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April 18, 2011

Rant: please stop misunderstanding the Flickr camera popularity charts

Every few weeks a website/blog revisits the most popular cameras on flickr page, and for the most part, they misunderstand or misinterpret the rankings when they see the iPhone being one of the most popular cameras.

The latest to fall into this trap is Tech Crunch. General-interest technology sites cover a lot of topics, so you can't expect them to have in-depth knowledge of specific sub-segments, but it was a bit of a surprise to see super-guru Thom Hogan (April 18, 2011 post) fall into the same trap. Minus five guru points for not avoiding the trap!

The high ranking of the iPhone is more of a testament to the success and popularity of the iPhone than anything else. Here is why...

+ every year there is exactly one new iPhone model released (see Wikipedia)

+ for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2010, Apple sold 14 million iPhones (that's 14 million iPhones in 3 months) [via Apple]

+ for the first fiscal quarter of 2011, Apple sold 16 million iPhones (via Apple PDF) and it is estimated to have between 16-18 million iPhones in fiscal Q2 of 2011

+ according to CIPA (see December 2010 PDF file), around 120 million digital cameras were produced/shipped in 2010 (January to December) by the major manufacturers tracked by CIPA

+ in two quarters (half a year), Apple sold 30~ million iPhones. If they have two more similar quarters, the total number of iPhones would be half of the total number of digital cameras produced/shipped by the digital camera manufacturers in the whole of 2010

+ 400+ new digital camera models were announced by the major camera manufacturers when you add 2009 and 2010 (198 in 2009, 214 in 2010) - compare that to just two iPhone models (4G, 3Gs) in the same time period

+ judging by the monthly unit production output provided in some Japanese press releases, most digital camera models are within 1 to 2 orders of magnitude of units produced when compared to the iPhones (one order of magnitude is 10X more, two orders is 100X more - if using base 10)

+ the iPhone has Wifi/3G and a "live" connection; most digital cameras do not; in order words, it is a lot easier/faster to post an iPhone picture on flickr than a digital camera picture

+ most people have their phone with them almost all the time [NEW!]

+ in the last two quarters reported (Q4-10, Q1-11) Apple sold more iPhones than Canon sold digital cameras in the whole of 2010 according to market share data by IDC Japan (Canon was the market share leader of 2010 with 19%) [NEW!]

+ there's more, but the above is already more than enough to make the point

Considering how many iPhones are sold and how popular they are among their users, and that they have built-in Wifi/3G, and free picture uploading apps, it should not be a surprise that the iPhone is one of the most popular cameras on flickr.

In other words, there are so many iPhones out there, that even if digital cameras had built-in Wifi/3G, they simply couldn't "stop" the iPhone due to the sheer volume of iPhones units.

To clarify, this is not to say that digital camera manufacturers have not fallen behind in modernizing digital cameras or failed in not anticipating or adjusting. You can check previous rants on the "SLR traditionalists" and such for that. The point of this is that the flickr data is just an indication of how popular the iPhone is.

Or perhaps I have jumped on the crazy train and I am missing something very obvious that other people are seeing? :-)

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