NEW YORK (Reuters) -
When mobile phones meld with instant photography, new ways of viewing everyday life emerge.
As cameras become standard features on mobile phones, millions of users
are rediscovering photography in unexpected places: in the kitchen,
down the block and on the bus -- from the backyards of Middle America
all the way to Korea and down to Cuba.
While the Instamatic Age was once obsessed with capturing images of
smiling faces, vast landscapes, and the 3x5-inch photo print as a
family artifact, mobile phone photography is looking in a new
|Yes, the pictures can be grainy -- especially indoors -- but camera phones capture moments that might otherwise be forgotten.
Picture what you ate for breakfast or capture the startled look in
your cat's eyes. Catch the reflection in a puddle on the sidewalk as
you walk to work or the texture of a cloud against a flat blue sky.
"This is no longer about disposable cameras. We call it 'disposable
photography,"' said Ben Wood, a wireless analyst with market research
firm Gartner Inc. in London.
There's no such thing as a bad photo. The delete key takes care of
the headless body or any other misfire. There's no cost for making
"Camera phone pictures are the ones you took today to share with friends," said Chris Hoar, founder of TextAmerica, an online photo diary site popular with camera phone aficionados. "Now everything gets documented."
TextAmerica.com has some 100,000 active monthly users, said Hoar, a London transplant who lives near San Diego.
Turning the camera on yourself and snapping a picture is also common. "Everyone stages their own reality," Hoar says.
To be sure, the technical constraints of early camera phones play a role in determining subject matter.
Resolution is low compared with digital cameras. Devices also lack
zoom or flash attachments, making pictures fuzzy and indecipherable in
poor light, and hardly printable.
Sharing pictures from camera phones typically means e-mailing each
image to a computer e-mail account in order to save to a hard disk or
post on a Web site. This involves several steps and can be awkward for
less tech-minded souls.
|An earlier version
of this story incorrectly reported that mBlog was introduced by Landmat
International of Reykjavik, Iceland. It was in fact Inficron
Technologies of Woodbridge, N.J. CNN/Money regrets the error.
For an even richer set of functions, Inficron Technologies of Woodbridge, N.J., recently introduced mBlog,
which helps consumers create full-fledged Web sites using Movable Type
publishing software and offers mobile photo-related services.
Consumer electronics company Sony Corp., a maker of stylish mobile
phones through its Sony Ericsson joint venture, is just one service
that offers free online photo storage to anyone who visits the site.
Kodak's Ofoto, with 12 million members as of the end of 2003, is the biggest such site.
When camera phones are commonplace
Jill Aldort, an analyst with market researcher InfoTrends of Norwell,
Massachusetts, predicts that sales of camera phones in the United
States and Canada will nearly triple this year to 21 million devices,
up from 7-1/2 million in 2003.
Worldwide sales of camera phones are expected to total 150 million
in 2004 -- just over a quarter of all mobile phone sales, up from 70
million last year. Aldort expects sales to reach 656 million units by
Mobile phone companies have invested billions of dollars in new
networks capable of handling not just phone calls but photos, e-mails,
even video. U.S. carriers are just getting underway with phone-to-phone
Currently, most picture messages are sent by consumers from phones
via e-mail to computers or straight to Web sites. That will be
necessary until more users have picture-ready phones.
"Eventually (the camera phone) will become commonplace. People will
have a camera with them at most times," predicted Matt Kaiser, director
of multimedia messaging for Atlanta-based Cingular, a joint venture of
BellSouth and SBC Communications.
As more people purchase camera-ready devices, phone-to-phone picture
messaging promises far greater convenience, as no special effort to
send and receive pictures will be needed, Kaiser said.
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Cingular's service now costs 25 cents per photo, or $2.99 for 20
picture messages. In coming weeks, the company is set to introduce
plans that allow more photo messages to be sent for the same price,
U.S. mobile carriers must first agree to allow subscribers to send
pictures to other networks, something Verizon Wireless spokesman
Jeffrey Nelson predicts Verizon and several other national carriers
will be ready to offer later this year.
"We will communicate with pictures more and more," said Sanjay Jha,
president of the wireless technology group at Qualcomm Inc., developer
of mobile phone network technology that is popular in the United States
But camera phones are only a transitional product to wireless video
phones, Jha said. Already, Korean manufacturers are offering tiny
phones with full camcorders, products that will become widespread as
high-speed networks are built to handle the higher data-rate
transmissions of video.
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