Native smartphone camera apps – those provided by Apple and hardware manufacturers on their respective phones – now do much more than enable basic camera functions. They 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 very different conclusion.
Late last year Google and Apple substantially enhanced their smartphone camera programmatic access methods (APIs), giving camera app developers a whole range of new 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 of Suite 48 Analytics and author of the report. “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 that the camera app market has become a “long tail” market, served by three main categories of apps:
- Camera apps that offer SLR-like control of the smartphone camera, such as A Better Camera, Camera+, Manual, or ProCamera 8 + HDR.
- Camera apps that focus on ease-of-use, such as Z Camera and Camera51.
- Specialized camera apps with specific use cases, such as CamFind, Fast 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, September 29 in San Francisco.
The Reinventing the Camera App Market white paper can be downloaded for free at http://www.suite48a.com/cameraapps
Author: Paul Melcher
Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.