Carl Atsushi Hirano, the executive director of the i-mode strategy department and managing director of DoCoMo.com, a venture capital and consulting company owned by NTT DoCoMo, presented a detailed overview of the current state of imaging at DoCoMo.
(DoCoMo.com's mission is to establish relationships with corporate content providers, such as Coca-Cola, Disney, Sony Entertainment [Playstation], Dai-ichi and Dentsu.)
I've attended many presentations by DoCoMo executives, and typically the presentations are detailed and include lots of statistics. I think DoCoMo is proud of its accomplishments in wireless Internet, although it has had a difficult time developing its third generation FOMA system.
(Be thankful that my flying time from Maui back to Washington, D.C. is at least ten hours. I've got time to write a detailed article for Camera Phone Report for you to read!)
DoCoMo has more than 41 million users for i-mode -- representing more than one-third of the Japanese population. About 26 million DoCoMo users have camera phones and of those subscribers, 20 million have the more advanced IrMC phones.
(For current DoCoMo statistics, check out the cellular operator's statistics page.
More than 80 percent of the subscribers use camera phones at least once a month. More than 30 percent take one to two photos a week. More than 80 percent use camera phones on weekends.
When you look at the figures -- and this has been reported in the press before -- many Japanese camera phone users don't take many photos.
What type of photos are taken?
What type of photos do the Japanese take? Hirano said men take photos of friends, then landscapes, followed by timetables of trains. Women take photos of family, friends, pets, landscapes and themselves.
Ninety percent of women keep photos in their phone and use it very much as a picture album. Fewer men -- but still a sizeable percentage -- keep photos on their phone. Men treat camera phones more as "cameras" than "albums."
I believe camera phones will replace, in great part, photos in wallets and purses. With camera phones' capacity to store scores of photos (hundreds with a memory card) as well as storing videos, the handset will become the dominant portable photo album.
Sophisticated device, easy image enhancement
Hirano said today's cellular phone is an extremely sophisticated device. DoCoMo handsets include, for example, the ability to use the device as a remote control device, take photos of up to two megapixels, utilize a barcode reader and optical character reader, and store files on memory card slots.
Despite the sophistication of the handset, many more people use a cellular phone to edit and enhance photos compared to using a PC, Hirano said. Relatively few people use a PC to edit photos.
Camera phone users have a variety of ways to edit and enhance their photos on the handset. This includes incorporating borders around the photos, "morphing" photos (stretching, twisting, etc.) and combining photos with calendars and postcards.
Prints of photos also may be ordered directly from the handset.
Hirano discussed the value of cellular phones as marketing tools. With 41 million subscribers, DoCoMo's audience is a mass market, just like television. The subscribers may be contacted at home, at the office and while walking around outside.
Users can respond quickly and use a variety of methods, including a voice call, e-mail or the Web to obtain information about products that are promoted on the handset.
DoCoMo is promoting the use of handsets with two dimensional barcode reading capabilities. Users can easily insert addresses into their contact lists by taking a photo of a barcode on a business card. (A number of companies are developing such applications, such as Scanbuy.) By taking photos of barcodes on posters, print publications, for example, DoCoMo subscribers are able to incorporate information in their handsets.
Barcodes are being promoted as a way to encourage shopping. Cellular users snap a photo of a barcode in a product catalogue, for example, and are able to receive information about a product without having to enter the URL.
Developers may download free software from DoCoMo's Web site to create barcodes.
i-mode evolving with Feli-Ca
DoCoMo will offer a new service, Feli-Ca, that enables the handset to function as a "contactless" smart card. The handset could be used as an ID card to open secure doors in corporations, without having to swipe a separate card or enter a code.
The handset could be used as a boarding pass, with the passenger's identity confirmed when the device is held up to a terminal at the boarding gate.
Corporations could transmit coupons to employees to purchase products, and information from the handset could be uploaded to a customer database.