Suite 48 Analytics describes what’s driving the photo-app market

hans hartman

Advances in smartphone hardware, APIs and native apps are driving third party photo app vendors to new frontiers

Native smartphone camera apps do much more than enable basic camera functions. These apps include features such as HDR, burst, dual focus/exposure points, exposure compensation and panoramic image capture that were once the exclusive domain, and the main value proposition, of third-party camera apps. While this might appear to doom prospects for these third-party camera apps, Reinventing the Camera App Market, the latest study from mobile-photography research firm Suite 48 Analytics, comes to a different conclusion.

Late last year Google and Apple substantially enhanced their smartphone camera APIs, giving camera app developers a whole range of opportunities to access the improved capabilities of the newer phones’ hardware, and in doing so differentiate their products from native camera apps. According to the study, which analyzes 21 top-selling or otherwise notable camera apps and includes the perspectives of key executives at developers leading the market, numerous apps have already taken advantage of these advanced APIs with many more soon to come.

“As smartphone cameras get better and better, mobile photographers’ expectations for photo quality have likewise increased – they’re demanding better smartphone photo capture tools,” says Hans Hartman, president, Suite 48 Analytics and report author. “That sounds like an obvious statement, but it hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, smartphone photographers were willing to live with lower resolution, grainy, or otherwise low-quality photos, as long as they could still make these photos look enticing through filters from apps like Hipstagram and later Instagram. Going forward, filters are an option for creative expression – not a requirement to make the photos worth keeping or sharing.”

The study concludes the camera app market has become a “long tail” market, served by three main categories of apps:

  • Camera apps offering SLR-like control of the smartphone camera, such as A Better Camera, Camera+, Manual, or ProCamera 8 + HDR.
  • Camera apps focusing on ease-of-use, such as Z Cameraand Camera51.
  • Specialized camera apps with specific use cases, such as CamFindFast Burst Camera, Slow Shutter Cam, or Mobile Hidden Camera.

“The implications of advanced cameras embedded in current and new categories of mobile devices, coupled with enhanced camera apps that leverage the programmatic access to these devices, will be examined in depth in the Disrupting Through Hardware panel discussion at the upcoming Mobile Photo Connect conference, an executive conference focused on promoting innovation and partnerships in the mobile photography ecosystem.

The free Reinventing the Camera App Market white paper can be downloaded at

Apple updating iOS photo storage and sharing

apple iOs photo

apple iOs photo

The maker of arguably the most popular camera (the iPhone, that is) debuted upcoming additions to its mobile and desktop operating systems that will make seeing and sharing photos easier.

In a presentation demonstrating OS X Yosemite and iOS8, Apple showed off new cross-platform compatibility, as well as extended cloud-based image storage. Both operating systems will be free this Fall.

“With iPhone, people are taking more photos and videos than ever,” the company says. “As photo collections grow, so does the desire to store them all safely and still access them whenever and wherever. That’s where the new Photos app and the new iCloud Photo Library come in. You’re never without your camera. Now you’ll never be without your photos. Every photo and video you take now lives in iCloud — giving you the freedom to access your library from any device, anytime you want. So you can view a photo from last week or last year no matter where you are.”

While only 5GB of online storage will be free, Apple will be encouraging its customers to have every photo (“your precious memories”) stored in its iCloud, at a rate of $1 per month for 20GB, or $4 per month for 200GB. iCloud Photo Library will “automatically keep all your photos and videos in iCloud, at full resolution in their original formats, including RAW files. You can access and download them anytime from your iPhone…” The service can also reduce the file size of the display images left on the phone, freeing more space to hold a viewable version of all photos.

apple ios enhance

Organization, Edit, and Sync
The iCloud Photo Library keeps photos and videos organized into Moments, Collections, and Years across all devices.
When edits and enhancements are made on a photo on one device, they will be replicated and viewable across the library, on any device. Edits are nondestructive, “so you can always revert back to your original if you change your mind.”
New composition tools can automatically straighten horizons and provide “ideal” crops. Smart adjustments can modify overall light in a photo, adjusting exposure, brightness, contrast, and more.
Also new will be a time-lapse capture capability, “snapping photos at dynamically selected intervals.”

Apple also briefly demonstrated a unified photo application for its desktop OS X Yosemite, but said it will not debut until next year.

There’s more information here.


Apple, Google to co-purchase Kodak imaging patents?

apple iPhone 5

Apple and Google teamed to offer more than $500 million to buy Kodak’s  imaging patents, Bloomberg reported late last week.

With their  leading smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android, the two companies have dominant positions in mobile imaging, and doubtless would rather not face patent infringement claims from any potential rival buying Kodak’s intellectual property.

It’s not an uncommon move: Apple worked with Microsoft and Research in Motion to acquire 6,000 patents for $4.5 billion from bankrupt Nortel Networks last year.

Kodak, in the midst of bankruptcy and reorganization, seeks to sell 1,100 imaging patents.

Kodak has claimed the patents may be worth more than $2 billion, but others counter the patents are already too widely licensed to be of much further value.

More on the story is here.


