Study: Camera phones take off in EMEA

Camera phones are taking off in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), despite stagnant sales of mobile handsets overall.

A study by Reading, England, research company Ltd. showed that shipments of imaging phones, or phones with integrated cameras, rose 166 per cent from the first quarter of 2003 to the second. Over 3.8 million imaging phones were shipped in EMEA in the second quarter, Canalys said in a statement Wednesday.

Nokia Corp. is the overall market leader, with 42.6 per cent of the EMEA imaging phone market, followed by Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB with 22.1 per cent, the research company said. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp. and Panasonic Consumer Electronics Inc. follow with 10.5 per cent, 9.7 per cent and 7.4 per cent shares respectively.

The Carphone Warehouse Group PLC, a large U.K. mobile phone retailer, said Wednesday that two-thirds of all contract sales now involve camera-enabled phones, although it did not have separate figures for handsets with integrated and separate cameras.

While there are high-end phones on the market from Nokia and Sony Ericsson, there is also a broad range of lower-priced phones boosting the market, Canalys said. Operators are looking to boost revenue from Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) and are therefore keen to get as many low-priced imaging handsets to consumers as possible, it said.

Asian vendors in particular are taking advantage of this, offering low-priced devices and allowing the operators to control the branding on the device. While Nokia and Sony Ericsson are ahead in this market, they should not take their leadership for granted, Canalys said.

On the other hand, it said, operators need to be aware that consumers value certain brands. The absence of a Nokia handset at the launch of Hutchison 3G UK Ltd.’s 3 service in the U.K. early this year was probably responsible for the lower-than-hoped-for take-up of the service, Canalys said.