Phones Surpass Cameras for Digital Images

A phone is worth 29 billion pictures this year, according to data from InfoTrends Research Group. The firm estimates there will be nearly 300 million digital image capture devices in use worldwide through 2004, of which 60 percent will be camera phones.

Worldwide sales of camera phone units are expected to reach nearly 150 million in 2004, resulting in just over a quarter of all mobile phone sales. Growth will continue at an annual compound of 55 percent, topping 656 million units in 2008.

Japan led the camera phone charge in 2003, taking more than half the market, but China’s heavy mobile phone adoption will boost the share in the rest of the world. Jill Aldort, senior research analyst at InfoTrends Research Group, “…predicts that Europe will lead North America through the forecast period (to 2008) both in terms of the share of worldwide camera phone unit shipments and in the share of worldwide revenue from camera phone sales.”

A 2003 Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) report indicated that only 6 percent of the more than 2,700 U.S. respondents found the ability to take and receive photos to be an important cell phone feature. Avi Greengart, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research, expects that interest has risen since the last survey, but not substantially.

“For most consumers, small size, a color screen, and polyphonic ringtones are still far more important than cameras, music playback, or gaming. Many consumers will happily take a camera phone over a non-camera phone if both are free, but that’s not the same thing as saying that there’s inherent demand for camera phones, just that they’ve become a checkbox feature,” Greengart says.

Comparatively, worldwide camera phone sales will roughly triple that of worldwide digital camera sales — nearly 53 million in 2004 and reaching 82 million units in 2008. The three leading regions for digital camera penetration are North America, Japan, and Europe, but the growing middle class in developing countries, including China, will initiate the transition from film to digital between 2003 and 2008. In fact, InfoTrends Research Group predicts digital cameras to nearly replace firm cameras by 2008.

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