March 14, 2005 9:36 AM PST

Are camera phones losing their snap?

NEW ORLEANS--Cell phones with embedded cameras will go from runaway hit to small-time niche service if major problems remain unaddressed, Eastman Kodak's chief executive told a major wireless show here on Monday.

"Today, camera phones are imaging-capable but photographically disabled," Kodak Chief Executive Dan Carp said during a keynote address at CTIA Wireless 2005.

Cell phones

Carp's remarks throw cold water on the cell phone industry's biggest success story of the last two years. Camera phones are credited with the surging use of wireless data services in the United States, with some wireless operators saying their data revenues have doubled in the past two years. Last year, 180 million camera phones were sold worldwide, a 130 percent increase over 2003. Most analysts believe the growth will continue, with about 280 million camera phones sold by the end of the year, and there may be one billion camera phones in circulation by year's end.

"Mobile imaging may be the biggest breakthrough since the Brownie camera," Carp said, referring to one of Kodak's first camera models.

Yet on Monday, Carp said a Kodak market study found that most camera phone owners find their devices less than satisfying, even though they used the cameras to snap about 70 billion photos last year. Nearly two-thirds of camera phone owners rarely, if ever, upload pictures to a computer. And 70 percent never (or rarely) send photos to other phones. Notoriously short camera phone battery life; photo quality, especially in daylight; and the complexity of printing pictures are causing major headaches for the 180 million camera phone owners worldwide, according to Carp.

"These are all warning signs," he said. "If we're not careful, imaging could fade to niche application in phones. Some think it's happening already."

The industry isn't ignoring the problems, said executives who attended Monday's keynote. Many wireless manufacturers and operators are trying to make inroads to solve the problems, with Sprint and even America Online introducing easier methods to share camera phone photos with friends, or print them. Kodak is now working to let cell phones use the EasyShare printer for digital cameras, which eliminates the need to upload digital photos first onto a personal computer.

Camera phones represent a crossroads for the cell phone industry. Embedding cameras into cell phones has helped U.S. consumers realize that their phones can also access the Internet, whether to post camera phone photos on a public Web site, watch a specially formatted TV show, send a photo to a friend's handset or use any number of offline printing services. As a result, wireless operators are much more interested, and willing, to give new kinds of data services a try.

This scenario is being played out by U.S. wireless operators, which are now using the success of camera phone sales to introduce the logical next step: video services.

One of the most hyped is V Cast from Verizon Wireless, which launched on Feb. 1. On Monday, Verizon Wireless beefed up its lineup of TV shows that subscribers can view on their phones. One new addition is a specially made version of "The Simple Life: Interns," a reality show that follows the exploits of socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.

"We are pleased with the success of V Cast," Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Denny Strigl said.

Carp, however, called cell phone video a mistake, saying "shifting attention to video could result in lost opportunity for all of us."

See more CNET content tagged:
camera phone, Eastman Kodak Co., Verizon V-Cast, camera, Verizon Wireless

16 comments

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Quality.
When I first got the camera phone, I loved it. I could take pictures with it when I wouldn't usually have my full sized digital camera. But the more I use it, the less I like it. What can I do with such low quality images? Furthermore, it is a pay for service. we need better phones.
Posted by lewissalem (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
terrible quality vs high prices
Most phones take pictures that are less than half a mega pixel. That is really worthless because you cant print them as a decent size and you cant really be proud of a picture you just took since its image quality sux

On the other hand, the camera phones range from 199 to $399 which begs the question of why would any sane person pay for such a phone (other than when it is free) when you can buy a very good quality phone for voice only plus a very decent 3-4 mega pixel small camera for less than $200.
I know the argument that its better to have everything in one gadget but then again, if I were given the choice of carrying a Bulky Camera phone that takes pictures at 0.6 mp vs a tiny phone (without camera) + a tiny camera with 3-4mp resolution, i would choose the latter.

All this other talk about sharing it and sending it without PC is over kill since it just takes one USB cable or bluetooth to just transfer photos to any laptop or Desktop PC. End of story!
Posted by lavacentral (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
duh...
Carp, however, called cell phone video a mistake, saying "shifting attention to video could result in lost opportunity for all of us."


Of course he Carp is going to say that, he works for a PICTURE company...
Posted by (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Camera Phone definitely going out.
When did you ever need a camera in a cell phone? You never really need it. If you want to take a picture, fine, use a REAL camera.

This is another example of companies using mass-advertising to change the way society thinks, by making us think we need such a cell phone.

