Phones Produce More Consumer Photos, Video

SmartphoneThe smartphone is proving to be a more widespread and serial disruptor of markets than many expected. Add digital cameras and camcorders to the list of gadgets this multifunction device is challenging this season. According to retail analysts at NPD Group, more than a quarter (27%) of photos taken by U.S. consumers are with a phone -- up substantially from 17% just a year ago.

The new higher resolution of current phone cams and shifting user habits have turned what was once the camera of last resort into a mainstay of everyday life. The change is being felt by dedicated cameras, which now account for 44% of pictures taken -- down from 52%.

With many smartphones now sporting cameras capable of 5 megapixel images and higher, consumers appear to have decided that the phone cam is “good enough” for most snapshot situations, NPD analysts say.

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One of the great American photographers apparently agrees with this assessment. During an interview on NBC’s "Rock Center" newsmagazine show, photographer Annie Leibovitz gave her new stock answer when she was asked what phone someone should buy. It is a great new era in photography, she said. “The iPhone -- that is the snapshot camera of today. It is a pen, a notebook, a wallet with the family pictures in it.”

Manufacturers are feeling the pain.

NPD is reporting that low-end digital point-and-shoot cameras and digital camcorders are bearing the brunt of consumers embracing the convergence of user-generated functions on the phone. In the 11 months leading into the holiday buying season, sales of point-and-shoot cameras were down 17% in units and 16% in revenue. Pocket camcorders were off 13% in unit volume, but 27% in sales.

This is not to say that phone cams are gutting the digital camera market, but shifting focus to mid-range cameras with interchangeable lenses and higher-end point-and-shoots. NPD speculates that consumers are investing in cameras for special occasions, but reaching for the phone camera for everyday photo opps.

For marketers, the implications of phone camera adoption are subtle but potentially important.

In addition to the improved quality of the cameras on phones this year, a host of other photo-sharing reflexes have developed among users as image posting to Facebook and Twitter and easier on-deck editing tools become commonplace.

Another mobile behavior -- snapping and sending QR and product 2D codes -- also serves as a persistent reminder to consumers that they have a hi-resolution camera in their pockets. Marketers and publishers increasingly can count on consumers’ understanding of their phones as media creation devices. Prompting consumers to interact with a brand via image and video can become a more common expectation and then a reliable element in the engagement toolbox. 

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