As more photographers turn to digital photography, camera phones are emerging as unlikely winners in the battle for control of the device market.
Four times more people bought camera phones than digital still cameras in 2004, a study published by Strategy Analytics has found. In all, 257 million camera phones were shipped worldwide, compared with 68 million digital cameras, the consultancy said.
"The digital still camera market is running out of steam," said Chris Ambrosio, director of Strategy Analytics' global wireless practice.
"Camera phones will eventually capture 15% of the low-end digital still camera market by 2010, while attempts to sell households in developed markets a second or third device will be restricted by the ubiquity of multi-megapixel camera phones."
This is likely to mean that vendors such as Eastman Kodak, Canon and Fuji "will find growth harder to achieve in 2006," Ambrosio said.
However, Daniel Carp, Kodak's chief executive, disagrees.
In his keynote speech at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association trade show last month, Carp said a Mintel market study done for Kodak found that most camera-phone owners find their devices less than satisfying, even though they used the cameras to snap about 70 billion photos last year.
According to the study, nearly two-thirds of camera-phone owners rarely, if ever, upload pictures to a computer. And 70% never or rarely send photos to other phones.
Notoriously short camera-phone battery life; unexceptional photo quality, especially in daylight; and the complexity of printing pictures are causing major headaches for camera-phone owners worldwide, Carp said.
Analysts agree that there are still issues with camera phones, particularly from a technical perspective.
"Camera phones are in no way a replacement for even a modest digital camera from a picture-quality standpoint," said Peter Aknai, a senior technology consultant at Analysys.