The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A picture is worth a thousand words
- Buyers snap up cellphones with cameras, handset price slash to boost sales

§Wireless camera phones will outsell digital still cameras by 2004 and by 2007, one in every five cellular phones sold will have an embedded camera.

§Multimedia messaging service (MMS) subscribers will witness a 178 per cent compound annual growth rate and by 2007, the number will go up to 52 million.

Sound is not enough; sight is a must. Having a cellphone is not enough; having an embedded camera is a must. Sending text messages is passé; a photo-message is a must. Seeing is believing is the new motto of the mobile trade, so don’t just key in the words, capture the picture, compose the message and fire it to the recipient.

The findings from two recent surveys by Strategy Analytics and IDC, conducted across countries, catch the sudden surge in camera phones and MMS, and forecast a bright future. Cellphone manufacturers and service providers confirm that Calcutta is in tune with the bigger picture of the changing rules of communication.

“We introduced the service in February, before the cricket World Cup. Today, there are around 5,000 MMS users and we handle around 8,000 such messages a day,” says Sunil Sood, chief operating officer, Hutch. The service, offered free with general package radio system (GPRS) connections will soon gain popularity beyond the present pack of tech-savvy youth and high-value customers, says Sood.

Deepak Gulati, chief executive officer, Bharti Mobitel, zooms in on reduction in the prices of the handsets as the prime pusher of growth in the MMS subscriber base in town. Over the past six months, the prices have plummeted by around 30 to 35 per cent and one can now buy a camera phone for just Rs 14,000.

Though most service providers are offering the service free now and plan to levy a charge of around Rs 3 per MMS, the charges won’t matter much, feel the cellular players. “The service is getting popular and we expect it to witness a quantum jump in subscriber numbers, once the handset prices drop further,” adds Gulati.

Already, there are indications from the phone manufacturers that besides better-quality handsets flooding the market shortly, prices will slide to make the camera phones more affordable. According to the Strategy Analytics report, 16 million camera phones were sold worldwide in 2002, and their volume will grow up to 147 million by 2007. “We launched our V200 phones recently and they were sold out in a very short period of time. In the next six to 12 months, we will hit the market with a slew of new models,” says Anuj Kapur, country head (telecom) marketing and infrastructure, Samsung India Electronics Ltd.

Gautam Advani, head, marketing and corporate communications, Nokia, also confirms the “positive response” from the market with integrated digital camera phones like 3650, 7250 and 7650, becoming big draws. “Recently, we tied up with Kodak for other value-added facilities and people are queuing up before the photo-shops for printouts of the received messages,” adds Advani.

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