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 user 2005-03-25 at 10:16:00 am Views: 126
  • #11067

    ” SAY CHEESE..(Just Don’t Say,

    Analyst, Mobile Devices; Principal Analyst, Mobile
    March   2005

    WORLD’S FIRST mobile phone integrating a digital camera modulewas
    commercially introduced less than five years ago. Today, built-in cameras are
    standard features for all handset segments other than cost-sensitive entry level
    phones and security-conscious enterprise devices. Once captured, users can share
    and/or print the photos, opening up a whole new revenue stream for wireless
    device and service vendors, as well as cross-category players in the printing
    and imaging arena. Currently, the cameraphone printing business is extremely
    small, so vendors are trying various strategies to simplify or enhance the user
    experience: image transfer/print via proprietary Web services, Bluetooth,
    moblogging tools, IrDA, MMS, PictBridge, and more. Which approaches make the
    most sense?

    Carriers, of course, would prefer that the images move around their networks
    – generating revenue. Globally, multimedia messaging service (MMS) is the most
    popular method of transferring photos where users can send a captured photo to
    another MMS-capable phone or a designated e-mail address. In the U.S.,
    proprietary services have been more popular, particularly as Sprint bundled Web
    services with its flat-rate multimedia messaging service, PCS Vision. MMS can
    also be used to transfer captured images to online photo albums (sometimes
    called moblogs, or “mobile blogs”), giving users the opportunity to share
    special moments with friends and family (or the whole world). Every major U.S.
    wireless carrier provides users with a personal moblog to store, share, and
    print pictures, and in almost every case, these Weblogs are powered by an
    imaging vendor with printing capabilities.

    There are also methods of image transfer that bypass the carrier (and carrier
    charges) altogether, such as Bluetooth, IrDA, and memory cards. With Bluetooth
    now found on notebook PCs, HP and Epson offer Bluetooth-enabled printers or
    add-on kits for select models. Handset and printer vendors are forming alliances
    such as the Mobile Phone Imaging and Printing consortium, and HP and Epson have
    developed Bluetooth photo printing applications that allow users of select
    Symbian-based smart cameraphones to wirelessly print photos from their
    Bluetooth-enabled printers.

    Another transfer option is infrared wireless technology (IrDA). Fuji just
    recently introduced a new portable photo printer (MF-70) that creates a credit
    card sized photo from an IrDA-enabled cameraphone in about 20 seconds. Finally,
    a number of high-end phones feature an external memory slot enabling users to
    transfer or print images stored on them by removing the card and inserting it
    into a compatible printer or photo printing kiosk.

    There are two major barriers that prevent these methods from serving the
    majority of cameraphone users —compatibility and carrier restrictions. Of the 73
    cameraphones available in the U.S., only 25 have removable memory or support
    Bluetooth. Worse, only a handful of these Bluetooth-enabled cameraphones are
    actually capable of directly printing captured photos from a Bluetooth printer.
    It’s not enough to have Bluetooth, the phone must also have rich Bluetooth
    profile support. In the case of IrDA, Fuji’s new printer is compatible with only
    select Nokia, Siemens, and Sony Ericsson phones, and because CDMA phones
    typically do not have built-in IrDA, the technology is unavailable to half of
    the U.S. market. The other roadblock is the wireless carrier’s unwillingness to
    support any method of image transfer that would cut into their data revenues.
    Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS both block Bluetooth on their devices from doing
    much more than enable wireless headsets.

    But the poor quality of the images captured by today’s cameraphones neatly
    solves any argument over the best way to ease image transfer and prin ting: it
    doesn’t matter. Even if the process is painless and transparent, consumers will
    avoid printing fuzzy, off-color pictures. Even at 1.3 megapixels, none of the
    cameraphones on the market are on par with a low-end digital camera when it
    comes to image quality.

    Cost is one factor – vendors are pressured to keep prices down despite adding
    features, and quality suffers with cheap CMOS sensors. Consumer reliability
    expectations are a larger element: to ensure the phone still works after being
    dropped, cameraphone lenses are plastic, and auto focus and optical zoom are
    omitted. Strobe flashes are left out due to battery concerns, making indoor
    images dark and murky. Finally, the images are highly compressed to conserve
    storage and network bandwidth. As such, most cameraphone images look terrible,
    and they stay right where they originated – on the phone.

    However, this is poised to change over the next 12 – 18 months. Device
    manufacturers have alread y begun to improve the optics embedded in their mobile
    phones. Sony Ericsson recently launched its first megapixel cameraphone, the
    S710a, boasting good optics, a CCD sensor, and a camera-first design forcing
    users to use both hands while capturing photos (partly eliminating user-induced
    shakiness). Samsung and LG have 3 and 5 MP cameraphones available in Korea, and
    have announced their intention to bring them to the U.S. market in 2005.

    Over the next 12 months we see the market splitting between carrier-centric
    and device-centric approaches. Moblogs printing services supported by carriers
    will be the mainstream method given the carrier-centric nature of the U.S.
    market. These carriers – likely Verizon and Sprint – will use the ease of use
    offered by proprietary approaches as a way to generate consumer revenue from 3G
    networks. Branded service providers such as Kodak can profit by enabling the
    carriers’ back end. However, this will be balanced by device-cen tric
    alternatives (such as removable memory, Bluetooth, and, increasingly,
    PictBridge) which will appeal directly to early adopters. These carriers –
    likely Cingular and T-Mobile – will still insist on handset-resident software
    that steers consumers to carrier-branded services, but the focus will be on
    attracting high value subscribers with the more flexible, differentiated