By Jon Fortt
March 21, 2007

I recently switched cell phone carriers and bought a new Palm (PALM) Treo 700p to replace my old Treo 600. One of the nice things about the 700p is the improved camera and video recording features, so I decided to run over to Best Buy (BBY) and grab a memory card. I knew prices had dropped, but even I wasn’t prepared for how much:

A 2-gigabyte SanDisk (SNDK) SD card was $30.

That’s enough to store more than 14 hours of video at the Treo’s highest 352 x 244 resolution, or more than 5,500 1.3 megapixel photos.

I realized that the gadget ecosystem had quietly crossed an important threshold. We now can buy practically unlimited storage for Web-quality photos and video at an impulse-buy price price point; $30 is popcorn and a movie for two. This has three important effects on me as a consumer that ripple outward to accessory makers, software makers, carriers and handset makers:

  1. I use my Treo’s camera far more
  2. I share images with others more
  3. I want a higher quality camera in my phone

I use the camera more

Now that I don’t have to worry about accidentally filling up my memory card, I find myself shooting video of stuff I never would have. At two birthday parties I shot video of the festivities. At a briefing on a company’s spring PC lineup I shot video of a manager explaining design changes. I was generally happy with the results, though I really wanted better audio; the handset’s built-in mic is good on voice calls but lousy for capturing much else. I started trolling the Web for external Treo 700 microphones. I couldn’t find any.

I share images more

Since I’ve got these great images and video on my phone, you’d think (and Sprint (S), my carrier, would hope) I’d be sending them to all my friends – especially since my phone plan comes with unlimited data usage. Nope. It would be rude for me to send the files to people’s phones, since many don’t have data plans like mine; better to sync the phone with my Apple (AAPL) laptop, edit the video a little in iMovie, and send it by e-mail. Or better yet, burn it to CD or drop it onto a Flash drive to pass around. Interestingly my appetite for quick video editing software and trasfer technology just shot up; and YouTube is looking like a more valuable tool.

I want a higher quality camera

Before I got the 2 GB card, I wasn’t really interested in having a phone with a higher quality camera. I keep an old 3-megapixel Canon with me for more important still photos – why bother? Now I have my answer. My cell phone is about two seconds away from my hand nearly every waking moment of my day; it’s simply the most convenient media capture device I have. If it could shoot VGA-quality video and capture better audio, I might never have to think about buying a camcorder for casual use. That gives handset makers another way to hook me into buying a high-priced phone, and gives carriers another opportunity to sell me premium services.

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