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Reality check: taking, keeping, storing smartphone photos

Only three months to go until our fifth edition of Mobile Photo Connect, so it’s the perfect time for a reality check! Not a week goes by without some industry observer, tech writer or photo vendor uttering the phrase “more than ever before” in relation to how/when/why/where consumers take, store or share photos with their smartphones. But are smartphone photos really still as “hot” as we keep hearing? Or is this an instance of groupthink?

In November 2015, we conducted our The photos at your fingertips study, which included an extensive survey about how consumers were taking, storing and managing their photos, as well as what types of solutions they wanted to see in the future. But that was 1.5 years ago – and a lot has changed in the meantime.

As monetizing photos (including through photo/video storage products and services) is going to be an important topic this year at Mobile Photo Connect, I wanted to do a reality check on today’s consumers’ mobile photo taking, storing, and organizing attitudes by conducting a mini-survey around these topics. In this issue I report on the photo taking, keeping and storing findings; in the next issue, I’ll cover the use of photo storage solutions, including such questions as in-home device vs. cloud storage, and backup vs. archiving solution needs.

We conducted the survey among 458 North American smartphone photographers (anyone over 18 who at least takes 1 photo a month) and normalized the findings for age, gender and smartphone ownership. The maximum margin of error is + or – 4.6%, based on a 95% confidence level.

So let’s dive right in. Are there any signs that consumers are getting tired of taking photos with their smartphones; or has photo capture increased even more in the last 1.5 years? The answer to both is no – the median number of smartphone photos that consumers believe they take per month has barely changed: 30 compared to 35 in November 2015. I.e. 50% of the respondents believe they take fewer and the other 50% think they take more than 30 photos each month. 14% are super users who take more than 100 photos each month.

 

But what percentage of these photos are simply one-time-viewing photos? What if – based on the popularity of Snapchat, the new ephemeral “Stories” photo sharing modules in Instagram and Snapchat, and the proliferation of camera features inside transient communication tools like chat services – ephemeral photos are a rapidly growing contingent within the photos that consumers take these days? How would that impact your business, if your focus is on “keeper” photos rather than those ephemeral ones?

Here also, the survey findings are remarkably similar to what we found 1.5 years ago. On average, 58% of our respondents’ photos are believed to be long life photos (“Photos you want to keep for use in the future, not just for use in the first few days”). This was 57% in November 2015. The rest (42%) today are short life photos (“Photos that, after initially viewing or sharing in the first view days, you don’t want to keep for the future”).

 

In other words: consumers believe that yes, a lot of their photos are viewed and shared in the moment and subsequently forgotten – but even more of these images have a long-lasting value and their share is not on the decline!

Finally, where do the smartphone photos reside? Next week, we’ll dive into the usage of cloud and in-home device backup or archiving solutions, but for now, we’ll report on how long our respondents believe their photos stay on their phone. As so many photos are transient, and auto-backup services from cloud photo service providers such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Dropbox, Upthere or MiMedia have proliferated, do consumers regularly clean their phones to make space for more photos and videos? The answer is: not much; we hoard our photos on our phone – we don’t have the time to manually remove them, nor have we learned to put our entire trust into automatic archiving solutions (more about that in our next newsletter).

 

73% of our respondents believe that half or most of their photos taken 12 months ago still reside on their phone. 49% believe this is even the case after 3 years.

To summarize our findings so far:

  • US consumers take roughly the same number of photos with their smartphones as was the case 1.5 years ago. There are no indications that taking smartphone photos is on the decline.
  • They continue to see the majority of their smartphone photos as keepers – and the percentage of these keepers is also stable.
  • There is an ever-growing need for smartphone storage space: most consumers leave most of their photos on their phone.

 

A few more things…

Light. It took a while, but the Android-based L16 smartphone, featuring 16 cameras and presumably DLSR-like quality, is now shipping its first production units to pre-order customers.

X-Rite/Pantone. Shopping for products that look exactly like the ones you’ve just photographed? Meet Color-Eye, Pantone’s solution for cosmetics, home, fashion and retail paint, which enables companies in this space to improve their mobile shopping applications.

Mailpix. After acquiring MyPix2, Just4MyPet and Winkflash, Mailpix now also acquired 1 Hour Photo. The three apps in the MailPix family include 1 Hour Photo, Same Day Prints, and Same Day Photos.

Facebook. Back to the dark ages – Facebook is testing a new “Explore Feed.” Get ready for more advertising-loaded canned content from sources with whom you are not connected. Or just watch TV if that’s what you prefer.

Burton Rast. Forward to black & white – photographer Burton Rast creates stunning B&W photos of San Francisco landmarks, after editing the RAW photos in Lightroom for iOS.

PIVPIV, our German industry association partner, announces the PIV Startup Day. Imaging startups can apply until August 25 to get a demo slot on this day, where they can compete for a free Photokina exhibiting stand next year. (info is in German, but demo can be in English).

Mobile Photo Connect attendee quote of the weekLaurent Martin, CTO & President ScanCafe, “It is very exciting to see that Mobile Photo Connect is becoming the de-facto mobile photo industry gathering.”

Author: Hans Hartman

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Photo Connect, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.

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