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Summary:

The iPhone 4 is about to become the most popular camera used on Flickr, while traditional point-and-shoot cameras are experiencing a sure and steady decline, according to newly released data. The numbers are a good indication that the iPhone is far from done disrupting markets.

iPhone 4 Camera

The iPhone 4 is about to become the most popular camera used on Flickr, while traditional point-and-shoot cameras are experiencing a sure and steady decline, according to newly released data (via PCWorld). The numbers are a good indication that, even four years after its initial release, the iPhone is still disrupting markets.

Last week, Cisco made waves by announcing the closure of its recently-acquired Flip mobile video camera brand. The Flip brought cheap, portable, decent-quality, HD video recording to the masses and rode the wave of YouTube and online self-video publishing to become a popular portable device. But then smartphones, including the iPhone 4, gained similar-quality, HD video recording capabilities, and the Flip was no longer the hot commodity it once was.

The iPhone topped Flickr’s list of user cameras in 2009 following the release of the iPhone 3GS, and that was back when the best iPhone camera boasted only a 3.2-megapixel resolution. The iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel sensor, but leaving aside tech specs, many agree that it performs better (on paper) than some of the more powerful cameras found on Android and other devices. The iPhone’s camera is another example of Apple’s philosophy that user experience trumps a hardware capabilities arms race every time.

This time, though, the data specifies the iPhone 4, not Apple’s entire line of iPhone devices, which speaks to the popularity of Apple’s latest smartphone. It’s also significant that this time around, Flickr-released data shows point-and-shoot cameras are steadily declining in popularity. The takeaway is that smartphones are nearing the tipping point in terms of camera quality when it comes to the needs of most average users (professional and prosumer DSLRs continue to do well), and the iPhone 4 is leading that charge. Phones provide a much more convenient on-hand camera experience than do dedicated devices, and the trade-offs in terms of quality and feature are becoming less significant all the time.

Android devices, despite the growing market share of Google’s OS, aren’t appearing in the top rankings for a couple of reasons. First, Android’s market share is far more spread out across a variety of devices, whereas new iPhone users have only a couple of choices when it comes to handsets. Second, Apple’s camera is still celebrated as being among the best available for mobile devices, despite its relatively low megapixel count.

Based on this data, and on general usage observations, I’d say the iPhone is about one or two updates away from rendering point-and-shoot cameras all but obsolete for most consumers. It’s true that really good analog zoom will likely remain out of reach for smartphones, but consumers who really want those features will increasingly gravitate towards the prosumer end of the DSLR spectrum, while everyone else will be well served with their mobiles. Expect a lot of disruption still to come from Apple in this area.

  1. Has anyone at GigaOm ever heard of something called Nokia N8 (12MP camera w/ CarlZeiss lens and biggest sensor af any phone camera)? I didn’t think so.. apple trolls..

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    1. As pointed out in the article, megapixels and all that don’t neccessarily guarrantee the best shots. Also, the iPhone is more popular because it uses a reasonable operating system, which isn’t how I’d describe Symbian. :-/

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    2. Sure we have, we even reviewed the N8 and it’s stellar camera last year: http://gigaom.com/2010/10/15/review-nokia-n8-is-two-steps-forward-one-step-back/

      But it’s not us you should be upset with: it’s all the Flickr users not using the N8. ;)

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    3. You know what they say about people with megapixel envy?

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  2. Rr, that’s the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard to a story completely unrelated to the article.

    For the record I owned the N8 and found picture quality to be good but the main issue – and one that apple solved simply – was that sharing a photo is just so damn easy.

    I own a DSLR in addition to a Sony point and shoot and with the iPhone 4 I too find my need for using my other cameras are slowly diminishing.

    iPhone 5 will probably end it for me as the best camera in the world is the one you have with you right now.

    I’d love to hear a proper argument from you about why this isn’t the case but I assume it’s because you can’t back up lame statements. The truth is in the stats and there no more an authoritative voice than Flickr user data.

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  3. @Rr Yeah, but no one cares about the Nokia N8. They certainly aren’t about to become the most popular camera used on Flickr. The iPhone is.

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  4. Dilip Andrade Monday, April 18, 2011

    In fairness, this really shows that the people using iPhones are more likely to share their content through online repositories such as Flickr than people with non-connected cameras.

    This was inevitable, as it is far easier to take a photo and have it essentially auto-uploaded to a photo sharing site. It is likely that a person taking 20 photos with an iPhone will post almost all of them, while a person taking 20 photos on a P&S is likely to only post the “good shots” because of the extra effort.

    There appears to be a conflation of people who share images and people who take images.

    To find out if P&S cameras are a dying breed it would be more useful to check the sales of these devices.

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  5. As much as I’d like to see point-and-shoots die, there’s good reason to believe they’ll stick around for some occasions. Besides the lack of zoom, it’s a lousy form factor (stills or video), and murder on the battery, even if you’re not a broadly stereotypical Japanese tourist.

    Then there’s the storage dilemma: you either have to pack lightly on music/videos to leave space for photos. While cameras don’t skip a beat when you swap memory cards, the same feature on a phone isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, because the SD isn’t just bulk file storage.

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    1. However, if you are traveling and can’t take a SLR camera or large digital camera, the IPhone fills in nicely as a great camera.

      I know MANY people going to Europe who now will leave their digital cameras home. Instead they will buy a sim card for the IPhone 4 and use the IPhone 4 camera/video as their only camera. It is that good. Plus it does the new HDR, which is great for the professional tinkering photographers.

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  6. You know, I don’t have trouble believing that cameras on smartphones will be the death of point and shoots, for the most part. But the reporting on these flickr charts by just about every tech outlet has been downright terrible. Everyone seems to be aping the same superfluous interpretation of an unlabelled set of charts from a single photo-sharing site without even digging a little deeper into the actual numbers that can be found there.

    If you look at the actual numbers, you’d notice that while the iPhone 4 actually seems to be owned by many Flickr users, they don’t upload as many photos with it as many other cameras on Flickr, including the iPhone 3G. iPhone 4 actually seems to be trending behind the iPhone 3G in terms of total # of items uploaded to Flickr.

    The story isn’t as simple as the knee jerk responses to Flickr’s trending charts would lead you to believe.

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  7. I concur — phones are always in your pocket while you must think to take a camera with you.
    And size (CCD) does it matter? Nobody ever sees images ofter first week — except babies lovers.

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