HTC and Apple settle patent dispute

htc phone

While Apple’s battle against Samsung and Google over the Android OS continues, the company settled its years-old lawsuits against #2 Android phone maker HTC.

The companies jointly announced that all patent litigation between the companies were dismissed as HTC and Apple “reached a global settlement that includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits and a ten-year license agreement. The license extends to current and future patents held by both parties.”

The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Both companies conclude that the resolution will let them “focus on innovation.”

Apple minimizes iPad, improves iMac and MacBook displays

iPad mini cam

Perhaps now not all iPad users will look quite akward as they take photos using their tablet computers: the new iPad mini small and light enough to be held and used with one hand — “as thin as a pencil and as light as a pad of paper,” Apple says.

The iPad mini features a front-facing HD camera and a 5-megapixel camera on the back “with advanced optics for taking sharp still pictures and recording full 1080p HD video,” the company says. The iSight camera includes video image stabilization, and both cameras feature backside illumination “to let users capture great pictures in low light.”

The mini’s 7.9-inch display has the same number of pixels as the original iPad and iPad 2. The device is housed in aluminum and glass that is 7.2mm thin and weighs only 0.68 pounds — 23 percent thinner and 53 percent lighter than the third generation iPad. iPad mini pricing starts at $330. More information is here.

Also newly announced: the fourth generation iPad has a faster processor that delivers up to twice the CPU performance and up to twice the graphics performance of the previous model [which this reporter bought just a few short months ago…]. The iPad starts at $500.


“With vivid colors, razor sharp text and more pixels than anyone else’s 15 or 17-inch notebooks, the Retina display completely changes what you expect from a notebook.”

That what Apple has to say about its new 13-inch MacBook Pro, which adds a Retina display. The new MacBook Pro packs more than 4 million pixels into its display, Apple says, nearly twice the number of pixels in an HD television. At 227 pixels per inch, the Retina display’s pixel density is “so high the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels at a normal viewing distance, so images look sharp and text looks like it does on the printed page,” Aple adds. “With four times the pixels of the current 13-inch MacBook Pro, you can view and edit video in pixel-accurate HD and see a new level of detail in high resolution images.” Also, the display has IPS technology for a 178-degree wide viewing angle, and has 75 percent less reflection and 29 percent higher contrast than the current generation.

The laptop has all-flash storage in a new compact design that is 0.75 inches thick and 3.57 pounds — 20 percent thinner and almost a pound lighter than the current model. It has an HD camera and dual microphones. Pricing starts at $1,700. More information is here.

And finally: the new iMac also features a brilliant display, Apple says, as well as stunning new design that is “unbelievably thin” — the aluminum and glass enclosure has 40 percent less volume than its predecessor, and an edge that measures 5mm thin… all while housing a full-powered computer in the display case.

The new iMac features a completely reengineered display that reduces reflection by 75 percent while maintaining brilliant color and contrast, Apple says. In the new design, the cover glass is fully laminated to the LCD and an anti-reflective coating is applied using a high-precision plasma deposition process. Every iMac display is individually calibrated using an advanced spectroradiometer, the company adds.

Another new feature is Fusion Drive, a storage option that gives the performance of flash storage and the capacity of a hard drive, Apple says. It combines 128GB of flash with a standard 1TB or 3TB hard drive to create a single storage volume that “intelligently manages files to optimize read and write performance. Fusion Drive adapts to the way you use your iMac and automatically moves the files and apps you use most often to flash storage to enable faster performance and quicker access.”

Pricing starts at $1,300 for the 21.5-inch iMac, and $1,800 for the the 27-model.

Apple addresses iPhone 5 image effects

apple iPhone 5

Much has been made of late of the purple haze affecting photos shot on the iPhone 5 when it’s aimed towards a strong light source — and Apple has at last addressed the issue, albeit in an underwhelming manner.

As we’ve noted before, the iPhone line is likely the most popular camera of all time, and the latest model has sold millions already — making it the best-selling camera model today — and so any significant flaw in its imaging is noteworthy.

However, this is, on the one hand, a minor flaw that is common on many cameras; on the other, it reportedly does not occur on the preceding iPhone 4, or the competing Galaxy S III — and the likely culprit is Apple’s much-hyped new Safire lens cover that was designed to provide more rugged protection for the phone’s camera optics.

Apple’s published response reads, in part: “Most small cameras, including those in every generation of iPhone, may exhibit some form of flare at the edge of the frame when capturing an image with out-of-scene light sources. This can happen when a light source is positioned at an angle (usually just outside the field of view) so that it causes a reflection off the surfaces inside the camera module and onto the camera sensor. Moving the camera slightly to change the position at which the bright light is entering the lens, or shielding the lens with your hand, should minimize or eliminate the effect.”

Of the many articles online making hay of the matter, we find PC Magazine offers a good overview, with links to image comparisons.

Apple improves display and camera on iPhone 5, iPod touch

apple iPhone 5

Apple’s newly unveiled iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter than previous models, despite a larger 4-inch display, faster processor, and improved camera.

