Camera phone sales on upswing

More than 295 million cell phones equipped with cameras will have been sold worldwide in 2005, Gartner predicts.

Sales of camera phones worldwide in 2005 are projected to reach 295.5 million, according to market researcher Gartner.

And phones with embedded cameras will make up 38 percent of all mobile phones shipped during the year, Gartner projected. Camera phones accounted for 14 percent of shipments last year.

In North America, camera phone sales are likely to reach 70 million units, or 47 percent of total phone sales, in 2005. In Europe this figure is 85 million, or 55 percent, of total mobile phone sales. Almost 92 percent of all phones sold in Japan have a camera.

"The trend for camera phones first took hold in Asian markets such as South Korea and Japan," Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst at Gartner, said Thursday in a statement. "It has quickly become a global phenomenon as mobile phone users around the world have been captivated by the idea."

The declining cost of integrating cameras into mobile phones will drive future growth, Gartner said. Over the next four years, the cost of putting a 1-megapixel camera into a phone may be halved, Gartner predicts. Advanced markets such as Japan and South Korea lead in sales of phones with higher-megapixel resolution.

By 2009, almost half of camera phones sold in Japan will have more than 3 megapixels. In other markets, 1.3 megapixels is now the minimum standard. There will be a shift towards 2-megapixel models in 2006, Gartner said.

While camera phone sales are up, there are concerns about the technology leading to invasions of privacy. Some countries have restricted the use of such phones in public places.