Thursday, May 22, 2008

You say you want a revolution?

RCR Wireless recently began a regular editorial section called "Worst of Week". I haven't found these particularly insightful, but the last one I read did lead me to ask myself an important question about the mobile consumer's behavior and use of mobile services, and the state of those services today. The author's piece was titled "Where is my camera phone revolution?". Like most of these editorials it seemed hastily written. I question at least one of his main assumption that "the vast majority of those phones include a digital camera of at least marginal quality." I think "marginal quality" is one of the reasons why more people DON'T use their phone's camera. I think there are still a lot of 2.0 megapixel camera phones in circulation and, in my opinion, photos at that low resolution are painful to look especially if you have at least a 3.0 megapixel digital camera. I think the camera phone must be at least 3 megapixels for anyone to consider changing their habits. I have a Nokia N73 with a 3.2 megapixel and Carl Ziess lens (0.2 megapixels more than my digital camera). I now rarely use my digital camera, and actually take many more "slice of life" photos than I had before.

There are also other mental hurdles that prevent the "camera phone revolution". First, people need to inherently remember that they have a camera with them all of the time. Most people's minds are still hardwired to think that they need a separate device (probably at home) to take a photo, so even when they see something photo-worthy they don't make the connection in their minds to pull out their phones. They must begin to see life as a continuous photo opp before they begin to reach for their phones.

Second, camera phones are not good at capturing quick, spontaneous moments. I've missed a lot of photos due to latency of my camera phone. I think this may be partially due to memory limitations. Camera phones still can't compete with digital cameras in this area.

On a positive note, Nokia has made it easier to get my photos out of my phone. I use a wireless Bluetooth connection and Windows Explorer to transfer my photos onto my computer. I don't even need to use Nokia PC Suite anymore.

I do agree with the author's call for the mobile operators to offer more services that make it easier and more useful to take and exchange photos. The problem is that they apparently don't see this as worthy of the investment.