Blog Post

Did Apple’s iPhone 4 Just Kill the Flip?

Apple (s AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs just announced the highly anticipated fourth-generation iPhone at WWDC, and the device is bound to make some people at Cisco (s CSCO) pretty nervous: The iPhone 4 features 720p HD video recording at 30fps, an LED flash that doubles as a spotlight source for video recording and the ability to edit any video footage right on the device.

Video editing on the iPhone is enabled through a custom version of iMovie, which can be bought in the App Store for $4.99. The development of iMovie for the iPhone was led by Randy Ubillos, whose previous credits include the design and development of Adobe Premier and Final Cut Pro. The software features a number of themes and transitions and makes it possible to export video in 360p, 540p and 720p, all of which can be shared immediately via Wi-Fi or 3G networks.

Compare that to the latest Flip camera from Cisco, and it becomes clear why everyone’s favorite HD point-and-shoot camcorder could be in deep trouble: The Flip SlideHD was supposed to be the next big step for Flip, as it transitioned to a touchscreen-based interface, but it already looked outdated when it made its debut earlier this year, missing multitouch and other UI essentials to which that smartphone users are already accustomed.

Also notably absent was any kind of network connectivity. Cisco promised to bring networking to the camera when it acquired Flip maker Pure Digital for $590 million in March of 2009, but to date, Flip users still have to rely on the built-in USB port, and their desktop PCs, to share and upload videos.

Smartphone users, on the other hand, are increasingly getting used to immediately sharing their footage via their devices’ cellular network connections. iMove for iPhone just gave iPhone users another reason to skip the desktop, making it possible to do some basic editing before they upload clips to YouTube (s GOOG) or Facebook.

Then there’s the iPhone 4 hardware. The device features a 3.5-inch screen with a resolution of 960×640 pixels that uses the same type of IPS technology as the iPad to support video-friendly viewing angles and a great contrast ratio. It also has a back-light illumination sensor that should help to capture situations with low and changing light conditions. It’s unclear at this point how much of an impact the integrated LED flash will really have on video recording, but it should help to persuade customers dissatisfied with their current camcorder’s performance under such conditions.

Speaking of customers, one of Flip’s big selling points has always been its low price point; a dead-simple HD camcorder for less than $200 is hard to beat. However, the new Flip SlideHD costs around $280 for 16GB of memory. Apple announced today that the iPhone 4 will start selling at $199 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB.

Expect Cisco to slash Flip prices any day now. However, one has to wonder whether that’s too little, too late to save the device.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: The Nano & Flip: Join the Conversation (subscription required)

76 Responses to “Did Apple’s iPhone 4 Just Kill the Flip?”

  1. I’m in agreement with Janko that the Flip is in trouble. Both the iPhone 4 and the Flip are in the same market- they’re small, cheap, decent quality cameras for the masses. Yes, you have a contract for the iPhone but that’s the point- you’re getting a phone, plus everything else, plus the camera that will likely rival the quality of the Flip. Anyone who is serious about quality was never going to buy a Flip or an iPhone to begin with. They’re going to get a dedicated higher-end HD camera like a HandyCam, VIXIA, or a Prosumer model.

    I used to own a Flip Ultra which broke and have considered replacing it with an HD model from them, but with the iPhone 4 coming out, I don’t see the need. I don’t want to carry multiple devices if the quality is going to be the same. I kept the Flip in my backpack, but I can’t go out at night to a bar with a backpack. The Flip may not be dead, but they’re in trouble.

  2. Tim Jahn

    I was thinking this same thing when watching the live blogs of the keynote the other day. Actually, the improved video capabilities alone are a big reason I’m thinking of upgrading from my iPhone 3G.

    A full 720p HD camera with flash, zoom, and some not-too-shabby editing capabilities (and instant sharing) PLUS the phone, apps, everything else the iPhone already offers is just awesome.

    Yes, if I were Flip, I’d be flustered.

  3. Anyone want to buy my 2nd Gen Flip Mino HD? I paid $230 for it in March, and I already have an offer on Craigslist from someone for $130, but I want $150.

