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June 09, 2009


Jeroen Elstgeest

I find your piece a little unbalanced. Why is 3MPs bad? Every (semi)professional photographer will tell you that MPs are only half (or even less) the story. The Image sensor is at least just as important. I have an iPhone but I don't really miss flash, most sites don't use it that extensively (thank god) and even with other 'smart phones' you don't get the 'full flash experience'. A colleague of mine has a HTC phone but it supports flash 8 at the most, while flash (for the desktop) itself is much further. So if you compile for Flash 9+ it can't be seen on his HTC phone. The fun thing about other new cool sexy smartphones is that they all emulate the iPhone in appearance. Your comment would mean that they are all wrong. The beautiful thing about the iPhone is that Apple made the software more imporant than the hardware. Something the other vendors should've done much earlier. Apple will release a new design some day.

Tomi Ahonen

Hi Jeroen

Thank you for the comment, and its clearly considered view. I am not in any way disagreeing with you.

I am trying to present a balanced view of the newcomers to the industry - and obviously Apple is still a baby in this industry - and as I am an ex Nokia guy, still carrying two Nokia phones 8 years after I left the company, my view is strongly coloured by my Nokia past.

But I'm also a deep fan of Apple and am an ex Apple Macintosh PC trainer by an Apple authorized Mac dealer, and have loved the brand for decades, literally. I have the iPod/iTunes as one of the case studies in the signature book for this blog, Communities Dominate Brands, as a perfect case of creating market space where the industry consensus view was, that the industry was dead (after the Walkman portable music players using cassettes)

Certainly, you are right in that merely looking at megapixels of camera resolution is not the full story of what is a camera. But equally so, ceteris paribus, other things being equal, a camera with the other features the same, when given higher image resolution, will deliver better pictures.

Note that my view is by no means "radical" and many were lamenting the modest megapixel ability of the original iPhone and now have been mildly disappointed it was upgraded only to 3MP and not for example 5MP or 8MP where many of the current rivals are.

The cameraphone sector (the snap-shot segment) of the camera industry is racing up the megapixel ladder. A relatively cheap camera (as in most cameraphones) with 2MP will deliver visibly better images, mostly, than one with a 1MB camera. But to move up from 2MB, we probably need to go to 5MP to notice the difference. And then to go up to 8MP is probably not enough (up from 5MP) and we probably need to go to 12MP - which is where the top end of the cameraphone race currently is, with Samsung, LG etc providing such resolutions on cameraphones.

So on the one level, strictly speaking of megapixels, I am sure even you agree, that on a relatively simple, low-cost camera, that is embedded into a smartphone, if we compare 3MP to 12MP, there is such a big difference that just about anyone with normal eyesight can observe the difference in quality.

Now, lets talk cameras. We can go far more than resolution. Real, branded optics, rather than cheap plastics for the lenses. You'll notice that SonyEricsson uses Cybershot branding on its top cameraphones, that are comparable to (mostly low-end) Sony Cybershot stand-alone digital cameras. Meanwhile Nokia has partnered with Carl Zeiss and offers Zeiss branded optics on their top end N-series cameras. I've seen many tech analysts write in their reviews of cameraphones last year, that the Nokia N82 with "only" a 5MP camera, but with its Carl Zeiss optics, to have the best camera of the year, on a cameraphone.

Thats before flash. I was not talking about flash the software environment. I was talking about a flash as in camera equipment..

So yes, with most cameraphones we only get LED flash (very inefficient and of almost negligable quality) and we have Xenon flash (ie "real" flash). Again, the N82 was the first of Nokia's phones to feature Xenon flash. Obviously some of the Korean makers had included Xenon flash earlier, but on a phone that sits in the smartphone category, roughly on the price range of the 3G iPhone from last year, the camera and flash can be far better than what the current 3MP iPhone 3GS has today.

Now, about the iPhone. Clearly you are a fan of the iPhone, and part of Apple's success is the degree of passion it can create in its users. I admire Apple for that. I also have been often mentioning how much the iPhone has over the past two years, energized and ignited the mobile data industry, in particular in America, which honestly speaking, had been sleeping while the rest of the world had rushed into mobile data for all of this decade.

The iPhone has been an iconic and game-changing device. I predicted that before the iPhone launched. I am the guy wrongly attributed as calling the iPhone the "Jesusphone" (I never called it that) when I blogged that the time of mobile phones will marked by two eras, the time before the iPhone and the time after the iPhone. That very widely circulated blog posting turned out very true and your comment reflects some of those elements.

I specifically said that the effect of the iPhone would reach far beyond just the phone handset hardware design (which would be copied and which if you know phone design history, the iPhone one-button large screen touch screen outwardly "sexy" cool appearance itself is a copy of an award-winning South Korean design from a year before). I said that the IT industry, software, media industries etc will all be changed because of the iPhone - and said so again and again also in my latest book, Mobile as 7th of hte Mass Media. I am not arguing with you.

But the original iPhone, while a great internet device, was a very flawed phone. Apart from America, it was poorly received in the more advanced markets. In Japan it was literally obsolete when launched in the USA. Today's iPhone 3GS is finally the "complete" smartphone, and for example the Japanese carrier/operator Softbank (Yahoo Japan) which is the exclusive iPhone provider of Japan, was just in the news earlier today, saying they are eager to launch this 3GS version of the iPhone within a few weeks.

Thank you for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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