I myself have a digital camera, and a cell phone and never needed to get a new camera phone.
Posted by hion2000 (115 comments )
Link Flag
forget the crap!!
i don't need an fm radio, mini-tv playback, camera functionality, or anything of the like in my phone. those aren't things i would use, and if i did use them, it would be once in a blue moon, if ever. that said: give me a more comfortable, longer life, louder ringing, not nearly so heavy cellphone, that jacks right into my friggin brain, and i'm happy.
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Reply Link Flag
american and small thinking
This is the problem with America, "if it isn't true here, it must not be true anywhere."
In Japan phone cameras are BOOMING!!! Every phone you get now have a camera. You can buy printer accessories, you can easily transfer data to a printer, you can go to a kiosk and print out pictures, etc...
Pricing is OUT OF THE QUESTION, as with a new service subscription, the phone is often FREE or only a few thousand yen ($20 or so) with a year contract. Want a new phone, get another contract (after a year, or pay $40 to $50 penalty).
My phone is a generation old, and I can get 2 megapixles and store on a memory card. Yes, not the greatest quality, but it was free, I dont need to buy a digital camera for snapshots (not to mention video).
Mobile phones are not an American thing...it is a world-wide thing...WAKE UP!!!
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah
Japan is generally considered a test market for North America... sometimes things are different and korea/japan pick technology up more willingly... however i cant speak for pricing there... i can only say uploading pictures here costs too much money
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Link Flag
Not used because it's poorly done
I've had a camera phone for a couple years now. It's a great idea gone wrong for a simple reason, it's great because I always have my cell phone with me which means I always have my camera handy as well. Yes the photo quality isn't equal to that of a good digital camera but it meets the "I've just got to have a photo of that" moments because it's already there when the moment occurs.

The reason it's gone wrong is simple greed by the phone companies who attached the picture taking capability of the phones to their "pay extra" email or other services. I get too much spam as it is, I don't want or need another source of spam on a device too small to be a good reader of email in the first place so I haven't got an account and therefore have no way to save any picture I take to anything because that's the only option the phone company gives me.

Since my phone is now an "older" model I cannot even look forward to anyone cracking the phone so I can extract pictures without the phone companies help.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here is why
1 quality - although this is less important

the main reason... da da da da da...

it costs... 1 f***ing dollar to upload some ****** photo to a computer...

f*** that...

put it under 10 cents i may upload a few but hell to 1dollar
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Camera Phones
Who uses camera phones? I have a 4MP digital camera and don't use the camera on the phone. Phones create a poor quality image and is best suited to the teenager "look where I am now" photos at parties which are good for a laugh and SMS'd elsewhere.
The next crop of 3.3MP cameras might be interesting but again the camera phones don't have a focus or an iris. Therefore they are at best a gimicky add-on to a phone.

Something worthwhile would be a camera with Bluetooth included so they can send pictures to the phone wirelessly. Except, I don't know if that would be unacceptably slow. Still, not too bad considering manufacturers are building crappy cameras in phones.
Posted by darylcheshire (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who needs a camera phone?
Seriously. I purchased a cell phone because I felt that, at point or another, I'd have a need to place calls to someone else with a phone. When I needed to replace my last cell phone, it took me a couple of weeks to find an adequate replacement, that wasn't bottom of the barrel and that didn't also have a camera built in. Not only that but if I bought a camera phone, I'd need to *upgrade* my plan to something pricier to accomadate the photo capabilities of my phone. $10 more per month is NOT an upgrade...it's OUTRAGEOUS! Hate to name names (SprintPCS!) but if I've no intention of using the camera, don't charge me for it as part of my monthly plan. So I kept my original plan and compromised on a new Motorola (v60) phone that's kinda sorta almost as good as the Samsung (N200) it replaced (was either the v60, a freebie toss away phone, or a $500 Samsung PDA-do-it-all-swiss-army-knife of a phone). Why does everything have to be a compromise? IMO, camera phones should be the exception...not the norm. Someone feels a need to use their phone as a camera instead of buying a real camera, fine. Let them pay for it. But don't make the camera phones the standard and charge ME more for it! Produce a phone that'll last a few years, have great reception and battery life, and hold up to some minor abuse without giving up the ghost. That's what I want. Some CAPABLE. Not something gimicky. =P
Posted by AshQuinn1 (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Carp is from another planet
Kodak ain't exactly a market leader outside the US in the digital imaging business (and it's barely above water in the film business too) so I got to wonder what he knows about the camera phone market.

Well, ok, maybe he knows the US camera phone market. It's an established fact that US cell phone penetration rates are far lower than comparable economies in Europe and Asia, americans don't SMS and the mobile carriers are obviously standing in the way of progress. Look at the recent reports that phone companies are blocking the release of Motorola's iTunes phone because they aren't able to extract $ from music downloads.

Same thing here. What's with having to pay money to transfer camera phone images ? Isn't that what bluetooth is for, or USB cables or memory cards ? Oh wait, I forgot, there was another report that a certain model phone sold in the US had its bluetooth crippled so that downloads/uploads had to go through the carrier's pay "service".

Don't blame the technology. Blame the regulators.

Sub-megapixel camera phones are way behind the times anyway. That's like saying that MP3 players could never take off because you can only squeeze 1.4 M onto a floppy disk.

And if Kodak doesn't want to get left out of the camera phone business it better start setting up R & D outside the US.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
camera phone pics
Check out this thread for examples of what the Mitsubishi M900
can do

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://forums.hardwarezone.com/showthread.php?t=948997" target="_newWindow">http://forums.hardwarezone.com/showthread.php?t=948997</a>

sorry, the phone is not available in the US.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Quality and cost...
Two main reasons:

1) Quality.
2) Cost.

Why should I pay a per-month fee to send pictures to my computer?

My phone is capable of downloading to a PC, but my wireless provider conveniently disabled that feature.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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