What Now For Cameraphones?
By Carlo Longino, Tue May 11 16:30:00 GMT 2004

Handset vendors are pushing cameraphones hard and heavy, with full support from carriers looking to boost data usage. But are users that interested?

Integrated cameras are becoming a standard feature on many vendors' devices, with a push on to 1- and 2-megapixel still cameras and improved video recording functionality. But most data seems to indicate people aren't using their cameras all that much, though carriers and vendors remain incredibly bullish on them.

Samsung says it wants to quickly move to integrating 5-megapixel cameras in its mobile phones and make standalone cameras irrelevant for general consumers. Toy maker Mattel is evidently about to launch a $25 camera phone for kids (we'd love some more details on that), and Boeing wants to put cameras in plane seat backs for video networking. But all of this momentum from manufacturers comes despite evidence that carriers are seeing much of an increase in traffic from them.

NTT DoCoMo told attendees at a recent cameraphone conference it hasn't linked any increased data transmission to the devices, and a camera part maker says Vodafone Japan told him cameras haven't boosted its traffic either -- echoing usage statistics we reported last month.

Techdirt hits the nail on the head here, saying that cameraphones are secure, for one reason, because people don't buy them for the camera, it's simply something that comes along with the phone. They're right for the most part, though in many places, an integrated camera is still enough of a novelty to be a substantial selling point -- though this functionality is quickly becoming commoditized.

But more cogent is the point that the popularity of the devices depends on the applications being built that take advantage of the millions of connected cameras out in circulation (like the Semacode software, or Steve Mann's idea of Sousveillance). Sending picture and video messages doesn't appear to be as attractive a proposition to consumers as once hoped; that shouldn't be the only application considered for cameraphones.