The smartphone is 7.6 mm, 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than previous iPhone 4S.

The 8-megapixel iSight camera “is the most popular camera in the world,” Apple says, and the version on the new phone “is even better.” The camera is “completely redesigned with incredible optical performance,” yet it’s 25 percent smaller than the camera in the 4S. It features a ‘sapphire crystal” lens cover that is thinner and more durable than standard glass with the ability to provide crystal clear images, Apple claims.

The new panorama feature captures images of up to 28 megapixels by moving the camera across a scene in one smooth motion, Apple adds. Also, new video features include improved stabilization, video face detection for up to 10 faces, and the ability to take still photos as you record.

iPhone 5 starts at $200 for the 16GB model (with a carrier contract).
More information is here.


And while previous iPod Touch devices were all-but last year’s iPhone without the phone, the latest model matches many of the imaging abilities on the new iPhone: it has the same faster processor, larger display, clear lens cover, and panorama feature; however, it’s sensor is 5 megapixels, not 8 — although that is still seven times more resolution than the previous generation Touch’s camera, Apple says. “It takes such great shots, you can ditch your point-and-shoot camera for good.”

It also shoots 1080p HD video, and has tap to focus, an LED flash, and face detection.

Pricing starts at $300 for the 32GB model (which shows how much carriers subsidize the iPhone pricing!).

More information is here.


Samsung Android camera: Now we’re talking

samsung galaxy voice control


At the 6Sight conference in June in New York, we proposed a voice-controlled camera using a smart interface such as the SIRI virtual assistant now in beta mode on Apple’s iPhone 4s.

The goal would not be to merely let you snap the shutter with a shout instead of a button-push; instead it would open the real power of photography to everyone who hasn’t learned the intricacies of shutter speed, aperture, focus, and other fine controls, or mastered all the various modes and options on a complicated digital camera.

Just as SIRI all-but understands natural language requests such as “where nearby can I get some Thai food tonight?,” a truly smart camera would let new users say “give me that slow waterfall effect in this low light,” and capture the photo they desire without cracking open the user’s manual.

And while SIRI is currently ridiculed for not understanding many user requests and comments, a voice-controlled camera would have a much better chance of higher recognition accuracy, as the commands and feature requests would all be of a very specific nature: photography.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Camera is the first model to combine an expandable operating system with voice commands. And it *almost* gets us to the scenario proposed above: The ‘Smart Pro’ technology “makes it easy to recreate advanced photographic setups in just a few simple steps for stunning artistic results,” Samsung says. However, while the camera has voice controls, they are limited to the most basic functions such as capture and zoom… Not exactly the tools users have a hard time with. To access the more artistic attributes, users must navigate a menu system — not just speak aloud what they want.

While the exact feature set announced here is a bit disappointing, given the capabilities in hand, we are optimistic that future apps will provide exactly this functionality. And after all, the whole point of an open OS such as Android is the ability for the user to add new programs and functions, rather than await firmware upgrades or worse, next year’s model.

Sony also announced a new camera with such easy upgradeability, and their own line of “PlayMemories” camera apps; we’ll see how quickly Samsung follows suit, and who is first — perhaps Apple with the iPhone 5 of iOS camera? — to deliver a truly smart camera that delivers complete access to photography’s artistic side with utmost ease and simplicity.



Apple wins Samsung patent trial; $1B damages

The new iPhone has a better camera.

The iPhone is arguably the best selling digital camera of all time — and Apple has now won its most prominent battle to protect that device’s technologies and design.

After three days of deliberations, the jury reached a unanimous verdict on most counts in Apple’s suit against Samsung, and that Samsung had willfully infringed on Apple’s patents and trade dress for the iPhone.

Samsung must pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages, the jury ruled, for willfully infringing on Apple’s intellectual property.

The three-week trial in federal court in San Jose, California, concluded last week. Apple filed suit in April 2011.

“Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer,” Samsung said in a statement. “It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies. Consumers have the right to choices, and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products. This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple’s claims. Samsung will continue to innovate and offer choices for the consumer.”

“A jury on Friday found in favor of Apple in its patent infringement case against Samsung,” Apple states. “After finding that Samsung willfully infringed a number of patents, the jury awarded Apple $1 billion in damages. We are grateful to the jury for their service and for investing the time to listen to our story and we were thrilled to be able to finally tell it,” Apple said in a statement provided to The Loop. “The mountain of evidence presented during the trial showed that Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew. The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money. They were about values. At Apple, we value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.”

Apple stock rose $11.73 to $674.95.

Apple patents mobile imaging auto-focus, exposure metering

apple patent amera-1

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded two imaging patents to Apple, dealing with auto-focus and dynamic exposure metering.

Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,233,789 for “Dynamic exposure metering based on face detection” describes a system and method of automatically changing a digital camera’s exposure settings based on a subject’s face, reports AppleInsider. U.S. Patent No. 8,233,078 for “Auto focus speed enhancement using object recognition and resolution” uses similar object-detection software to hasten focus speed. Both patents rely on face or object-recognition.

The ‘789 patent was applied for in April 2010.

More information is here.