Long dismissed by the popular media, camera phones have become the hottest commodity this side of IPod and MiniPOD. (Three cheers for Alan and his brilliant Camera Phone Report!) Any this morning’s piece in the Wall Street Journal confirms that it is a camera phone world after-all. Too bad for Moto though.
Nokia captured the top spot with a 14% share. It was closely followed by Samsung and Sony Ericsson with 12% each. Rounding out the top five were NEC and Panasonic at 10% each, who both thrive off the large Japanese contingent with camera phones. Have you seen when a movie star gets spotted in Tokyo, it’s picture mania, writes Loop Capital’s analyst team and quips, “Some are even calling the camera phone today’s digital autograph.”
So what’s next? Megapixel cameraphones, which first hit Asian markets, are going global. At least seven additional megapixel handsets had been announced at the end of last week’s CTIA show. As a standalone device, megapixel cameras signify the impending demise of low-end, standalone digital still cameras, predicts ABI Research. As a network connected device, megapixel cameras have the potential to push imaging more into the realm of “tool” than “toy.” According to ABI Research, these devices
increase the profit potential across the value chain, by boosting IC content, raising handset ASPs, and increasing data ARPU, operators’ long standing goal, as voice ARPU declines.
In short, just the kind of good news the telecom and cellular phone business needs. The research firm expects nearly 70% of all handsets to be embedded with cameras by 2009, with a majority shifting to multi-megapixel resolutions by the end of the decade. “Even Motorola, long criticized for falling behind in the race to deploy high-end handsets, is showing signs of a turnaround,” explains ABI Research analyst Kenil Vora. “By integrating a megapixel camera, an MP3 decoder, and Bluetooth in a CDMA 1X handset, the Motorola V710 demonstrates solid consumer-focused product development.”
The final element to this equation is the operators, who are poised to benefit from subscribers sending larger, higher resolution image files across the network. Enterprise customers, who have long ignored imaging functionality, will now begin to see the benefits of cameras as image quality improves. With larger files and more subscribers using the cameras, the net result is a two-fold punch to increasing data usage driving ARPU.
That is not the only thing. Look at all the start-up activity around the camera phones. From guys like ScanBuy who are turning camera phones into scanners to little companies like TypePad, a moblog hosting service, camera phones are opening up new opportunities we did not see. Last summer I wrote a cover story on the cellphone being the “real next big thing,” and it is nice to see that things are working according to the plan.