Camera phones don't have the resolution of regular digital cameras!!!

    Ummm, someone actually *had* to spent time researching that to realize that fact?

    LOL, omg what is the world coming too...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    jimbobber, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 12:52pm

    What do I do with them now?

    OK, I took some pix with my cellphone camera; now what do I do with them? I use one of my daughter to show when she calls me, but how do I get the pix off of my cellphone onto anything else (sorry, not bluetooth enabled, just a samsun sch-a670).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    ScottieB, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Who is missing the point?

    So, you get the 3-4 mp cam in your cell phone. Then you'll gripe because it's not 10 - 12 mp.

    Some people are never satisfied.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    David Kane, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 1:33pm

    Camera phones have a greater social element than their stand alone counterpart. Soon it will be easy for everybody to upload their photo's (wireleesly) straight to a linked website so your social group can examine the effects of over indulgence the next day.

    I'm from the UK so this is particularly true as we like a drink or two.

    - I would be cautious of technicle comparisons with stand alone phones as the audience that cares about truly excellent quality photos is different from the mainstream usage of both stand alone camera's and mobile camera's.

    High quality camera's are used primarly by tech-savy men, where as its women who use the camera phone most.

    Also I believe the main limitation upon camera phones is not the mega pixels but limitations on lens quality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    elCo, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 1:34pm

    Re: What do I do with them now?

    You may send the pics in an MMS (Multimedia message), or use a "data cable" to transfer them to your PC. For the latter, cheaper option, try clicking here

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Pop Sensation

    Public is the default on Flickr uploads. Maybe your gripe should be with Flickr?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Karl, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:01pm

    This makes me hate my digital camera

    Clearly digital cameras are the failures because of their inferior network support. The fact that you have to be near a printer/computer to do anything with them will prevent them from ever making competitive headway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Fred, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:01pm


    Cmon, there are mobiles with 2 and 3MPixels. There are phones that already take decent quality pictures. Most phones that are coming out will have no less than 1.3MP. most of them are coming with 2MP.. Most of them, not everyone.. its just a matter of time. Who doesnt remember the first camera phones. they had a VGA camera with crappy quality. Then it started evolving like everything else. There's a japanese phone that has a cam of 7MP. Plus most of the phones are coming with 2MP or more (ive said that already, twice).

    Ps. If i press "save me a cookie", do i really get a cookie?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Fred, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:05pm

    What? 2

    And by the way, you dont need to upload it to your hosting service that your network provider provides. Most of the phones are also shipping with memory cards, and some of them have a high built in memory. Some of them, brings USB cable, so you can transfer to PC, others have bluetooth that you can connect to pc with an adapter. Theres no need to upload it to whatever and pay extra charges.

    So my opinion is: If you have a decent phone, the ones that are coming out already, with 2Mp or 3MP, you can print them. And 3MP is already good quality. They give you like 2048x1024 or something like that resolution. Even though i dont print photos, i think the resolution in mobile phones, and they're MP are getting pretty good to be printable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Bish, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:10pm

    Cameras are just fluff anyway

    Hey, isn't our capitalist society supposed to give us the ability to chart the course of new development? When the new phones come out, and we painlessly swap providers based on packages and the phones, doesn't it send a message to the phone manufacturers that their tiny cameras are popular but really quite useless?

    That's why we have really awesome browsers now, and schedulers which automatically share updates via SMS and sync via bluetooth -- indeed, why my current camera sends updates of my own changing address and scheduling details to everyone on my address book.

    Of course, its well understood that the camera phone is this year's CDRW which everyone's convinced they need and which no one uses more than once a year. The point is, we suffer with this crap because they've effectively removed our ability to choose, upon which capitalism depends -- it's why our cars all get 60mpg and our medical care is both competent and affordable. We need the same ability to choose when it comes to service providers, so we can provide the critical competition to drive the necessity that nurtures invention.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:14pm

    and a bajillion other uses for camera phones

    Since I've had a camera phone, I've actually found myself using it for things I'd never use a regular digital camera for ... it's become my visual scratch-pad for all those times when I can't (or wouldn't) write something down. I've started taking pics of posters when I want to remember an upcoming show, or web addys or phone numbers on signs. A clerk asked me to get the number from an unlabeled item I was buying, so I took a pic of the label on the shelf and he was amazed at my "ingenuity" ... anyway, just a reminder to those disappointed with the resolution that you have to pick the right tool for the job. (P.S. does anyone *really* want a 10MP camera before 3G wireless and 100MB flash memory cards are widely available ??)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:17pm

    ... *ahem* which is to say that phone cameras aren

    We're just beginning to figure out the possibilities ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:19pm

    People are finding ways to use their camera phones. Some are basically blogging their entire day, because the camera is so conveniently at their fingertips. I have been using it with an online food diary to remember and track what I've been eating at www.nutrax.com.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Ponder, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:20pm

    The future ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Ponder, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:26pm

    The future ...

    Will I be able to buy a digital camera that will take a sim card and let me send the pictures via MMS or email direct? Yes (there are now cameras (video only) that can send their output directly to the web. Their time is not yet here, though it is close, as they are too expensive. It's cheaper to buy a normal camera, tranfer to a palmtop via bluetooth and send it wirelessly from there. When the 'Blackberry' includes a decent camera in it, it will be very powerful. Point, Shoot, Edit, Upload/Email/MMS/Blog/Strem/Sell all on the spot.

    PS where do I get my saved cookie from?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Jason, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 2:52pm

    the original author obviously does not have kids

    I received a camera on my phone more than a year ago only because I had no choice if I wanted bluetooth and some other features.

