Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Mediocrity Rules! Why the iPhone’s Crummy Camera Is Flickr’s Favorite.

Flickr is one of the Web’s most popular photo-sharing sites. Flickr users’ camera of choice? The iPhone.

At least it was yesterday, when the LA Times checked in on Flickr’s stats; at the time, Apple (AAPL)’s handset had passed the Canon (CAJ) EOS Digital Rebel XTi as the most popular camera on Yahoo’s (YHOO) photo site. The stats are updated daily, though, and as of this afternoon, the Canon had pulled back in front by a few hundred users.

But the precise numbers don’t matter. The takeaway here is that people who like taking and sharing photos are happy to use an inferior camera–even the newest iPhone sports just three megapixels and lacks rudimentary features like zoom and flash–if it’s easy to use. And most important, if it’s already on the phone they’re carrying around.

I’m not the first to point this out, but I’ll reiterate: There are important/worrisome lessons here for other gadget makers.

Cisco’s (CSCO)’s Flip camera line, for instance, is great, and I used my Mino HD twice today for interviews. But if I was carrying around an iPhone 3GS or any other handset with video-recording capabilities, I’m not sure that I would have packed the Flip. And I’d probably end up filming a lot more interviews if my camera was always with me.

Same goes for Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle, or any other would-be e-book reader: I appreciate that they’re designed specifically for reading and boast low-power screens that are easy on the eyes, hold up well in variable light, etc. But I read a newsstand’s worth of copy every day on my rudimentary BlackBerrry 8830, which isn’t designed for that at all; plenty of iPhone fans say they’re happy reading full-length novels on their gadgets.

That doesn’t mean that people who are passionate about cameras or novels or whatever won’t prefer specialized devices. But that leaves a very big chunk of the market–those of us who find that good enough is plenty good–for the iPhone or any other all-in-one tool.

[Image credit: Erik Pitti]

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik