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Phones, Camera…Selfie!

When Philippe Kahn took the first picture using a camera built into a mobile phone in 1997, little did he know that selfies would become a widespread phenomenon. In an age where a mobile phone was a luxury in itself, the launch of the first front-facing camera phone two years later (Kyocera: VP-210 VisualPhone released in May 1999) was nothing short of a game-changer. Selfies had arrived – and were here to stay!

Google’s Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai states that there are 93 million selfies taken each day, and this number is increasing by the second. This statistic might seem high, but a close examination of the history of camera phones and selfies proves that it’s totally justified.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a camera phone was the neighbor’s envy and owner’s pride. It kept evolving to become more compact, affordable, and tailored for different photography requirements. In fact, it grew into an important tool for the average person to capture important events like natural calamities such as the 2004 tsunami and acts of war, and users were able to become citizen journalists with their phones. Embedded cameras soon became a major feature and a common expectation, thus encouraging manufacturers to include high quality mobile cameras cost effectively.

Enter the Megapixel Race!

In 2014, Nokia launched the emperor – the 41 Megapixel Primary Cameras – with its Nokia Lumia 1020. Until 2013, most companies only focused on developing high-end primary cameras, with secondary cameras taking a back seat. However, with an increase in usage of video calling features and taking selfies, mobile phone manufactures have been required to include superior quality front-facing cameras.

Welcome to the Selfie Revolution!

Selfies get smarter with smartphones! Stick to the Selfie – Selfies gain a whole new edge with a new gadget called Selfie Sticks/Selfie pods/ Monopods / Selfie Shooters. Established companies like GoPro have ventured into the selfie accessories market, which has experienced a sharp 38% revenue increase in 2013 – with an overall revenue of $244 Million.

Appsolutely Selfie – There are a growing number of applications and software related to photo editing, photo sharing, selfie remotes, best pose identifiers, gesture recognition, geo-tagging, photo-tagging, etc. Apple iTunes alone has more than 970 selfie applications.

SelfieTrained! – It might seem a little amusing, but yes, there are actual schools, courses, and tutorials that can turn you in a Selfie Wizard. You might find some on YouTube during your next visit!

Selfie Trademarked! – The Trademarks vocabulary has been enhanced by the Selfie Revolution. Words like Selfie, Groufie (Huawei), Wefie (Samsung), Nixie (Intel), and many more have been trademarked by companies.

Technology, Patents, and the Selfie Impact!

No fewer than 93 million selfies are taken and uploaded on social media pages every day. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google Plus+, Instagram, and WhatsApp have encouraged the selfie revolution with easy sharing capabilities. So much has the world of selfies grown that today even Scrabble accepts the word, and the Oxford Dictionary has it printed in its pages.

With more than 20% of camera phones manufactured today including a front-facing camera, selfies are creating waves. Front-facing camera phones or selfie phones have impacted the mobile market in more ways than one, and companies are getting insanely innovative with camera components, technologies, business opportunities, and their patent portfolios.

It's the Selfie effect!

In 2013, Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing service (acquired by Facebook) grew by 23% (by active users). However, Facebook only grew by 3%.

The industry has been traversing the up curve pretty dramtically in recent years with companies like Snapchat valued at US$ 10 billion in August 2014. According to Samsung, selfies make up 30% of photos taken by people between the 18 and 24 age group. Online sharing of selfies has helped the market climb to a high. Based on a survey, Instagram had more than 35 million selfies shared until 2013.

This is around 8% of the total selfies clicked on social media and a major contributor to the website's popularity. The survey also claims that a photo with a face in it is likely to receive more likes and comments than any other photo by 32-38%. In 2014, Imgur, an image hosting website founded in 2009 and employing 10 people, raised $ 40 million in investments and this is again a remarkable feat for a company thriving on visual content.

This proves that in a way, selfies, have been a major contributor to the boom this industry has witnessed and the future looks even more promising.

Sony has been in the business of developing and supplying mobile camera components, especially CMOS sensors, to large manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, and Huawei. In 2014, Sony also signed a deal with Apple to supply components for its front-facing camera. A quick search found that Sony has approximately 100 patents worldwide (including 25 US patents) just on camera components of a cell phone.

After launching the first cell phone with a camera, Kyocera was not able to capitalize on this market segment. However, a quick search of patents in this technology domain indicates that Kyocera has steadily increased its camera phone portfolio over the past few years.

Selfie and Its Trendy Future!

While the Selfie Revolution has already made an impact on technology, there are still inroads to be made. As we look at today’s trends, we find that there are still many layers that can be unfolded to unleash the technology’s true capability.

Intel is developing a Quadra-copter drone to record videos and take selfies. The Nixie can be strapped to a user’s hand and can be removed whenever the user wishes to take his/her selfie. The team is also trying to integrate the technology of following the user and recording videos on the go. This is certainly an innovation that may change the selfie world.

One could have never imaged how a small little selfie could transform the world of cell phones, inspire so many technological advancements, and shape the world of Intellectual Property. Our selfies are changing with each passing day and getting better. So the next time you hold your phone to take one, say cheese with glee.