    I got scared about having an obsolete device when Evo was announced to have 720p HD Video Recording, but then I saw sample videos. NOT EVEN CLOSE. So I thought I was fine until a week later Iphone 4 announces 720p HD but at 30 FPS instead of Evo’s 25 FPS. If the quality is comparable to the Flip I just bought a few months back, then I’m flipping this FLIP to someone on Craigslist and using that money toward the purchase of my new Iphone. Granted, I was already in the market for a new handset, but I can’t imagine anyone saying the Iphone 4 target market differs than that of the Flip Cameras. They’re both high end, small, portable electronic devices. Same market segment to me guys, sorry.

    Love my Flip, but like one poster said “I recorded a video with my Flip the other day, then I tried to upload it via WiFi. Then I tried to make a call on it, and I couldn’t do either. Is this possible?” LOL

    Honestly, portability is HUGE for me. I would carry my Flip 24/7 if it didn’t take up pocket space for me. And now that I can have the same filming power (and more with Imovie) and instantly upload, I think it’s naive to say that Cisco shouldn’t be VERY worried (assuming the video quality is really up to par with the Flip.)

  4. frblack

    I own a Flip. I Love it but my screen recently broke. I went yesterday to consider buying a new one but changed my mind after seeing the new iphone. Flip may not be dead but I believe their market just got smaller.

  5. PacoBell

    Bah! My Kodak PlaySport has already killed anything Cisco has to offer with its 720p/60 & 1080p/30 capabilities. I got mine for $130 shipped. Competition, indeed.

  6. mr crash

    Not that I entirely disagree but I think the “starting” prices are largely irrelevant to the primary market of this device. Kids. Who often use prepaid connections – and if you want to buy an iPhone outright it is really pricey. Maybe it will diminish sales outside this demographic but inside it, I am a little skeptical. But hey I also fully expect some other aspects of the phone to fall a little flat. WiFi only video calling? And editing video with any accuracy on a screen that small sounds gimmicky to me outside of the most basic of functions…

  7. John in Norway

    News just in!

    The iphone will kill aftermarket battery sales because it doesn’t have a removable battery!
    Glove sales will tank because the iphone has a capacitive screen!
    Micro SD card sales will end because the iphone can’t use them.
    People’s brains are getting smaller because you can’t be productive on an iphone!
    Etc, etc.

  8. JoeBin

    I’m guessing that there are a number of people who will not buy a Flip because their iPhone video capabilities is sufficient enough. I’m one of them. When I go out with my family I like to travel light. My 3Gs is perfect. That’s just me. Plus, I’m on a budget, which puts the Flip further out on the wish list.

    Will it kill the Flip? I don’t think so. I think there will always be a market for a dedicated consumer video camera. Cisco needs to worry about the other video camera makers. I’ve been using a Sony Bloggie at work and lovin’ it.

  9. Emilio Townsend

    Ugh, I sometimes literally think that you guys post articles for the sake of posting articles, like there’s a quota.

    Flip customers and iPhone customers are NOT the same people. It’s not as if potential Flip customers will rationalize, “Gee, I can either pay one time for a Flip or I can get myself into a 2 year cell phone contract even though I already have another phone, just to get the HD camera on the iPhone!”

    Flips are low cost, simple video shooters. In the vast majority of cases, these devices aren’t competing for the same customer.

  10. flip users

    my kids (nope your not taking my Iphone in the garden)

    grandad (here’s a present a new iphone, btw you need to pay a contract)

    snowboarder (maybe I won’t mount my Iphone on my head)

    school kids (here’s an iphone for each one of you to film your chemistry experiment)

    Developing countries (here’s 10 iphones so you can document your local issues)

  11. Emilio Townsend

    Flip customers and iPhone customers are NOT the same people. It’s not as if potential Flip customers will rationalize, “Gee, I can either pay one time for a Flip or I can get myself into a 2 year cell phone contract even though I already have another phone, just to get the HD camera on the iPhone!”

