Sony Electronics may be trying to stem off the decline of the digital camera market to more capable smartphones and feature phones featuring capable integrated cameras with a ‘smart camera.’ The smarter CyberShot model is rumored to come with an embedded mobile broadband chip, much like the 3G edition of the Amazon Kindle e-reader, which will come pre-bundled with free mobile broadband service.
Details are still scarce about the camera and the mobile broadband service, but according to GDGT’s sources, the CyberShot model will come with basic free services–for a dozen or two photo uploads to a social networking site while on the go, like Facebook or Flickr–and users can pay to use more data transfers per month. This way, consumers can benefit from the optics and better image quality of having a dedicated camera, but can also enjoy the benefits that smartphone users have enjoyed of being able to upload images and share them right away so there is no delay or having to wait to transfer the pictures to a PC.
The camera is still in development at this time, and it’s unclear if the model will ever be released. However, this model, unlike the WiFi-enabled cameras that are already on the market, will allow users to upload anywhere where there is a mobile broadband connection and users won’t have to rely on a WiFi hotspot connection.
Whether or not the smarter CyberShot model, if and when released, will be able to save the digital camera market from losses against those who prefer an integrated solution of carrying a capable smartphone is unclear. With a smartphone, the device is like a jack of all trades and does everything pretty well, but doesn’t excel at any one thing. With a smarter camera, you’re looking at exceptional photos, but a more limited device when it comes to other features as the CyberShot won’t be able to, for instance, browse the Web, make calls, or check-in with Foursquare.
I think the convenience of a smarter CyberShot model will be valuable to more advanced photographers and members of the press who attend large trade shows like CES. At CES, most of my images were taken using a Nokia N8 smartphone, which boasts a 12-megapixel camera, Carl Zeiss optics, mechanical shutter, 720p HD video recording, and Xenon flash. While I wasn’t patient enough to deal with the Symbian operating system that powered Nokia’s hardware, I have enjoyed the image quality from the N8 and have used it as a “smart camera” as it allowed me to quickly share and upload my videos instantaneously. However, as CES progressed and more attendees flocked Las Vegas, my AT&T connection became crippled as the network got congested. I don’t think the potential of smart cameras will be realized until 4G LTE hits when upload speeds will be fast and where data traffic could be managed better as to avoid network congestion. However, for the average consumers, I think that the growing capabilities of a smartphone and decent image qualities on 5- and 8-megapixel phones will suffice.
Sony’s been leveraging its technologies and divisions better to create compelling products. For example, the company recently brought gaming expertise from its PlayStation division to the smartphone division to create the XPERIA Play. On the XPERIA Arc, the Sony Ericsson team leveraged the power of the TV division with the Bravia Engine and also the CyberShot division with better camera sensors.