Samsung have announced a 10 mega pixel camera phone on the opening day of CeBIT 2006. Maybe I should say that again - a 10 mega pixel camera phone! That's more megapixellage than most digital SLR cameras. But that's not all. Rather than just relying on the number of mega pixels to wow the crowd, Samsung also provide this beast of a mobile phone with a 3x optical zoom (not digital, like most camera phones: optical, meaning it actually works without pixellating your image), flash and 1/2000th of a second shutter speed.
This may be a way of Samsung laughing in the face of Sony's recently announced 3.2 mega pixel CyberShot camera phone. Whatever, if mobile TV is meant to be the mobile gadget extra of the year, no-one told the camera phone makers!
The Samsung SCH-B600 10 mega pixel camera phone seems much more like a top end camera that just happens to have a mobile phone grafted onto its side. With its optical zoom, 1/2000th of a second shutter speed and flash, it clearly is a camera in a mobile phone's clothing. That's not all, though. Being Samsung, they weren't just going to stop at a digital camera - not when you can shove mobile TV (DMB-S), MP3 player, voice recognition, Bluetooth, MMC micro memory cards, MPEG4 video recorder, and a TV-out into the thing as well!
With the Samsung SCH-B600 (and, to a lesser extent, Sony Ericsson's recent CyberShot mobile phones), cameras and mobile phones are becoming one and the same gadget, which is inevitable when you think about it. You can't keep your pictures in your camera - you have to transfer them at some point to either your PC or a printer. This used to be with a cable or technologies such as PictBridge, but more recently wireless communications channels have been used, with cameras appearing that use WiFi to transfer pictures to a PC. The logical step from there is to transfer pictures from a camera using the mobile phone network; in which case, your camera becomes a mobile phone!
Of course, the only thing wrong with this scenario is the huge cost of transferring data over mobile phone networks (Orange in the UK currently charge £10 per megabyte), but once the mobile operators start to realize they're just wireless bit pipes, the cost will come sharply down. Then all the manufacturers have to do is to work out whether it's a camera with mobile phone abilities they're trying to sell, or a mobile phone with top end camera functionality. Probably we'll see the two devices converge completely, and telling your kids about the days when there were cameras without mobile phone features (or vice versa) will get the same sort of response as describing a cassette tape to them.