Focusing on Camera-Phone Apps & Let's Put a Celly in Every Back Pocket
Look how traditional chemical photo service providers have realigned themselves to handle digi prints; this is a new and growing line of business. With DoCoMo’s 505-series i-modes phones (due to hit the market early summer), handsets will have very high-quality, mega-pixel-class cameras, so cam-phone users will want to buy more of the services that digi-cam users have already been buying – like kiosk printing. And to those who would cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war I reply: cry freedom – and put a keitai in every back pocket.
I swapped some notes with Pernille Rudlin, a UK-based wireless consultant and researcher, last week. She pointed out some interesting observations on the Japan market arising out of a discussion with the Japanese partner of one of her clients.
She mentioned an emerging trend in camera-phone usage, wherein as the camera in Japanese phones gets better, it seems that users are treating it more like a digital camera and less like a cell phone – and are taking even less interest in the image communication functionality.
“In other words,” she wrote, “they are taking photos but not sending them; just using their camera phone as a photo album.” As a result, the current image-based services market is not that big, and everyone is trying to find the next killer content after wallpaper and ring tones.
I wrote back that I agreed, sort of.
Yes, I have seen data indicating the contention that carrier revenue from swapping pictures over the network is not great. But KDDI, for one, has said several times that camera-phone users tend to use **all** device features more than non-camera-phone users – and so generate up to 30% more ARPU.
Also, there are as yet few non-picture apps for cameras, but there are lots in the works. You can already use the camera as a bar-code scanner (and so service providers can generate e-commerce revenue from the camera even if carriers don’t earn that much data packet revenue) and you’ll soon be able to use it as a security feature as well (don’t miss our upcoming video feature on Omron’s “Kaopass” face recognition service).
Also, look at how traditional chemical photo service providers (Kodak, Fuji, etc.) have realigned themselves to handle digi prints; this is a new and growing line of business. With DoCoMo’s 505-series i-modes phones (due to hit the market early summer), handsets will have very high-quality, mega-pixel-class cameras, so cam-phone users will want to buy more of the services that digi-cam users have already been buying – like kiosk printing (see link below).Maybe the question is Who will earn camera-phone revenues – not, Are there any camera phone revenues?
Pernille, smart lady that she is, agreed that “the real money to be made from camera phone revenues is when applications and services are developed which go beyond simple photo editing and sending photos to other people.” But she added that: “The trouble with a lot of the current photo-based services and applications is that they are just lumped in with the ‘purikura’ (Print Club) stuff (like I mentioned above) and that is seen as rather ‘old hat’ and not where the growth is for content providers.”
Hmmmm. It remains to be seen which one of us is correct, but she finished by pointing out one fact that is depressingly true: the use of camera phones for “deai” adult match-making services will no doubt continue to be a good cash cow!
Camera-phone printing kiosk story at Wired is here.
Like other professions, journalism has many unwritten rules. One of them is that you make it a point to match the message to the medium – or match the message to the audience – and avoid covering, say, rampant illegal business practices in the beef packing industry in something like Better Homes and Gardens or the Journal of Astrophysics. Accordingly, the WWJ Viewpoint column tends to shy away from topics like politics in favor of other, more specialized, media.
But it seems to me that extraordinary times call for extraordinary thinking from all of us and I would be remiss in not stating for the record what I believe to be true.
There’s a helluva battle unfolding in Iraq right now and while I wholeheartedly support the individual men and women of the US, British, and other forces who are fighting and dying to erase an indisputably evil regime, I can’t similarly support the political and diplomatic processes (or, rather, failures) that brought them to the outskirts of Baghdad in the first place.
I, for one, believe that there is a connection between the business of wireless and, to put it bluntly, freedom. The growing proliferation of mobile networked devices is a force that no government can contain. Sure, the networks themselves are controlled by Big Business with all the lack of freedom this entails, but even that control is slipping.
When portable device-to-device networking becomes a reality (and it will), there will be no stopping the free transmission of thoughts, ideas, dissent, and individual expression. Look how the Kazaa P2P network is destroying the conglomerates of old music media. The same will happen to governments that try to control their populations, and it will be the most disenfranchised – in places like Iraq – where people will best be able to use interconnected cellys to boost emergent democracy movements – an application that makes Hello Kitty downloads seem even more irrelevant and self-indulgent.
So, does what we in the wireless industry do, matter? Yes – more so than ever. And while we may get too wrapped up in the minutia of i-mode, make no doubt about it: packet communications in the hands of citizens is one of the strongest forces for good yet created. And throughout this latest Middle Eastern crisis, it isn’t only in places like Iraq where peoples’ voices have been ignored by leaders.
To those who would cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war I reply: cry freedom – and put a keitai in every back pocket.
— Daniel Scuka