As Mobile Phones Overtake Cameras, Consumers Still Struggle to Use Them, Says Ontela Survey at CTIA

10/6/09Follow @gthuang

An interesting tidbit from the mobile industry: Film cameras are going out of style, while camera phones have become ubiquitous. But even as the popularity of things like mobile data plans and text messaging continues to grow in the U.S., people still have problems doing simple things with photos on their phones.

That’s according to an annual survey of wireless consumers conducted by Ontela, a Seattle-based mobile software startup. The latest results, from a poll of 414 U.S. residents, were released today to coincide with the start of the International CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment expo in San Diego. Nothing earth-shattering here, but the results give some context for understanding certain segments of the mobile market.

The survey found that less than half of respondents (48 percent) this year owned a traditional film camera. That’s down from 61 percent in 2008, and 67 percent in 2007. By contrast, 87 percent of respondents said they owned a mobile phone with a camera—up from 78 percent in 2008, and 70 percent in 2007.

More than half of those surveyed (52 percent) had a text messaging plan, as compared with 28 percent last year. And 27 percent had a mobile data plan, compared to 16 percent last year. Despite the rising rates of mobile expertise, though, 61 percent of respondents said they are unable to upload a photo from their phone to the Web.

If these trends hold for the general population, they represent a big market opportunity for Ontela, which makes mobile software that automatically sends photos and other digital media from your phone to your inbox, computer, or photo-sharing site. The company sells its software to wireless carriers, who in turn bundle and sell the service to subscribers.

Ontela was formed in 2005, and is backed by about $15 million in venture funding from Steamboat Ventures, Oak Investment Partners, Hunt Ventures, Voyager Capital, and Eastven Venture Partners. Back in March, Ontela’s CEO, Dan Shapiro, noted in an Xconomist post that mobile phones are in fact poised to kill off point-and-shoot cameras, both digital and film, for good.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • Andy Watson

    All this good self promoting but the reality is different. Why people want to spend extra few bucks on Ontela service unless this is some old grampa that does not have a clue how to send an email.