Macro Systems Blog
The History of Phone-Based Cameras and How They Influenced Mobile Computing
In this era the smartphone camera has transformed into one of the biggest selling points when consumers want to buy a new phone. This is mostly because it is vital to the use of many of the applications that your average user utilizes the smartphone for. It just goes to show that, in less than two decades, how much more utility the phone has than it did when the Samsung SCH-V200 first provided users the option of taking pictures with their phone.
The first cameras offered for mobile phones were handheld cameras that required a wire to connect the phone and the camera. When the SCH-V200 first came out, it changed the way people thought about their phones. Even though the photo quality wasn't great, and you needed to hook the phone up to a computer to get the photos off your phone, it initiated a trend that has changed the way people express themselves. It was also one of the first signs that the information age was in full swing. Let's take a look at the history of the phone-based camera and how it has facilitated many of the major shifts in mobile computing.
As noted above, the first phone that provided an onboard camera was the Samsung SCH-V200, but it didn’t take long before the innovation of the phone that permitted users to access and send pictures from their phone. That technology was improving for a couple of years when in the mid-2000s the first smartphones were released. The original iPhone, and HTC’s first smartphone, the T-Mobile G1 both featured rear-facing cameras; and, even though none of the reviews made reference to this particular feature, it became quickly evident that the applications that could be presented on a computer (with a camera) that fit in someone’s pocket would be one to move the needle.
A few years later, the first front-facing camera was created, making it easier to take your own picture. These pictures were called “selfies” and introduced a capability to share experiences like never before. With the expansion of Internet connectivity, as well as the introduction of social media websites, the smartphone camera became a major feature.
As the smartphone continued its development the options that helped the camera to be more a feature than just an option started becoming evident. The LED flash, now typical on most mobile devices, became a success as snapping photos in low light was often difficult without proper lighting. The software that ran the camera hardware got much better with autofocus, video capture, and optical image stabilization. Options like these were a result of the uptick in processing power of the chipsets on these devices.
Social Media and Application Development
The significance of the smartphone camera was limited for much of the first few generations of smartphones. Even the addition of the front-facing camera wasn’t enough to make a device’s camera a major selling point. This all changed suddenly with the ability to capture high definition video. This feature, combined with the development and innovation of the social network (specifically YouTube), made having a camera on you at all times a selling point for the phone consumer.
Now there are dozens of social networks and social media apps that require the use of powerful front and rear-facing cameras. There are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. As a result, some pretty awesome (and weird) things have been captured using smartphones over the past 10 or so years. In fact, an award-winning, feature-length film called Tangerine was shot using only an iPhone.
Camera Saving Stagnating Mobile Market
For the past several years, the processing power and application development that once drove the smartphone market has stagnated a bit. In fact, it seems as if manufacturing smartphones is only profitable for Samsung and Apple. The cameras on new devices, however, are better than ever. Today, some high-end phones are being built with dual-lens cameras. This offers the user more options in which to capture the world around them. Additional new features include:
- Wide aperture - By allowing in more light, photos are more accurate.
- High dynamic range - Providing all types of capture quality settings, HDR essentially composites several shots into one for the best image quality.
- Burst mode - Allows the user to set the number of photos they want to take so they can choose the best one. Works great for objects in motion.
- Portrait mode - Provides a sharp foreground photo with a blurred background, providing enhanced depth of field.
With cameras improving constantly, the smartphone has become a virtual mobile studio. Are you proficient with your smartphone’s camera? Leave your personal tips and tricks in the comments below and check back here for more great technology information.