Cameras: Mobility vs. Disposability

Techdirt has a great piece this week on the continued market strength of disposable cameras. They identify the logic behind this as “the best camera at any given point is the one you have with you.”

This, of course, is very close to the logic behind the Law of Mobility – that the value of any product (with cameraphones being one of my favorite examples) increases with its mobility – where mobility is the % of time the product is fully available for use.

Therefore, it’s a pretty logical conclusion that the same thing that makes a cameraphone valuable – the fact that you have it when you realize that you want to take a picture but didn’t remember/think to bring your “real” camera, is the same thing that drives sales of disposable cameras. I’m sure the makers of disposable cameras are all over this and realize that if sales of cameraphones continues to take off, then that’s bad news for them. I would guess that very few disposable cameras are purchased by cameraphone owners.

However, this is probably a good time to (once again) acknowledge that cameraphones generally don’t take very good pictures. The $5 disposable camera will almost always yield better results than the $200 cameraphone! A recent In-Stat study reported that phone buyers are fed up with the poor resolution and lack of storage options on cameraphones. Perhaps just in time, handset manufacturers are introducing cameraphones that may start to deliver. Of course, one of the hold-ups has been the time it would take to upload multi-megapixel photos over a pre-3G network. Especially as carriers roll-out even faster upload capabilities, the overall customer experience with these new devices may drive yet more change in photography market trends.

This past Saturday, at the Greenhouse event, Techdirt’s Mike Masnick commented that the value of a camerphone is not only that it is with you, but also that it’s connected. I certainly agree with that, and as those connections get faster in more places, the value of cameraphones will undoubtedly increase. Sitting amongst that collection of, admittedly technology early adopters, it was enlightening to see the broad use of cameraphones, accompanied immediately by sending e-mails (e.g. sending a photo of the CEO presenting out to the troops) and uploading to Flickr, as if to prove Mike’s point.

In trying to bring a thoughtful close to what has been perhaps my most rambling post ever… Perhaps we in the mobile industry should feel good, as stewards of creation, that the products we are bringing to market may some day make disposable products unnecessary (we can only hope and pray).

Leave a Reply