Is the iPhone destroying standalone cameras or is it a gateway drug?

The most popular camera on Flickr is the iPhone 5. The 2nd most popular camera is the iPhone4S.

Wanna guess what the 3rd most popular camera?

Yep, iPhone 4.

The iPhone camera is truly stunning. Folks are blowing my mind on Tumblr and Instagram with their eye, talent, creative energy and this camera. Check out these iPhone photographs by Michael O’Neal.

I’ve met Michael. He’s a super talented (and super friendly). We’ve met for a sunset photowalk and a sunrise photowalk in San Francisco. He’s taught me so many things about making photographs with an iPhone (and post processing with mobile apps like snapseed) and he turned me on to AvgCamPro which is a sick app.

I was dabbling with photography for years but the iPhone 4 led me to more serious photography. I wanted to learn as much as possible about workflow in Adobe Lightroom. I couldn’t believe what you could do with a few sliders like shadow, highlight, contrast, tones and clarity.

That led me to buy a camera that could shoot in RAW and allowed me to manually override the shutter speed and aperture (fuji x100). I could take long exposures. I could blur backgrounds. I could shoot into the sun. Then two years ago I picked up a rangefinder that changed my life. I’m now chasing light.

Interesting the 4th most popular is the Canon 5d markii. That is a serious camera. It sports a full frame sensor and Canon sells some magical glass. I’ve had a few dreams about their 50mm f/1.2.

There are so many wonderful cameras coming out these days. People ask me all the time what camera they should buy. It really comes down to budget and what type of photography interests you and form factor. The reality is you can’t really go wrong with many of them. You just need to put in the time and commit.

And I’m seeing so many people do just that. They are double fisting. iPhone in one hand and a more “serious camera" for different photography experiences.

This fall Apple will ship a new iPhone. Probably called the iPhone5S. My guess is an improved camera amongst other things. That phone will take over the title for most popular camera on Flickr in no time.

But will it kill standalone cameras or serve as a gateway drug for more people who want to push their photography interest farther along.

It feels like the latter and that is pretty cool.

(ps here is the flickr page ranking cameras by popularity)

Yes, it’s easy to go after Apple but let’s not forget a few things

These days it’s very easy to go after Apple’s business practices with iTunes & iPhone.

Unlike the Macintosh operating system where any developer can build an app, the iTunes App Store and iPhone has a specific limitation. Apple must approve your app.

The most high profile app drama is Google Voice. Apple has not given Google permission to run that app on the iPhone. This is on top of the other issues with the app store such as phoney reviews, odd or delayed approval process and other rules that don’t make sense to users or developers.

The reality is that the app store is only about a year old. Before Apple’s app store, the iPhone existed for about a year without any reasonable way to install 3rd party apps (yes, jailbreak showed us the way but most users didn’t do that).

And for the most part, I agree with all of the App Store critics. I wish the Apple App Store was open for all developers. It should work just like anyone can build a website that works with any standard browser and just like building apps for MacOS.

But as long as we are shining a light on Apple, let’s keep a few things in mind:

0 – Life before the App Store.

Before the iPhone and App Store there wasnt any reasonable way to install apps for mobile phones. Just spend 10 minutes with an experienced BREW developer for Verizon handsets. Ask them what that’s like. Before the App store, every mobile 1.0 entrepreneur I know didn’t want to touch client software. They wanted to either build mobile web services, cloud services and/or SMS related services. Some of them told me they were done building mobile software altogether.

You could argue that the carriers didn’t allow it but how did Apple convince AT&T while other titans of the industry (e.g. Motorola, Nokia, Microsoft etc) failed to make that case.

Apple changed all of that and raised the bar. In the past year or so, they have gotten it wrong with a number of things but they are mostly doing it right (ease of use, ease of payment, ease of discovery, etc).

1 – How about other devices? Consider games consoles.

Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox are selling in huge volumes every year. And those hardware platforms are extremely powerful. They bring crazy computing horsepower and internet connectivity to millions of televisions around the planet. Sounds like an amazing platform for innovation.

But they are closed. Yes, there are loads of titles for those game consoles. But can anyone build any app and distribute on the PS3 or Wii or Xbox? Or does the game console manufacturer have final approval. You know the answer to that one.

2 – Set top box.

It’s beyond closed. Why can’t I connect an external hard drive to the DVR that Verizon or Comcast. It has a USB port. It wouldn’t be hard and that platform has been around forever. Certainly longer than the App Store. Why can’t third parties plug into the MSO’s video on demand system and provide new services and content. Why can’t I replace the guide with a better one? How about downloadable apps to the set top?

3 – Propriety codecs (Sony videocams, etc)

These are simply a few obvious examples. There are many others.

Yes, I agree with the Apple App Store critics. Apple needs to open that up and create a level playing field for all developers.

But let’s not let everyone else off the hook either. They should at the very least become as open as Apple.

(p.s. – small prediction: I believe the Apple App Store will open up completely within a year)

Apple iPhone sw update breaks hacks again

So the cat and mouse game continues.

This is the first apple update I’m not going to install on my iPhone. My hacked iphone finally gives me the feature I’ve been waiting for. Contact search.

Apple’s updates have to better than the hacks if they want to keep playing this game.

Or I suspect there will be many folks like me that we stay a few versions behind and keep their community functionality.