    Flips are low cost, simple video shooters. In the vast majority of cases, these devices aren’t competing for the same customer.

  12. EVO does 720p too! I don’t think the iPhone will kill the Flip market alone, however new smartphones as a whole will. But yes, the emergence of the iPhone 4 into the market will be partially responsible.

  13. We were just talking about this. If it doesn’t kill the flip immediately, it will sooner rather than later. And what’s more all the earlier adopters and influencers will be gone.

    Pretty fascinating, and I wonder if Cisco saw this coming. I hadn’t thought about it at all.

  14. craigg

    oh jesus. have you people at apple lost your shit.. or do you really have nothing else to battle anymore sense most things are beating your iphone now. your going after a camcorder?? are you kidding, you have a fuckin phone not a camcorder, and the flip slide HD asent even that good to begin with.. so you choose that out of all of the camcorders. or congrates your phone shoots 30fps. and up to 720P. good luck getting that not to pixelate on a computer. or even getting onto you computer. what ever appple sucks and always has, its just taking stupid people a long time to catch up to apple shitty over priced products

    • Sandi

      The “people at Apple” didn’t write this article. The additions to the iPhone are to improve it’s sale over other smartphones. I really doubt Apple gives a flip about the Flip. iPhone sales could hurt Flip sales, but Flip sales won’t hurt iPhone sales. Therefore, Apple isn’t deliberately “battling” Cisco. The author of this article is just pointing out the people that buy the iPhone 4 will probably not buy a Flip too since their phones can do the same thing.

  15. Travis

    I currently have a 3GS and a Flip. I end up using my iPhone more out of convenience and the Flip if I plan ahead. With a 4G with HD video and a light, I probably wouldn’t use the Flip again.

  16. Bill in Texas

    No, it didn’t kill the Flip. That doesn’t mean the Flip isn’t in trouble. Here’s why:

    First, with the Flip, you are not locked into a contract, and you aren’t going to be affected by bandwidth ceilings. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have a smartphone, and the iPhone 4 will mean nothing to them.

    Second, the Flip is relatively more rugged and more practical than the iPhone — no big glass screen to break. You can replace the batteries. It is easier to hold and to use. You might choose to use a Flip in situations that you would not care to expose your iPhone to (with all of the apps and data on it, damaging/destroying your iPhone would represent a much bigger monetary value loss than dropping your Flip in the lake).

    The Flip IS in trouble because of devices like the Eye-Fi card, with which you can add upload capability to most modern cameras that take an SD card. Some of these cameras are relatively cheap, and many of them offer more refined controls, better zoom, and produce much better videos than the Flip OR the iPhone. If anything kills the Flip, that will be it. Cisco had better get busy upgrading the technology in the Flip, or they can kiss it goodbye.

    • PacoBell

      Just because you saw the word “glass” in the description does not make this iPhone fragile by any means. Not all glass panels are equal. The iPhone 4 uses something akin to so-called Gorilla Glass. If you’d seen the pen video demonstration on the Dell Steak, you’d know how bloody near indestructible this material is.

  17. As someone else mentioned, the iphone will not kill the flip because the flip does not require a cell contract, but when the iPod touch gets these features, it most certainly will. In fact it is probably the camera features added to the iPod touch that will keep the iPad from cannibalizing the iPod touch. I think the big question is whether face time will come to iPod touch. It would seem like the answer would be yes, but who knows.

    • GoodThings2Life

      Besides… it’s not like Cisco is in the business of making major money off consumer electronics… but beware the behemoth if they decide to get into cellular telecomm, the last thing competition would want is a Cisco smartphone that can tie into corporate wi-fi networks for Cisco Unified Communications and then go mobile cell-band when on the go… they’ll be a business wetdream…

  18. These two devices can’t be compared. Agreed that the new Flip is overpriced and missing a whole host of features. But no one who is looking to buy a digital video camera considers a device that is marketed and sold with the name “Phone” in it. One device has nothing to do with the other.

