Last year over 1.2 trillion digital photos were taken worldwide. That roughly means that each individual person took around 160 photos throughout 2017. In 2016, the total was one billion less.
This exponential increase in the number of photos taken comes down to only one thing. Of all those photos, 85% of them were taken with a smartphone. This smartphone photo epidemic is due to the development of both technology and the internet.
First, cell phone cameras have improved dramatically in the last decade. A large amount of time and money has been invested into camera lens technology. With such small devices to handle, it’s only necessary to find the right solutions.
Because of this progress, we have almost eclipsed the digital camera. The cell phone cameras are no longer a novelty, but an everyday necessity for many of us.
Second, as the phone camera itself took off, so did social media. Sites such as Facebook and Instagram have given smartphones a platform. This has allowed the industry to boom, with publishing and sharing photos all around the world become a normal phenomena.
Enter Philippe Kahn
Undoubtedly cell phone photography has infiltrated our lives in a way we couldn’t have apprehended. And it is certainly here to stay. Because of this, it’s hard to think back to a time when instant photo uploads weren’t possible. Yet before the year 1997, they weren’t. June 11th, in a hospital ward in North Carolina, a baby was born. Along with the baby, came the first photograph taken with and shared by a cell phone.
Philippe Kahn, a software entrepreneur, was adamant to share the moment of his daughter’s birth with family and friends instantly. He connected a digital camera with is flip cell phone using a wire he ripped out of his car telephone. With a few lines of code he had written on his laptop, the cell phone was connected. With the technology he created, Kahn was able to ‘deliver’ the photo instantly to more than 2,000 people. Their reactions were of confusion. People couldn’t understand how Kahn took and shared a photo, yet he was still at the hospital. Until this day, the idea of taking and publishing photos while on the go hadn’t been thought of.
On that day, both Sophie and the invention of cell phone photography were born. The symbolism here cannot go unnoticed. It is only too fitting that the first ever cell phone photo was of a newborn baby. Kahn’s discovery gave birth to a new era in technology. What’s more, it was the beginning of a different way of life that we now consider the norm. Capturing and sharing images instantly has become ingrained in daily life for a lot of us.
The After Effect
From that moment, history was made. But how did we get from there to the smartphones we have today?
The first official commercially available phone with an integrated camera is thought to be the Sharp J-SH04. It was made by Sharp Corporation and released by J-Phone in 2000, only in Japan. The phone featured a measly 0.11 megapixels.
This may not mean much to you, however in comparison to the latest iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9 camera which has 12MP, you can see the improvement.
Surprisingly the “Picture-Mail Phone” wasn’t an instant hit and therefore didn’t make it much further than Japan. This is probably due to its very high selling price of $500. As all new things, the idea of a phone with a camera was received with trepidation by some.
The BBC reviewed the first camera phone and the comments show people’s bewilderment: ‘Infinite uses for the teenager, not entirely sure what the rest of us would do with one though.’ Lizz, UK. Image quality and photo sharing were still not fully developed, therefore the use of a camera phone wasn’t seen as a vital device.
It was only until the end of 2003 that they really took off in the US. And by then, 80 million had been sold worldwide. Prices dropped to around $150 and the number of megapixels increased.
In the early stages, it was Nokia and Sony that fought control for the camera phone market. However, all this changed with the release of the iPhone in 2007. The iPhone is one of the best smartphones on the market because of its high quality camera.
However on initial release there was more focus on the revolutionary touch-screen feature that they introduced. Ironically, this caused other manufactures to also focus on the touch-screen technology, meaning less camera development in the phone industry. Nonetheless, camera phone technology progressed and got us to where we are today. Although arguably the leading giants have shifted. Now the smartphones recognized for their superior cameras are made by either Apple or Samsung.
On average, we upload 350 million photos onto Facebook every day worldwide. 20 years ago there was only one man and one photo of his daughter, sent to family and friends via email. Nowadays we have everything instantaneously at our fingertips. There are literally trillions of photos being shared and received online. It is humbling to think that this all came from a proud father simply wanting to share a photo of his newborn baby to others.