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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 09:25 GMT
Mobile phone snaps taking off
Models on the catwalk, BBC
Some fashion photographers are using camera phones

The phones might be expensive and the images low resolution but picture messaging is proving popular with British mobile owners.

Mobile phone firms report that lots of people are buying phones with cameras onboard since they first appeared last year.

Further evidence of the popularity of the camera phones comes from online photo album services who say some people are storing their mobile snaps to share with friends who do not have camera phones.

Even professional photographers are starting to use camera phones.

Links inked

This week O2 revealed that it now has 80,000 British users of its multimedia messaging service. Rival Vodafone has declared 130,000 UK users for its Live! multimedia service. Other operators are thought to have a similar numbers of UK users.

The numbers are small compared to the millions without camera phones. However, many of the multimedia services have only been available for a few months.

The take-up received a boost in January when the first interconnection agreements for multimedia messaging were announced.

It means customers of O2, Orange and T-Mobile can send pictures to each other.

Burmese cat, BBC
Pets are popular subjects for mobile snappers
Agreements to link in Vodafone's network are expected soon.

Some of the interconnect agreements cover countries outside the UK so many phone users could soon be making friends back home jealous by sending back snaps of their summer holiday.

Sites that let people store digital images online are also seeing increasing numbers of images being sent in by people with camera phones.

Many have automated the uploading system so every time a shot is snapped it is saved to an online album.

"It's getting a bit mad," said Joel Rowbottom, founder of Fotopic and a pioneer of the online phone gallery idea.

Fotopic has more than 8,000 images in its albums and galleries that have been taken with a camera phone.

Nokia's 7650 and SonyEricsson's T68 are the most popular because they have been available the longest and their price has been cut to make them more affordable.

Popular power

The take-up and numbers of messages has also probably been boosted by the fact that picture messaging is currently free on most UK networks.

It remains to be seen if the mania continues when people have to start paying for all the pictures they are despatching.

According to Mr Rowbottom the most popular subject is drunken people taking pictures of themselves larking about in pubs.

Pint of beer, PA
Drinking sessions are also snap worthy
Graham Hobson, co-founder and managing director of Photobox, said currently about 100 of its customers were storing images taken with camera phones.

He said the majority of camera phone images in Photobox albums were 640 by 480 resolution, though 1 megapixel images were also starting to appear.

He said that mobile phone firms were likely to offer their own album services to let people do more with the images they take.

Some professional photographers are starting to use camera phones too.

Fashion news and photography site Show Studio regularly sends its contributors out with a camera phone so they can send back almost instant images from fashion shows.

The immediacy of the images and the speed with which they can be put online has helped Show Studio scoop more established fashion news organisations.

See also:

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