Monday, 13 October 2014

Is “the selfie phone” the next big thing?

Selfies are everywhere. From the Oscars to Niagra Falls to darkened bars people love to photograph themselves. It’s no longer enough to take a photo of something. Now, you need to inject yourself into the shot, as if your duck lips will make that sunset or celebrity more pretty or memorable. Smartphone photography has attempted to address this of late by adding software and hardware to answer the call of the Instagram.
Selfie courtesy of....well, you probably already know.
Selfie courtesy of….well, you probably already know.


But are they gimmicks? Are they not in demand? Let’s assume selfies are a thing, and they’re enough of a thing to warrant actual R&D in this arena. Let’s assume that the next big thing will in fact be a selfie-centric phone. Assuming you can handle all that narcissism that is. Could this niche be the way to draw back market share from Samsung and Apple?
Let’s face it. I took a selfie the other day with my Nexus 5 and to put it mildly, it looked like… well, suffice it to say, not good. Now, I didn’t really care. It was a cardboard cutout of the pope. Why there was a cardboard cut out of the pope, I don’t know, but we’re just going to leave that right there shall we? But honestly, had that been the real pope, I probably would have been a little disappointed. So there has to be demand for a higher quality camera on the front.

papal_selfieInstagram beckons

There is probably a certain set of people out there who love to put themselves in the frame, and without a selfie phone, they’d probably get a Samsung. Maybe HTC and Microsoft are right to focus on this aspect of society. 200 million active monthly users on Instagram can’t be wrong right? Why not try to grab onto that demographic. Plus, won’t the distinctive lens on the front of the phone serve as a sort of signature for the device? I don’t know about you, but I’ll know at a glance anyone who is carrying that phone. Plus, HTC did not skimp on rest of the specs. The Snapdragon 801, RAM, screen and the rest are all in the premium category. So if you’re looking for a flagship, and loves you some selfies, HTC has the phone for you.

And yet…

Are selfies really that much of a thing? It seems to me there are just as many kid photos on the Internet as drunken bar selfies, but maybe that’s just (almost) forty year old me. I think the thing the differentiates “Selfies” from any other photo on the internet is it has a name. If everyone suddenly started talking about “kiddies” (as a photo, not as a stalker term) or maybe “scapies” of mountains and sunsets, maybe that would off-balance the concept of the selfie.
Maybe I’m just a fuddy duddy, but if I want my photo taken with someone or something, I have someone take my picture. Or I’ll take it myself and just leave me out of the equation. I will know who took it, and isn’t that what is more important. It just seems to me that if something is photo-worthy, the last thing the world needs to see is my gigantic melon taking up 60% of the photo because I could only hold the camera at arms length.

desire eyeGlass houses

The irony here is that my profile pic on this site (and twitter) is a selfie. But we’re not here to talk about hypocrisy, so move along.
As much as I like to see OEMs trying to innovate, I’m not sure this is the area where that needs to happen. The front facing camera on the HTC Desire Eye sure is powerful at 13 Megapixels, but it’s also a big, Cyclops-looking wart on the front of your phone. It looks like you’re holding an iPhone with a black home button upside down. I’m just not sure this is the right thing to be focusing on – no pun intended.
Ok, it was intended.
What about you? Is this the next big thing in mobile? Or is this the smartphone equivalent of the pet rock and it’ll fade in the near future? Where do you stand – behind the back camera, or the front camera? Sound off below and let’s see if we can figure this out.
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