I recently watched a video by Tech-Youtuber Marques Brownlee on why people don’t buy Sony’s smartphones. It is an interesting topic because Sony is one of the biggest players in virtually every other tech segment. They have an awesome camera range, the Playstation is one of the two best consoles in the world, and above that, they have an incredible track record in music and LED displays. All this expertise combined into a 6.5-inch screen would make for one hell of a mobile device but alas, that has never happened.
What I understand is that Sony lacks the proper strategic intend to capture the mobile market and that could be because they have other areas to concentrate on. It’s not for the lack of funds or even technology, it is just how the company is wired. They like to take their time with technology- make one revolutionary product that will stay for longer, and refresh or update it every 2-3 years. With the mobile model life-cycle becoming ever smaller (new flagships are launched in less than a year), Sony is finding it hard to keep up. They don’t have the ecosystem advantage that Apple has either.
Smartphone sales are not expected to go down any time soon and willfully neglecting it is not something that Sony should be doing. Instead, they could rework the whole smartphone strategy so that it is working for them and not the other way around.
Here’s something that I propose:
A Smartphone doubling as Camera’s Display?
Hear me out. I’ve always felt that camera screens (3 to 3.5 inches) are cluttered. They are too small to do any real-time purpose, and ‘why are there so many buttons and knobs when all their functionality can be ergonomically done on an intuitive display?’ Of course, the purist might object but this camera is not for the purists but for a new breed of urban photography enthusiasts.
Here are the basic requirements:
Minimal camera body with just a power button and viewfinder
Detachable display with full smartphone functionality.
First, the camera body (Mirrorless preferred) needs to be redesigned in such a way that only bare essential dials and buttons are present. The Smartphone will take care of most functionality, including the manual controls and the lens. The phone will connect to the camera body both directly and indirectly (via wifi).
Sony can upgrade their imaging edge software (phone to camera connectivity) for this purpose.
Secondly, we are banking on Sony’s expertise in making extra thin and light smartphones. The world is moving back to smaller phones and it could benefit Sony to explore the mid-range or ‘lesser’ flagships. This trend is visible from phones such as the new iPhone 12 Mini and SE, as well as the Google Pixel and Microsoft Duo.
Integration needs to be seamless, preferably slide-in type, on an arm with 180-degree motion. As I said, wireless connectivity will also be part of this set-up and the owner will be able to take out her phone for setting up the shot or editing without much hassle.
The Mobera: Uses and Function
I’ve named this concept the Mobera (Mobile + Camera) rather shoddily. Bragging rights aside, people are sure to find it futuristic and convenient.
Completely digital settings and 3rd party filters
What I am envisioning is a camera and video interface akin to the ones that we have on our phones right now. Most people buying a mirrorless camera is unlikely to fully appreciate the host of features that it provides. For example, I’ve been using the Google-CAM application on my phone for over a year now and it churns out 10x better photos than my stock camera application. People won’t understand good hardware if they are kept in the dark about it. Similarly, I have friends who own DSLR for years now and still don’t know anything more than a few basic controls.
Setting your camera on ‘auto‘ mode, you can have the application inside your phone to take over a lot of the functions. This might be by filters or even preset lens and zoom positions- getting you the best photos each time.
3rd party developers can also pitch in their own filters or settings too. This can be done for videos as well. Essentially, with more people contributing, Sony can grow a lively ecosystem of new as well as pro photographers.
Think of this as a bridge between normal photography and the controversial AI photography
If you rather have all the control to yourself, Sony can even provide an exhaustive manual mod with all the settings that a professional photographer will ever need.
Instant Editing and social media
As the photos are directly uploaded to the phone and not internal storage, you can start editing instantly. Phone image viewers are way better than those on cameras too. Further, by using the internet cloud (Google Photos and such), the images or videos can be shared to multiple displays without much adieu.
You can click photos on the Camera, edit it instantly with a mobile application and share it on Instagram, all in a matter of a few minutes. Think of all the possibilities for Tic Tok or Instagram Reels!