    I figured I wouldn't even use it... then my first child was born... and that little low res camera became a God send. Obviously I don't use it for family photos or any time it is convenient to use the real camera but I don't question its value anymore.

    The article's author seems to not understand "the right tool for the right job, used in the right way."

    It is unfortunate that said author however, represents IMHO the vast majority of decision makers in the world now.

    On a side note, what I really would call a need for "staying competitive" and thus a relevant use of comparison, is the issue of portability of the phones.

    Last I checked, my car can take fuel from any gas station. Said car also does not require a significant learning curve to drive coming to/from any other vehicle. I can tune in radio just fine thank you.

    Yet my cell phone will only work with one and rarely two vendors. YMMV, but I would love to be wrong... or at least see the market start behaving like a free market and eliminate that nonsense. (read: no external welfare interference)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 3:04pm

    wtf? why would anyone use a P&S when they could us

    i mean, SLRs are more capable than P&S!

    for that matter, why would anyone use digital instead of film? film captures a larger dynamic range.

    oh, wait, that was it.



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Bev, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 3:05pm

    A Slow News Day Indeed

    Lets also not forget that people are using camera phones for things OTHER than taking cutsey pics of people pets and events. I am a visual person. I use my camera phone when shopping to make note of an item I want to remember for later & record pricing info. Being in sales, I also use my camera phone when at a client site to take pics of things I want to remember or review later. I would NEVER print any of those pics, but I use the camera feature in my phone all the time. I think the writer of that article should be shot for not doing their homework and for just being plain ignorant! A quality reporter would have done some reasearch on how and why people use the two devices. If they had, they would have known that the way and reasons people use the two devices are completely different, and whether or not you print the image is irrelevant. For that matter, I don't usually print my digital camera photos either and when I do share them, I email them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 3:21pm

    Im pissed that I cant bring my cell phone into the social security office because i might be taking photos of people because its a cameraphone, which is because I had no choice, it being the only flipphone cingular carried at the time I had to buy one. What a bother.

    I did find one good use for the camera though. I took a picture in the dark so I could get a plain black background for my phone desktop instead of a beach or a turtle or a clown or whatever excellent options come with it out of the box.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Adam, Mar 28th, 2006 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Who is missing the point?

    The difference between 4 megapixels and 1.3 megapixels isn't just file size, though. It's price too. So the real question should be, when did quality ever lose to price?

    The answer? All the time. I direct your attention to Apple, and their puny market share. I direct your attention to how recently HDTV's have taken off, despite the technology existing since the advent of color television. I direct your attention to my high school economics classes, when my teacher taught me about diminishing returns. Any time the extra quality isn't worth it to the majority of users, the quality loses, unless they can make a profit off of the minority that does need the better product. Here, they can't, or at least that's what the cell phone companies believe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Juan Valdez, Mar 29th, 2006 @ 9:46am

    Camera phones are crap

    The issue I have with the camera phone I own from Cingular is the impracticality of it. I can take pictures, but in an hours worth of effort to send the picture to other phones/devices/emails. The only thing I could figure out how to do was to change the desktop. This is a limited experience with the shelf model from Cingular, but it points out the level of effort that is put into product usability affects product usage drastically.

    Camera phones are also highly restricted when going into many work places. At my last 3 jobs over the past 5 years, Semi-conductor, DoD, and military have all had restrictions on camera phones.

    The phone networks in MOST places in America not NYC, LA, Chicago, etc, but that area 30-40 miles outside of it encompassing the other 80% of the country the technology is useless. Having lived in Iowa, Illinois, Virginia, Texas, Washington, Idaho, and Colorado network coverage is a challenge I acknowledge, but every area I listed has limited to no support for this technology in the majority of its territory.

    All in all, I call it a good concept, but it should have been trashed from the start for the majority of users/locations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    phil, Mar 29th, 2006 @ 10:00am

    Reminds me of the Bluetooth trade group bragging at how many BT devices are being sold to prove their success. Of course they count each cell phone as a Bluetooth device. Another case of wrongly using numbers to lprove their point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    darthservo, Mar 29th, 2006 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Pop Sensation

    Ok, yeah I could just move on. And good point about blogs (guilty as charged).

    Part of my problem is that I don't see the real use of cameraphones. As people have brought out, they're crappy in quality and are not very intuitive to manage photos outside of the phone.

    I think it's just part of the fact that they're more of a fasion statement than ease of portability. Can you imagine if a teenager in a public school bought a new phone and it didn't have a camera? Heaven forbid! Who cares about what the phone was originally designed to do, most people think they look cool if they can snap a picture *with their phone* in a mall, at a restaurant, etc.

    I do agree that the day the cameraphones begin to bring themselves up to the level of midrange digicams, is the day people begin expecting professional camera use out of their phones - something phone manufacturers could care less about. The more things we start cramming into phones, the more things will break.

    Personally, I'd rather save hardware space for devices that will increase the stability of my calls, whether it be a larger antennae, more memory for contacts, faster CPU, whatever; because, get this - I personally care about what phones are supposed to be used for more than if I can take a crappy picture of my turd inside of a public toilet. *Gasp!*

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    Re: Pop Sensation

    Not everyone that takes pictures do it for artistic reasons. For example a buddy of mine was looking for a specific car, so when I saw one in a dealer's lot, I took a picture and sent it to him, in case he's interested. Cameraphones are usefull for situations like this. And it has nothing to do with Flickr and such.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    David Kane, Mar 30th, 2006 @ 8:04am

    Re: This makes me hate my digital camera

    ShuZu and other companies are developing techonology that will allow you to seamlessly transfer content from your phone to an interent site like Flikr. The programs are desinged to work behind the scenes so as to not interfere with your other mobile phone operations

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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