With holiday parties in full swing and greeting cards arriving daily, it’s difficult not to see how they have both been impacted by the instant simplicity of taking a snap and sharing it with the world via social media, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Flickr or one of the many other digital photo printing and sharing services.
Pulling out our phones, snapping a photo and posting it for all our friends to see has become such a normal part of our daily lives that it’s tough to believe that it was only 10 years ago that the first commercial mobile camera phone came into existence. The first picture, however, was sent as early as 1997 when Philippe Kahn utilized the Motorola StarTAC with an add-on Casio camera and shared a picture of his daughter’s birth with 2,000 people.
The first integrated system with a mechanism for uploading photographs and delivering them to the internet was deployed in Japan by J-Phone, now owned by SoftBank. In 2002 the European operators of GSM systems also deployed mobile cameras along with the multimedia system, MMS, for uploading and downloading pictures. The MMS system was a development beyond what was already in place – SMS – for texts which had been around since 1992.
The progress of development was unbelievably fast. Already in 2003 more cell phones with cameras were sold than stand-alone digital cameras and by 2006 half of the world’s mobile phones incorporated a camera. Nokia was one of the first companies to introduce a mobile phone with integrated camera, and at Mobile World Congress this year Nokia introduced their N808 phone which has an amazing 40 megapixel camera capability.
The photography industry has been severely disrupted by our everyday use of mobile camera phones as they have radically changed the way that we utilize digital photography. Kodak, a name synonymous with pictures, has exited the industry and this week sold its portfolio of digital photography patents to a consortium of buyers that include both Google and Apple. Smartphones and iPhones contributed to the nearly 228 billion MMS messages sent in 2012, with another 5.8 billion over-the-top messages sent via WhatsApp and other such services. How boring would Facebook be without the 219 billion photos that are live on the system today? Back in 2010 it was estimated that 2.5 billion photos were being uploaded per month to Facebook. Currently Facebook has 600 million mobile users, many of them uploading photos daily to this site, not to mention the plethora of Twitter and Google Plus users who are also adding scores of daily photo updates for the world to see.
This week has also seen the other side of this issue emerge as Instagram (owned by Facebook) had to bow to public outrage and revoke its decision to change its terms and conditions that would have allowed advertisers free access to members’ pictures with no compensation. The issues of privacy, ownership, copyright and commercial interest are not yet clear in this digital world.
The mobile phone incorporated camera has sparked not only a picture revolution but also other significant developments, including the utilization of bar codes and QR codes for product identification, comparison shopping and bargain hunting during the busiest retail times of the year. It is no wonder that in today’s connected digital world the camera phone has become such an essential part of our lives, enabling us to capture those special everyday moments and sharing them instantaneously with the global community. Say “cheese”!
Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global