Death of the Flip: Will anyone miss it?

Once a darling gadget that essentially founded the HD mini-camcorder market, the Flip is no more. What went wrong?
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Once a darling gadget that essentially founded the HD mini-camcorder market, the Flip is no more. What went wrong?

Cisco has announced that it will be axing the Flip camcorder brand, along with a few other consumer ventures as part of a restructuring plan. The real casualties are the 550 jobs going with it, but the Flip won't be missed all that much.

Before Cisco picked up Pure Digital Technologies (the original maker of Flip) in 2009, the brand had already been growing steadily. The Flip, along with its competitors (i.e. Sony's Bloggie and RCA's Small Wonder), became popular for several reasons. Primarily, they made camcorders affordable and easy-to-use for the average consumer. Professional videographers might have bought them for quick shooting on-the-go, but otherwise, the Flip was intended to be a mass market product. Additionally, the Flip offered good quality for the price around 2007 and 2008 when these gadgets were bursting on to the scene.

But the technology of Flip never really evolved since then, making it a very stale gadget. Sure, even once Cisco picked up Flip, new models continued to come out each year. Yet Cisco dropped the ball by never pushing further with Flip. It never moved beyond 720p HD video quality, and it never got HDMI connectivity.

Smartphones came along and now offer specs better and beyond mini-camcorders with full HD 1080p video recording. The Flip was ideal for the casual consumer who didn't have much or any experience with camcorders and just wanted something easy to carry for recording fun videos. Obviously, mini-camcorders can be put to use for business purposes and reporting, but Flip is available in many different bright hues and colorful patterns that aren't exactly for the professional-minded.

Again, smartphones fill the void here and surpass Flip with integrated Wi-Fi and 3G access for easy sharing from anywhere. Consumers don't have to (and probably don't want to) carry multiple gadgets around anymore when the smartphone simplifies things. It also just seems like a waste of money when a mobile phone will do the same thing. Smartphones haven't made point-and-shoot cameras irrelevant yet, but we could be seeing just that within a few years.

The only kind of mini-camcorders that will probably stick around for awhile are the niche models, such as the waterproof Kodak PlaySport. It's going to be awhile before a waterproof smartphone is made available - if that ever even happens. At least this model is still cheap and serves a special purpose.

Considering that Cisco killed off Flip, one has to wonder whether or not the brand would have survived. That's quite possible. Yet unless the specs were stepped up and Pure Digital (or whomever else would be in charge) fashioned some more rugged models to step in where smartphones couldn't, Flip wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway.

Flip definitely had its place for a time, but that time has been over for awhile now.

Correction: The current line of Flip camcorders do in fact have micro and mini-HDMI ports. However, cables are not included in the box.

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