    • Dan, agreed, people won’t go to Best Buy to buy a camcorder and walk out with an iPhone instead… but that doesn’t mean that the iPhone won’t have an impact on Flip sales: iPhone 4 owners will be a lot less likely to buy a Flip if their phone already offers them a superior video capturing, processing and sharing experience.

      • Exactly. I have a 2 year old Canon point and shoot camera that I was thinking of upgrading. When I bought the Droid in November I held off on a camera. Then I got the Incredible when that came out and noticed that it also takes pictures as good as a $150 point and shoot camera, and I don’t have to carry around an extra device.

        My phone can handle pictures good enough for me now and if I ever need anything really high quality, I’d get a DSLR or something in the future. I think the same will happen with the Flip market. The iPhone and Android phones are going to get great 720p/1080p video recording and will be sufficient for the masses. People who own those devices will be less likely to buy the Flip cams. If they have bigger needs they’ll probably just get a good HD cam.

        Also, when you think of the combination of HD video, 4G connectivity and movie editing right in the phone. You’ll be able to produce and share high quality content so quickly it’ll be mind blowing.

  19. Richard Gratton

    Comparing prices between the iPhone and the Flip is a little dodgy, given the total cost of ownership of the iPhone. So while the opportunity for Flip to sell cameras to people who buy the iPhone 4 is definitely taking a hit, but there are a lot more people in the market for a nice, cheapish hand-held camera.

    That said, I agree that Flip needs network connectivity sooner than later to stay relevant.

  20. dswiese

    I currently have a 3GS and a ultraHD flip cam. I dont mind have two separate devices (until i see real world footage from the iphone4) I do wish there was an iphone app so I could plug my flip directly into it to upload.

  21. D_Hock

    Does the Flip and the iPhone really have the same target market? The iPhone site is all about the specs and the impressiveness of the device itself.

    The Flip site has a feature that is selling designs for the camera for Father’s Day.

    Perhaps the Flip market are people less technically-savvy than the iPhone?

  22. Raghu

    Let’s face it…. cell phones didn’t kill Digital Cameras.. they are still selling strong. Likewise, they won’t kill dedicated portable video cameras

    • James Gowan

      The difference is, dedicated point-&-shoot (p-&-s) cameras have always been WAY better than any camera on any cell phone. But that line is blurring. In the Still Photo department, you can get some nice shots and with more powerful hardware and software, I can honestly see a day when the average person will do both a cell phone AND a (p-&-s).

      Everyone wants to take great photos and currently people who are serious about getting decent shots are dipping their toes in the SLR pool of varying prices. As cameras and software get better on cell phones, I see the point-shoot camera taking a big hit in sells. Especially when Apple will most likely offer a mobile photo editor. For me, I just don’t see decent (or any) photo editing on a (p-&-s). It already exists on the iPhone and will get more powerful as time marches on.

      Now, this is about the Flip and video — Apple is close on this. AND they have iMovie which eventually be free to everyone. Apple is too close for comfort and Cisco has a very big problem on their hands. iPhone 4 owners (and eventually iPod touch owners) are going to be in the mega-millions going forward as people trade up for $200-300 every couple of years. Also — think about this, people, … The other cell phone companies and let Apple have all the video glory. They will become competitive too. Combined competition against the Flip, Cisco has little going for it as smart phones have so much more going for them and are just a better trade-off in the long run… Not to mention that, even if money weren’t an option for anyone (funny, right?), who wants to lug both a cell phone AND a Flip camera around.

      The all-purpose device is going to be the death of all one-trick ponies.

      • James Gowan

        I meant to say:

        “can honestly see a day when the average person will HAVE both a cell phone AND a (p-&-s).” They’ll have a cell phone on the low end and jump to SLR when the want a big jump in quality.

      • James Gowan

        God – I must be on drugs… dangit!

        I truly meant to say:

        I can honestly see a day when the average person will ONLY have a cell phone for their camera and not bother with a Point-&-Shoot camera.

        Sorry for the double-flub!

        (I wish one could edit his/her posts… I used to that on various boards so I don’t proof too well before hitting the Submit button.)