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supposed to be the next big step for Flip, as it transitioned to a touchscreen-based interface, but it already looked outdated when it made its debut earlier this year, missing multitouch and other UI essentials to which that smartphone users are already accustomed.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. ripratm

    To many people are looking at this from the wrong angle. Don’t think of users starting from scratch. I’m not talking iphone specific, but factor in android and iphones your talking 10’s of millions (if not more over the next few years) are buying these phones regardless, that do video out of the box. So if I’m one of these millions of people with an iphone or android that does basic video recording, why would I ever feel compelled to go out and buy a second device (flip) that does pretty much the same thing already which I’ve either payed or am paying for.

    Can the flip stand to lose these millions of potential customers to phones leaving only people in the market for flips kids or people with out a smart phone.

  2. The iPhone won’t kill the Flip.
    Here’s why:
    To buy a Flip, all you have to do is walk into a Best Buy, Target, Walmart, etc. You walk in, pick out the unit, pay, and leave with merchandise in hand.
    To buy an iPhone, you have to attempt to pre-order almost two weeks before, most likely trying unsuccessfully multiple times on the Apple website. When that doesn’t work, you go to a store. Even if you don’t have to wait 3 or so hours, you have to put your name on a list to then HOPE the store gets one in stock so you can get your phone sometime in the next month or so.

    Bitter much? Yes.

  3. Kevin Helmer

    Spoken from the point of view of a true tech head. I disagree with this in the short term- you are dead wrong- I own the iPhone 4 , Flip, Vado and a handful of other pocket cameras. I have a few dozen hours recording on the iPhone 4 (and hundreds on pocket corders) and let me tell you “basic” is NOT what I would describe as iMovie editing. Granted the software will improve with time, but it currently crashes, while editing and uploading. Some of the uploading issues can be blamed on ATT but even on a WIFI connection you may have trouble as I did. The iPhone is great for VERY SHORT videos, but a movie of any length (over 5 minutes per clip) is TEDIOUS to edit. You cannot crop, so if you need to edit out a middle portion of a 4-5 minute video then you are in for a very strenuous time. The iPhone does not have a mounting tri-pod or image stabilization YET. The average mom or dad will not buy this phone to replace the flip anytime soon. Like gaming, Apple over time will transform the mobile/pocket industry for video as well. I see the Flip and other pocket corders appealing to the mainstream. They will also specialize in certain ways. I agree that the pocket corder manufactures need to step up their game, or they will be relegated to the mom and pop crowd, but even THAT market is HUGE.

  4. There is no way that the iPhone 4 will kill the pocket camcorder market. Flip, Kodak and others could add video editing capability but Apple would have to release a sub-$200 ipod touch with support for external mic, removable media and tripod and 1080p to even come close to competing with products like the Kodak Zi8 which can be found for $129. Some of the newer models are even waterproof.
    The power of the Flip video and other pocket camcorders is that they are cheap and extremely easy to use.
    I have an iPhone, a camcorder and a nice digital camera, but I carry my Kodak Zi8 with me everywhere because it does everything I need it to do and many things other devices can’t.
    iPhone 4 has a beautiful screen and it works well as a smartphone, but it will not replace the pocket camcorder anytime soon.

    • “As long as…” — Dude, you’re just looking at the U.S. — By the end of September, Apple will iPhone 4 in 88 Countries. I think you are being a little short-sided and not really looking at the big picture or the evidence.

      At the WWDC 2010 keynote, Steve Jobs told the developers “Apple will sell 10’s of millions of FaceTime devices this year in 2010.” I believe this is a clue. He didn’t say “iPhone 4” devices which would’ve been specific. He said “FaceTime devices”. I think it is quite probably that in September when Apple historically releases their new iPod lineup, we’re going to see iPods with the types of camera integration that the iPhone has along with video recording.

      Certainly, when you can do a video phone call over wi-fi on an mp3 player, you’re going to sell as many devices as you can manufacture. This is going to gut Skype, too. But you throw in the high quality video recording on the same device and it’s “Game Over, Man” for Flip, too.

      The same people who love the Flip are the same techno geeks that love great tech in the first place. They love their computers and their phones and their videogame machines*. If a company can roll more to love in a single device, why buy both?!

      my 2¢

      *Just pre-ordered the new XBox 360 — in on Friday. Happy Father’s Day to me!

  5. Well, I can tell you this… a little buyer’s remorse right here.

    I bought a Flip HD (8GB) in December for $200 and totally regret the Flip purchase. There are lots of people who won’t even consider a Flip camera now. The fact remains that about 1 billion phones are sold every single year… if you don’t re-up this year, you will next. And as Apple continues to build value like this into their iPhones (and presumably their iPod touches), Cisco is going to SERIOUSLY regret their Flip purchase too.

    And I think they spent more than $200*.


  6. I think the iPhone 4 will definitely make an impact on the Flip. For those of us who are already iPhone holders and have a Flip, I don’t see us using the Flip anymore with the improved video capabilities of the new iPhone.

    I also don’t see iPhone owners buying Flips any more because the iPhone provides the same video quality/abilities with sharing built in.

  7. Connor Griffin

    it might kill the flip for people that own iPhones, but not for anybody else.

    they are a completely different target market, and anybody who thinks something like this is just an idiot.

    “Will iPhone 4 kill Xbox?”
    see? It just sounds stupid when you insert any other product name in there. Just because the iPhone has games, it doesn’t mean anything.
    same thing for the camera.

  8. iphone is more than $3000 with the contracts. Flip is something like $200. It’s more like devices like the Flip (with Android and WiFi) is going to kill the need to signup for $3000 iphone contracts.