Another use case is for live video recording. Most social media applications have live video functionality and with the Mobera you will have a high-quality camera at your disposal for this purpose.
Storage and Battery
Most mobile phones now have upwards of 64 Gb of storage (+external) and as the photos are going straight to your phone, there isn’t a need for large internal storage.
The battery is another thing that can be accentuated. If the battery on the camera falls low, reverse charging can be employed for those last bars of charge.
Tell me if I am getting way ahead of myself
Extended camera and accessory functionality
With the Mobera, you can take pictures standing at a distance. This is especially useful for wildlife photography or others in which the subject should not be disturbed. It will be much easier for you to include yourself in the next group photo too.
It’s not just the camera that can be remotely controlled. Many cameraaccessories now have movable parts that can be controlled with a mobile phone too. With the Mobera, everything will come ergonomically under a single screen.
Perhaps the least useful (or most useful) feature of this set-up is that you will be able to record both the front and the back (with the mobile camera) giving a near 270-degree perspective.
Cameras are probably the least secure widely-used devices. Once they are stolen, there is really no way to get them back. With the Mobera, you can program it to work with just your mobile device. Once the phone is removed, the camera loses all its functionality. It could even be programmed to recognize specific IMEI or wifi bandwidths (similar to JioFi). A host of security features including location tracking can be enabled when someone tries to change the host phone.
Extended use: Long distance / Multi-cloud photography
A crazy extended use case for the Mobera will be long-distance photography. For example, due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many photo and videographers were unable to reach locations far away or outside the country. In such extreme situations, photographers could essentially hire someone in the locality to be their arms – holding a Mobera for them while they use professional expertise to click photos over the cloud, from inside their homes.
Ok, now i understand its getting crazy
As I said, these features are beyond scope of a normal camera display but can easily be done with mobile.
A multi-user camera could be a fun addition where you give remote access to the camera for multiple users. This will help to capture things that you would otherwise miss or when you are away from the display. You could even have multiple authorized users with sony smartphones who connect to the same camera!
All these might sound crazy but are niche functionalities that few people like, need or enjoy.
Customers and market- how will it sell?
With smartphone cameras getting better, the market for low-end cameras is dwindling each year. Selling the latter as an ‘accessory’ is a good option to attract more customers back into the segment.
As I said, we are not targeting the purists who are well-versed with camera functions, but a new breed of photography enthusiasts/influencers who want to take high-quality images with the least effort. With smartphone integration, more such images can be churned out through superior software alone. Third-party applications can extend this functionality.
Collaborative efforts are always beneficial in a creative environment. I have talked about this topic in detail in my post: 4 new-age business practices.
How Sony can sell the Mobera?
There are three ways by which Sony can introduce this innovative product into the market.
#1 Bring out the smartphone
From a marketing standpoint, I would bring out the smartphone first. It should have strong specifications- competing with market leaders, but the true talking point will be how it can integrate with the Mirrorless Camera coming out later that year.
As a completely new technology, it is guaranteed to generate a lot of hype.
Pre-booking can start immediately!
#2 Launch the Mobera
Next, it’s time for Sony to actually launch the Mobera. Unlike the Smartphone, this device will be hitting stores immediately. Existing smartphone customers should be given option to buy the camera body as an accessory. In all other cases, the Camera and Mobile will be available as a package, possibly under $1500 – which is how much Apple and Samsung flagships cost these days.
The mobile phone needs to be sturdy and future-proof so that people can use it comfortably for at least 2 years. Good and affordable after-sales service is pivotal for this purpose.
#3 Camera + Normal display
Our aim is for people to like the smartphone so that they will stick to Sony’s mobile devices in the future as well. However, in the off-chance they don’t, it is essential for Sony to provide an alternative.
Taking a leaf out of Apple, a normal LED display with stock camera applications can be provided for anyone looking to move away from Sony’s smartphones but still want to keep the camera. This will be like a small wireless external monitor.
This will provide new customers the assurance to try the set-up without worrying too much about the phone.
What do you think about this device? Do you think it is a saleable idea or better, would you consider buying it?