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The world's first phone ever to integrate a digital camera.

The world's first phone ever to integrate a digital camera.

. 4 min read
2 phones showing front and behind

The American Engineer Martin Cooper invested in his first handheld cellular mobile phone, a pioneer in the wireless communications industry. Back in the day, a huge leap made an important change 20 years ago, and that was the first mobile phone with an integrated camera. In May 1999, the mobile phone Kyocera VP-210 was available for sale in Japan. This was the first phone with an integrated camera which became available to the public.

So it is not a complete surprise, to have a camera attached to a mobile phone, as it has happened before. However, those product models were actual integrated-camera phones.

In 1993, Daniel A. Henderson created two prototypes of a device that supported wireless imaging technology. They named this technology “Intellect.” This mobile phone could receive and display photos and videos from a messaging service center. These two prototypes are currently on display at the American National Museum of History, belonging to the Smithsonian Research Institute.

The first Apple’s mobile phone ever, with an integrated camera, in 1995.

a flip phone is openning and showing its screen
An Apple camera phone in 1995

 A few years later, in 1995, an article on Macworld magazine mentioned the idea of the new Apple’s products. The new design was a mobile phone with a special combination, a digital device (PDA) which supports both a video camera and a screen.

The story behind the first image ever taken by a mobile phone camera.

In 1997, Philippe Kahn invented the first mobile phone having cameras. Philippe Kahn is the founder of Borland International and Starfish Software Company. His wife was going to give birth to her first child, and Kahn was excited to take pictures of his baby then share it with people. While he was so excited and thrilled, and waiting for his baby, Kahn built hardware parts and wrote software to connect the camera and the phone via a laptop. Philippe Kahn made a huge success before his wife gave birth. Thus the digital camera Casio QV-10, with LCD screen, a flip phone Motorola StarTAC and a laptop.

Finally, the first picture taken by a mobile phone camera came out of Kahn’s daughter Sophie. The photo was quickly shared with more than 2.000 people.

one baby showing her sleeping face
The first photo that was taken with the world’s first mobile phone camera.

However, Kyocera VP-210 was actually the first official mobile phone with an integrated camera that became available to the public in the world. This phone had a 0.11 MegaPixel camera and could contain up to 20 images within its memory. It also had its own built-in stand for users to take photos all by themselves. The price of this phone in Japan was around 325 USD.

 2 phones showing their front, one is standing, one is lying on a table.
Kyocera VP-210

Samsung’s comeback at such innovation, back in the day.

One year later, Samsung launched the SCH-V200. This model was the second mobile phone model with a camera. It was in June 2000, in Korea. This Samsung phone could take up to 20 photos and had a resolution of 0.35MP with 1.5-inch LCD screen. However, users couldn’t send photos directly to others, instead of connecting the phone camera to the computer and send them via the computer. Samsung stated that SCH-V200 was the first mobile phone with an integrated camera. This statement wasn’t true.

In November 2000, Sharp J-SH04, aka Sharp J-Phone, was available for sales in Japan. The phone’s hardware and camera were a complete integration, and different from Samsung’s devices. The integration allowed users to send images with a resolution of 0.11MP. LightSurf was one of the companies that helped Sharp with this achievement; the founder of Sharp is Phillipe Kahn.

It took a long time for the integrated-camera mobile phone to be widespread in America. In November 2002, Sanyo SCP-5300 (aka Sanyo Katana) was sold in the US by Sprint operator. This model cost was around 400 USD, with a clamshell design and camera resolution of 0.3MP. Sanyo SCP-5300 was one of the most influential devices in the world.

How the existence of camera mobile phones changed the world.

When the camera became a default feature on mobile phones, it also marked a change of time. It also had a major influence on the existence of digital cameras. In 2003, phone sales with integrated cameras sales were higher than standalone digital cameras. In 2006, the phone was able to capture images that surpassed the quality of both digital cameras and film cameras.

Nowadays, smartphones have a lot of features, things that haven’t even been thought of in the last 20 years. The number of rear camera phones is also increasing, along with multiple image sensors. They also support a lot of software to quickly edit images and videos, add special effects, and even know how to make users’ photos look better. In addition to that, cameras on smartphones can also help users shop, translate text, and even play virtual reality games like Pokemon Go.

a nokia phone showing its back with 5 cameras.
Nokia 9 Pure View with 5 cameras

Looking into the future, within the next 20 years, the camera on the phone will definitely continue to change. That will happen along with the accelerating development trend of the smartphone era. Of course, it does not exclude the fact that it’s possible to disappear as well. Perhaps even will come to a halt, after some new innovative and more special new hardware start showing up in the market.