Mobile phones equipped with cameras will pass the 1 billion-unit shipment mark for the first time this year, with the highest resolution models rising the fastest, market research firm Strategy Analytics said.
Phones offering 8 megapixels and higher are expected to increase 240 percent this year compared with 21 percent unit growth for the camera-phone category as a whole, London-based analyst Neil Mawston said in the report.
Worldwide camera-phone shipments are predicted to reach 1.14 billion units, or 74 percent of all handsets sold, the analysts said. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan will cause a “moderate slowdown” in camera-phone supply for the next three to 12 months, Mawston said by e-mail. Globalized supply chains mean the effect is unlikely to last longer, he said.
“Mobile phone manufacturers and component makers want to strengthen their prices with more advanced features,” Mawston said. “Mobile operators hope advanced camera features will eventually drive additional usage of advanced services like augmented reality, while affluent consumers are demanding improved camera quality for capturing richer photos and videos.”
So-called augmented reality software combines pictures taken in through the camera lens with other images to produce a compound image. Applications include games and software to show shoppers how they might look wearing particular clothes.
Nokia Oyj offers a 12-megapixel camera on its N8 smartphone. Vendors of phones based on Google Inc.’s Android software including Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc., HTC Corp. and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB have models with 8-megapixel cameras. Apple Inc. may increase its top resolution from 5 megapixels with its next iPhone.
Higher resolution will increase the load on networks because of the larger file sizes involved in uploading pictures and video to the Internet, Mawston said. That won’t necessarily translate to higher revenue for operators right away, he said.
“Many operators are still struggling to fully monetize high-end camera phones,” he said. “Most photos and video are still stored on the phone rather than shared over networks. Multimedia messaging services have been slow to take off, while cutting-edge services like augmented reality and 3-D photo uploads are still emerging and have much to prove.”
About a quarter of phones still don’t have cameras because of the large volume of low-cost basic phones sold in Africa, Asia and other emerging markets, he said.