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Smartphone makers focusing on cameras

gadgets Updated: Feb 21, 2013 01:00 IST

Device makers struggling to create phones with a standout feature that will give their handsets a competitive advantage against Apple and Samsung are turning their attention to image quality.

News has been circulating for some time that Nokia and HTC are both going to release new handsets in the coming weeks that will raise the bar in terms of photo-taking performance. HTC is expected to launch its M7 Smartphone on Tuesday, boasting a new form of megapixel sensor to boost image quality, while Nokia is expected to unveil its 41 megapixel sensor EOS phone at the Mobile World Congress next week.

The sensor is as good as that found in many dedicated digital cameras and can produce stunning images even in low light conditions. Both companies, which have been struggling to regain a foothold in the smartphone market in the face of rising competition (Gartner's latest figures show that HTC has fallen out of the top 10 handset vendor rankings over the past 12 months) are betting on their cameras as a way of building momentum and attracting new users.

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An attendee tests the new HTC One during a launch event in New York. Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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However, Gartner believes that it will take more than gimmicks to truly challenge the dominance of Apple and Samsung. The two companies combined had 52% share of the market in the fourth quarter of 2012. "There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the No. 3 spot in global smartphone sales," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. "The success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strength of their brands as much as their actual products. Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand."

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Models pose with LG Electronics' new smartphone Optimus G Pro during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: AP/Ahn Young-joon

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However, both companies could be right to focus on the camera. In a Google+ conversation on Monday, Google's senior vice president of engineering, Vic Gundotra, got into a discussion about photography with one of his followers who expressed a wish that he could someday do away with a heavy DSLR camera when going on holiday. Gundotra responded: "We are committed to making Nexus phones insanely great cameras. Just you wait and see."

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Samsung Electronics' new Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone presented during launch event in London. Reuters/Ki Price

Despite offering the best Android experience in terms of software, Google's Nexus devices have been historically disappointing when it comes to photography and pale into comparison with the image taking abilities of the iPhone or Galaxy SIII. So, if Google is focusing on the camera, it makes perfect sense that Nokia and HTC should do the same thing, and, crucially, do it before Google launches its next device, otherwise the window of opportunity will be lost forever.

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