I recently wrote a blog saying that camera phones were somewhat of a gimmick, and will be going away soon (see www.mobilehandsetdesignline.com/blogs/171200865). Not completely, but not the mainstream that we have today. Glenn Paul, chairman and CTO of dotPhoto (www.dotPhoto.com), disagreed, and here's his take:
Richard Nass reports the truth when he notes that people buy camera phones, but don't use them. However, the pain points for camera phone users are being addressed, and one statistic powerfully suggests that, when camera phones work well, their use patterns will skyrocket: single-use camera sales have grown from 43 million in 1994 to 218 million units in 2004, while film rolls have fallen from 733 million to 438 million (according to the Photo Marketing Association).
People like convenience. To buy a single-use camera, we must go out our way and we often overpay ($20 at a wax museum, but selling briskly). Imagine how many more photos we'll take when we can pull out a phone every time we think, "I wish I had a camera right now!" Simply replacing single-use cameras will result in the capture of over 5 billion photos.
We also like products that work the way we expect: press the button, get the picture. Camera phones today aren't intuitive, but we can fix that with a better user interface. For instance, the most common complaint is, "My camera phone is full. I can't take any more photos." This will be solved by saving photos to the web and, after saving remotely, offering to delete them from the phone's gallery.
People take photos in batches: you don't want to wait to take your next photo while the last one uploads, so the handset-to-web system will be configured to upload while the camera isn't in use.
Phone makers and carriers are building the technology now to turn phones into personal multimedia platforms. Faster communications and processors, better cameras and software, and robust web sites will result in a better user experience. One day, we'll look at the camera like the typewriter: a useful device in its time, but one that has been absorbed into a more complete communications solution.