Magazine Article


Printing the Mobile Image at Retail

The Market is Ready
Mobile imaging is growing, and growing fast.

Nokia projects that fully three out of four digital capture devices sold in 2005 will in fact be camera phones. Some 215 million camera phones were sold in 2004, and by 2008, analysts expect 600 million camera phones to be sold worldwide. The majority of handsets that Nokia introduces in 2005 incorporate at least a 1 Megapixel camera. Globally, we project that more than 100 million Megapixel-plus imaging phones will be sold this year.

That extraordinary growth in mobile imaging devices can be expected to fuel the continued and very healthy growth in retail image processing. When both retail and professional service providers are counted, imaging output services constitutes a $12.5 billion market. InfoTrends has predicted that 80 billion images will be captured in 2005, and that fully 10 billion of those images will be printed at kiosks, retail labs and other facilities, generating an estimated $6.5 billion in imaging and processing sales.

As previously noted in Imaging Business, in 2004 some 37% of digital camera owners who printed photos reported they had ordered prints from retail minilabs, kiosks or online services, an increase of 14% from the previous year. PMA has estimated that almost half of the 7.7 billion digital prints made in the U.S. in 2005 will be printed by retail or online service providers, with the away-from-home digital printing market growing by a healthy 39% from 2004 to 2005.

The digital photography revolution is now being driven primarily by the surging market penetration of the mobile imaging devices, and by the fact that consumers now think of those devices to be take-everywhere, use-anytime lifestyle accessories. In the coming years consumers will take billions upon billions of digital images with this new generation of high quality mobile imaging phones.

For anyone who owns a retail minilab, kiosk or online printing service, the mobile camera phone can be a lucrative source of sales and profits.

The Phones are Evolving
In fact, maybe we shouldn't call them camera phones at all. Thanks to advances in optics and digital technologies, an impressive new array of on-board tools and features, and powerful new connectivity options, these next-generation devices should perhaps be called mobile imaging devices.

Whatever the name, this new generation of mobile imaging devices is packed with features that capture the moment for consumers and deliver profits for processing retailers.

The Nokia 6682 imaging smartphone, for example, incorporates a 1.3 megapixel camera with 6x digital zoom for both photo and video capture, a display screen of 262,144 colors, integrated flash and the ability to take both color and black-and-white photographs. It features a hot swap MMC card, slide for camera protection and control, and on-board memory capable of storing up to one hour of video or hundreds of photos. Owners can now also use powerful on-device editing applications to enhance, crop or insert frame in their images before taking them to a retailer for hard-copy printing.

While the quality and capabilities of mobile imaging devices continues to improve, so do the technologies that are used to communicate and print digital images at retail.

Mobile phone manufacturers now view the mobile imaging devices as an integral part of their portfolios, and are incorporating into their products a growing list of features and capabilities designed to support the retail photofinisher.

The Nokia XpressPrint printing solution allows consumers to print digital photographs directly from their phone to a retail photo kiosk using Bluetooth wireless technology, the camera phone's hot-swappable reduced-size memory card, or using infrared connectivity. Photos can also be turned into prints using PictBridge enabled devices just by plugging a USB cable into the phone. With XpressPrint embedded in their imaging phone, users can print their images at a retail kiosk in just minutes and with just a few simple clicks. Images can also be forwarded to the retailer via wireless email, MMS or uploaded over the air using high-speed connectivity.

PMA 2005 highlighted a number of retail digital printing advances, including more compact and economic kiosks and digital minilabs.

Manufacturers now offer digital minilabs in a variety of performance classes designed to meet virtually any retail print processing requirement ' including solutions that deliver moderate to high prints-per-hour capacities, improved image quality, more compact in-store footprints and various price ranges.

Retail solutions now include touch-screen countertop kiosks designed specifically to converge digital images into prints, automatic invoicing for print orders placed from remote or Internet-based input stations, the use of pre-paid photo cards in stand-alone kiosks, and up-sell functions that encourage self-service customers to purchase enlargements, CD's or other retail products. More and more retail systems allow consumers to download digital images directly from imaging phones using Bluetooth wireless, memory card or infrared connections.