The funny thing about technology that many in the tech world don’t fully understand (or don’t want to understand) is the fact that a product doesn’t need to be perfect to be successful. There are many concepts that show that “good enough” is, at least sometimes, all the users are asking for.
The MP3 format removes much of the original information in a recording for the sake of a smaller size, but users don’t seem to mind, although music luminaries regularly argue against lossy formats. The same thing for JPG vs. RAW. And let’s not start analyzing why users love the Kindle Fire, with all its flaws and inconsistencies.
Which brings us to the problem that point-and-shoot camera makers are facing these days. People don’t seem to care that the average camera is better than the average smartphone in terms of megapixels, sensors, or lens quality. What they do care about is the fact that a smartphone is more convenient to use than any camera.
Even at resolutions of 3MP, the average Samsung or Motorola smartphone is “good enough” for most consumers. According to a report from IC Insights, an Arizona-based market research firm specializing in the semi-conductors industry, the market for PaS cameras and camcorders will grow by a mere 2.1% through 2015. Not exactly a race to the bottom, but consider that the PaS market grew by a yearly 37% until 2005, and it screeched to a 9% rate since 2005. It’s no coincidence that around 2005 we saw the first smartphones to deliver 3MP resolutions, which appears to be the “good enough” threshold for most consumers.
Meanwhile, smartphones are rocketing, with huge growth rates year over year. comScore recently announced that there are more than a 100 million smartphone users in the U.S., and, with no slowing down in sight, it won’t be long until feature phones become a dwindling minority.
Here’s a nifty graph that shows the huge discrepancy between smartphones and cameras.
Point-and-Shoot makers know that their business is heading to the drain, and try to slow the process down by integrating some of the benefits of smartphones into their PaS and camcorders. The most obvious problem of cameras is the lack of connectivity. With your average Point-and-Shoot, you can’t just hit a button to post your exploits to Facebook, or upload your snaps to the cloud. WiFi-enabled PaS cameras are nothing new, but the smartphone’s killer feature is the 3G connectivity, which, currently, few cameras have.
Although some camera-makers have tried to create Android phone/cameras hybrids to address the issue of connectivity, they are fighting a losing battle. Once they go on that path, they’ll compete with the Galaxy S3, the HTC One X, or even the 41MP Nokia PureView 808. Needless to say, they won’t stand a chance.
The truth is smartphones are not only more convenient than Point-and-Shoots, they are also getting better at making pictures, by the day. Camera makers better have a good exit strategy.
How about you? When did you last time use your Point-and-Shoot camera?