The mobile phone is the social camera

I started to leave a blog comment on Antonio’s post and decided to do it here instead …

When I read the rumor that Apple has ordered a 5MP CMOS sensor for an unspecified product, it screamed to me of another coming disruption, this time around the point-and-shoot slice of the digital camera market. Because while the market for digicams is still growing at a healthy clip, the fat belly of point-and-shoot cameras has been relatively stalled since 2007 and shows signs of becoming a segment dominated by price and share wars— in other words, ripe for an Apple-like disruption.

A lot of the industry analysts that cover the emerging mobile space have been saying for a long time that better cellphone cameras would eventually kill the point-and-shoot, but I’m not sure that it is quite that simple. Or that is, before we get to this cellphone-as-camera nirvana, we may still have room for the iPod Touch of cameras (one that is connected but without a data plan). This would allow for all sorts of neat use cases around the concept of the “Social Camera, ” some similar to what Eye-Fi allows today, albeit with richer, more mass-market integration.

And best of all, if such a device was based on the iPhone platform, we’d benefit from the same Precambrian-like explosion of apps to explore every corner of the programable camera universe in a much more rich way than any one company could.[ The Onda]

An interesting thought for sure, but here’s where I see it really going. I already have a social camera and it’s called ANY Nokia handset I’ve used in the past several years.

Here’s how it works:

  1. I take a picture and share it instantly via (your choice) Share Online or Shozu.
  2. My current arrangement is via Share Online and pics pass through Pixelpipe which is an amazing photo mediation service. My default setting sends pictures to Flickr, Ovi, Facebook and Twitpic – all at once. Share Online also regularly checks Ovi and Flickr for new media, media that I’ve commented on and media of mine that’s been commented on and brings it all to me – even nicely notifying me via the homescreen.
  3. Pictures and Video I capture are geotagged and mapped on the supporting services as well so I’ve got a very rich contextual map of my media.

The social camera is here now.  It’s easy to use and has worked for a while.  I”m sure Apple has a perspective on this, but my guess is that it will happen on the existing platform not via some new piece of hardware.

9 comments for “The mobile phone is the social camera

  1. 4/4/2009 at 5:58 pm

    The blindness of some to these “next tech” trends that are already happening is amazing if you ask me.

  2. Hugh Scantlebury
    4/6/2009 at 3:38 am

    I had a 'social camera' too.

    It was a Nokia N97 which had such a good camera I pretty much started leaving my regular camera behind when travelling and was able to take many more en spec shots.

    All was fine until Nokia screwed up on a firmware upgrade which rendered Bluetooth communication with Macs and effectively drove me to an iPhone. I love the iPhone but HATE the camera. So much so I ended up buying a NEW high-res bridge digital camera six months ago.

    So there's a gap / problem / opportunity, however you refer to it.

    This is a chance for Apple to address such shortcomings on an already hugely successful product and yes there is also probably opportunity for canny software developers to make some money out of apps which extend / enhance the core point and shoot functionality of the core phone.

    One key difference though is related to data charges. In the UK the iPhone ships with bundled data and free wi-fi hotspot access so users like me are quite 'blase' about using it for internet traffic, uploads, downloads, the lot. This approach is not only popular, easy to understand but positively promotes use by consumers which is in the best interests of the manufacturers and the service providers alike.

    On the other hand someone I know with a Nokia found themselves being hit for a £0.30 charge every time they even took a photo (whether they had uploaded to the operators awful bundled on-line photo summary or not – not very social in my view!) due to a poorly designed interface and service plan.

    So personally I am looking forward to a new better equipped photo-iPhone. Not only so I can take better pictures but hand my iPhone 3G down the chain so someone else gets the benefit without the relatively enormous capital costs paid by 'ijits' like me.

    …and once again my search for the nirvana of the 'perfect device' hopefully once again gets one step closer (bearing in mind that every year, innovation drives the goal further away too <an effect I must come up with a snappy name for this at some stage – suggestions welcome!!>) with an iPhone that has a decent camera, cut n' paste and mostly importantly of all Notes synchronisation (I mean what is the point of them as they stand?!?!?).

  3. JonnyBruha
    4/9/2009 at 3:07 am

    I have no problem with Apple coming along and encouraging this idea to the masses of people who, a few years ago, barely knew that a phone could do more than make calls. The camera has been my number one complaint about the iPhone and one of the main reasons I refused to use one as my main device.

    The problem I have is the incorrect attention and credit it will generate. Should Apple pull this off well, not only will the company be praised for its success in selling a merged camera-smartphone device to the masses, but those same masses will be fervent in telling everyone that Apple INVENTED this concept, while a large portion of us have been living in this nirvana for a number of years now. I have been using my mobile camera as my ONLY camera since my phone came with one and uploading my pictures since ShareOnline made it possible to do so.

  4. 4/11/2009 at 10:32 am

    I think if Apple really wants to disrupt in this camera space, a stable video application would be folded onto the next generation iPhone. Do it right, and Apple could siginificantly disrupt all sorts of streaming software services currently running on Series 60 devices.

  5. 4/11/2009 at 10:40 am

    they need to provide a service not just an application. Qik works well because they can stream it and share it across other systems like youtube, mogulus and ovi.

  6. 4/11/2009 at 2:32 pm

    I think if Apple really wants to disrupt in this camera space, a stable video application would be folded onto the next generation iPhone. Do it right, and Apple could siginificantly disrupt all sorts of streaming software services currently running on Series 60 devices.

  7. 4/11/2009 at 2:40 pm

    they need to provide a service not just an application. Qik works well because they can stream it and share it across other systems like youtube, mogulus and ovi.

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    5/24/2012 at 6:51 am

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