After a sluggish start, picture phones have become the year’s must-have, with Christmas sales expected to be huge.
Their popularity has been boosted by more users to send images to and people finding novel uses for them.
These include snapping broken plumbing fixtures to send to plumbers and taking pictures of car number plates after hit and run accidents.
Latest figures from analysts IDC have predicted 80 million will have been sold globally by the end of the year.
Between June and September in Japan alone, 90% of mobiles sold have had cameras, said mobile phone company Sony Ericsson.
Global camera phone sales only reached 18 million in 2002 mainly because Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS), allowing pictures to be sent from one phone to another, were only rolled out towards the end of that year.
But individuals have now started to find innovative uses for picture phones as more people snap them up, according to Textually, a website which monitors picture phone trends.
In a review of top uses for picture phones this year, Textually have found examples ranging from business to personal uses for the technology. New trends like “digital shoplifting” and “cellcerting” have also started to emerge as a result.
Digital shoplifting has become an increasingly tricky problem in Japan, where snaps of magazine fashion have been taken and sent to friends.
And at music concerts, picture phones have replaced lighters held aloft and many users have used the mobiles to MMS images as well as sound recordings to friends instantaneously.
Estate agents have been using them to send potential buyers snaps of property, and emergency services have made use of picture phones to send images of injured people to hospitals before their arrival.
Hairdressers have been getting in on the act too by letting customers download shots of possible hairdos to show their friends before going for the chop.
There has also been a substantial growth in “mobile blogs”, or moblogs, which feature snaps of events as they happen. There have been more serious sides to picture phone use though, which have touched on sensitive privacy issues. Around the world, gyms, cinemas and offices have banned the use of camera phones after complaints about invasion of privacy.
Despite this, some analysts predict that by 2007, almost half of mobiles sold worldwide will include a camera.
“With image quality and picture snapping features improving with the launch of each model, it is clear we have yet to scratch the surface on how private individuals and businesses will find ways to use them,” said Textually.