The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

If you want to get into the world of digital photography, you've got lots of choices--and I'm not talking about just cameras. While there are plenty of those, including the disposable digital variety, one product category is coming out on top for picture-taking: Photophones. In the first half of 2003, more photophones--25 million units--were shipped out by manufacturers than were digital cameras (20 million), a trend that makes Poynter's Steve Outing happy.

It occurs to me that part of the reason for these numbers is that the digital camera market is more established, and therefore more saturated. Photophones are the newer kids on the block, so fewer people already have them. The real news will be if this trend continues five years from now.

I have to admit, when I first heard of the phone-camera combos, I thought it was a stupid idea, just another in a line of all-in-one MP3/PDA/phone/can opener gizmos that serve no really useful purpose (the can opener was a joke--just making sure no one's head explodes...). It seemed like one more gimmick, aimed more at distracting mobile phone customers from noticing how lacking most wirless services were than in providing real benefit.

But I've since changed my tune. In fact, I'm anxiously awaiting April 2004, when my current wireless contract expires and I can upgrade my cellphone to a photophone (actually I can do that today, but by waiting I can probably get the new phone for free, or close to it, versus around 200 bucks). I have to say, this is the one instance when combining two seemingly disparate functions--picture-taking and telephony--into one unit has turned out to be a good idea.

For me, and I suspect most people, it makes more sense to include photo-taking ability into the one electronic device that you're almost never without, and for me, that's my cellphone. I'm not going to carry a phone, AND a camera, AND an iPod, and my keys, wallet, etc. It may be easier if you lug around a backpack, briefcase or purse, but even then, you reduce your load as much as possible.