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Talk and shoot: Mobiles take on digital cameras

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are a mere 5 to10 per cent more expensive but they offer pictures that rival the best point-and-shoot cameras.

It’s literally a case of buy one and get one free. Nevertheless, camera phones are threatening to cannibalise the vanilla camera market as handset makers increasingly launch phones that can shoot and talk too. These “converged” handsets boast of “intelligent” camera functionalities bundled with a multitude of other facilities.

Consider this. Currently, mobile phones that come with high-end camera options cost between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000. In comparison, digital cameras with 12 megapixel and high-end features are currently priced a mere 5 to 10 per cent lower than high-end camera phones that offer more functions and come with multimedia features. Moreover, handset manufacturers claim that the prices of camera are either going to fall or more features will be added for the same price as they focus more on “converged” devices.

Research firms confirm the trend. Sales of mobile camera phones during 2009, according to a new Deloitte report on telecommunications predictions for 2009, may exceed that of digital cameras and by the year-end, camera phones are likely to outnumber all the conventional digital and analog cameras ever sold.

Camera phones boasting of high-quality lenses and 12 mega-pixel sensors are expected to offer image quality that rivals the best point-and-shoot cameras, the report notes, adding that a few may include expensive features like smile recognition and 360-degree panoramic capabilities. The report adds that though standalone cameras and music players are likely to remain inexpensive, they may struggle to compete with converged mobile devices offered nominally.

This fact is not lost on handset makers who are gearing up to increase the number of such products in the market. For instance, Anil Arora, business group head-mobile and PCs, LG Electronics India, says his company is planning to launch around 12 new handsets over the next two months, of which four new handsets will come with improved camera functionalities. “These will cost between Rs 15,000 and Rs 24,000. As of now, handsets that come with good camera functionalities are high-end models. But we anticipate prices to come down beginning next year, to as much as Rs 10,000,” he says.

This August, LG Electronics launched an 8 megapixel camera phone, the LG GC900 Viewty Smart, which boasts of smart camera applications that take care of complicated camera adjustments and processing. Priced at Rs 27,500, LG GC900 Viewty Smart comes with a new “Shot Mode” feature that allows the camera to analyse the subject, background, and lighting conditions and adjust the camera settings after comparing the data against seven pre-programmed scenarios.

Sony Ericsson, on the other hand, is in the process of introducing more “improved camera phones” that, among other features, will boast of direct picture upload to web albums or choice of clicking pictures in different resolutions. Anil Sethi, president, Sony Ericsson India, said, “Our soon to be launched Satio phone will be a marvel in the mobile imaging space with a 12.1 megapixel camera, advanced features like touch focus, 12x zoom, among other features. Since we do not want these experiences to be limited to a particular segment, consumers will observe a balanced spread across a varied price range between Rs 15,000 and Rs 36,000.”

Not to be left behind, Samsung Mobiles is adding more features to its existing phones, so as to not drastically reduce the prices but offer more range for the same price, said a spokesperson for the company. Samsung has launched Pixon 12 which comes with one-touch dedicated camera key, to ensure spontaneous clicking.

Motorola, on the other hand, is bringing in camera features in the entry-level segment and is also enhancing camera features in the mid-level segment. Motorola would introduce seven new mobile phones in the fourth quarter of 2009 in India. One of them, the ZN 300 range, would have a 3.1 megapixel camera, while and the six Motoyuva WX Generation mobile phones would combine all the WX features with additional MP3 functionality.

The phones will feature advanced video-editing options. For instance, the Motozine ZN300 would feature Video Mixer, a new application that would provide an option to add customisable or pre-loaded transitions and sound effects to videos. They can be instantly mixed with photos and audio files for a professional-looking clip, complete with transitions and overlays.

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