Mobile users snap happy as camera phones soar

9 Dec 2003

More than 10 million camera phones have now been shipped this year in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the final total for 2003 is expected to top 16 million units, the latest research from Canalys has indicated. The market is also forecast to double in 2004.

Shipments of the imaging phones – which Canalys defines as devices with integrated, non-removable digital cameras -increased by 27pc in the third quarter of the year compared to the previous quarter, according to the latest market estimates.

Nokia holds the top spot with a 39.4pc share of the market, followed by Sony Ericsson (25.7pc), Samsung (11.1pc) and Sharp (8.5pc). The remaining 15.3pc of the market is divided between several other manufacturers.

Canalys analyst Rachel Lashford commented: “Imaging phones are being promoted very heavily by operators and vendors and will be a popular gift item this Christmas: it is quite possible that supply will outstrip demand for some of the leading models. This will open the door for the less well established vendors, provided they are able to ship product in sufficient quantities.”

Canalys’ survey showed a change in the competitive landscape compared with the early part of the year. Then, Nokia and Sony Ericsson faced few competitors in this segment, with just Sharp and Panasonic also shipping imaging phones in significant volumes. Both of the latter phone makers were helped by their association with Vodafone Live, Canalys noted. As the year has progressed, other vendors have entered the fray; Samsung has shipped close to one million units so far in 2003 and Sagem almost 250,000.

Two well known mobile handset players, Motorola and Siemens were very late entrants into the camera phone sector and Canalys expects both to have a significant impact in the fourth quarter of the year. However the analyst firm noted that the early market entrants have the advantage of experience and some are already shipping next-generation products.

By 2006, Canalys has forecast that imaging phones will account for almost 50pc of all mobile phone shipments in EMEA. Chris Jones, Canalys director and senior analyst added: “While we believe they will continue to be popular with consumers, some companies are bound to be nervous of the presence of so many cameras in the workplace and will resist adoption. Highly cost-constrained and technology-averse individuals on pre-pay schemes too will seek out cheaper alternatives for as long as they remain available.”

By Gordon Smith