As embedded cameras continue to make a splash with mobile phone buyers, handset makers that have arrived late in the game may lose market share in the short term, according to analysts.
"Camera phones are going to be very important in the fourth-quarter of this year and carriers are planning a big push," said senior analyst with Strategy Analytics, Neil Mawston, said
According to Strategy Analytics, sales of camera phones outpaced sales of digital cameras in the first half of this year - 25 million camera phones were shipped worldwide compared to the shipment of 20 million digital cameras.
Furthermore, American Technology Research predicted that camera phones would continue to outsell independent digital cameras "permanently".
The popularity of phones with embedded digital cameras represented a boon for vendors such as NEC , Panasonic (the brand owned by Matsushita Electric) and Nokia, Mawston said.
Handset makers such as LG Electronics and Motorola were dragging slightly behind.
Motorola is planning to ship its V300, V500 and V600 clam-shell camera phones to the US near the end of November in preparation for the holiday season, a Motorola spokeswoman said.
It was unclear, however, whether that would give carriers enough time to market the phones for the holiday rush.
"Motorola is being quite sluggish," Mawston said.
The fourth-quarter holiday season was one of the most important in terms of sales volume, he said.
However, Motorola spokeswoman, Una Kent, said that the V300, V500, and V600 were one of their most exciting product lines and that they were "working with the US carriers to make sure they meet schedules to maximize the products' holiday sales."
Motorola's new camera-embedded phones were shipping in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA) in October, Kent said. Asian carriers could expect to see them late in the fourth-quarter of 2003 and early in the first-quarter of 2004, in time for the Chinese New Year.
LG was also expected to ship a couple of camera phone models to the US within the next six months, Mawston said, in an effort to regain ground.
Vendors like Nokia were already on top of the camera phone trend in the US, in the hope of raking it up during the holiday season, Mawston said.
Furthermore, American Technology Research predicted that Nokia could become the largest camera maker in the world given that one-fourth to one-third of its product roadmap for the 2004 holday season consists of handsets with camera or camcorder features.
While vendors tussle for sales of camera phones in the short term, analysts see the market as a long-term opportunity, giving vendors like Motorola and LG the ability to snap up future market share with flashy innovations.
According to Strategy Analytics, the camera phone market could reach $US49 billion by 2008.
In 2003, the image-conscious phones would account for 13 per cent of global handsets with 65 million units expected to ship worldwide, Strategy Analytics said.