Putting the phone in the camera

27 Jun 2007

Just what were they thinking‾ Adding a camera to the phone seems pretty natural, but why put a phone module into a camera‾

That's exactly what Samsung did with its new VLUU i70 digital camera, which unfortunately is only available in Korea at this moment. The 7-mega-pixel digital camera comes with built in HSDPA. According to the online literature, the reason the company put in the 3.5G mobile connectivity option is to allow users to instantly upload photos to online galleries or their blogs without the need for a computer.

The VLUU i70 also comes with a WAP browser and an MMS client although there is no indication that you'll be able to make a voice call with it.

It all seems a bit pointless really. Why give a digital camera the ability to access the Internet‾ A 7-mega-pixel digital camera will record photos that are at least several hundred kilobytes each, which are too big for most websites to host, not to mention the fact that they would be prohibitory expensive to send over any mobile connection.

One application that might fit the bill is the ability to access the web on holiday in case you get lost or are looking for specific information on where you happen to be. But then, there's your phone, and besides, anyone who has tried HSDPA (or any form of) roaming would surely know the technical difficulties as well as high costs associated with it.

On the other hand, the VLUU i70 does remind us of the real potential of 3G. While people have always viewed 3G as an enhancement of the mobile phone, the reality is that it can be far more.

Mobility 2.0

Fundamentally, the migration of mobile devices to 3G is the same transition that was made when analog modems were replaced with the first-generation of broadband on DSL.

At the time, people thought of broadband as simply a faster version of the analog Internet. Then came YouTube, Flickr, Skype, Wikipedia, MySpace and many others, and the whole nature of the Internet changed. Users started to create, upload and share content while video, music and games became increasingly popular applications.

3G, especially evolved 3G like HSDPA, really paves the way for mobile devices to participate in this new Internet, or what some might call Web 2.0 platform. And yes, all those popular services have already announced strategies to support mobile users.

So far, 3G hasn't really lived up to its potential. Most 3G users I know rarely used video calling, or even access the Internet. The high, volume-based, convoluted pricing structure is a big, big factor in their reluctance to get online with their phone.

The success or failure of the VLUU i70's integrated HSDPA feature will determine whether or not the industry is ready to embrace the true potential of 3G. Will operators customized their subscription plans to cater to this type of data-centric, multimedia devices‾ Charge less‾ Abandoned the current per-kilobyte pricing plans‾ Offer open Internet access instead of restricting their users within their walled garden 3G sites‾

Today, it is pretty safe to say that 3G adoption is basically driven by 3G handsets.

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