by Bob Walters | April 01, 2004

Aren’t the new camera phones cool? Just point, click and send the picture to someone with the same phone service, or send the picture via the Internet. Like all new technologies, however, this one has its good points and its bad points. Let’s explore.

To capture a baby’s first step or a funny situation, or even to document a traffic accident, camera phones are great to have on hand. Some allow you to store pictures of family, friends and colleagues, so their smiling faces come up when they call.
    The phones also are great if you’re traveling on business and need to send to headquarters a picture of a product placement, hotel room or meeting room.
    The quality isn’t quite there yet the pictures are grainy and dark but it will be soon. Phones already are being tested that will produce photographs comparable in quality to regular cameras; they also will be able to record sound and transmit the signal with no distortion.
    Following are three popular camera-phone models; costs can vary depending on the cellular service package you buy.
    The high-end Nokia 7650 (about $900) is a true multimedia phone, with multiple wireless connectivity capabilities (Bluetooth, infrared, phone-to-phone and phone-to-PC). Image resolution is 640 pixels by 480; it has 3.6 MB of memory for the photo album, phone book, calendar and add-on applications.
    The Samsung VGA1000 ($250) offers tri-mode CDMA for quick data transfer, wireless Internet support (WAP 2.0) and voice-activated dialing. It holds up to 300 names in its phone book.
    The Panasonic GU87 ($200) is a baseline camera phone with 2X zoom, Internet capabilities (WAP 2.0) and 1 MB of memory for a 200-name phone book.

Privacy concerns are cropping up over the devices, considering how difficult it is to tell if a cell phone is just a cell phone or if it is a camera.
    An example of a dicey situation is illustrated in the TV ad showing a couple getting amorous in a hallway, when a “friend” takes a picture and jokingly sends it to all their friends including the guy’s girlfriend, who was nowhere near the hallway at the time. Now, how would you like to be the guy when he sees his girlfriend again, or the person who took the picture when the guy finds out (with caller ID) who sent the photo?
    Laws defining when and where you can use a camera phone already are in place in some countries. In Hungary, it is illegal to transmit a picture of someone without their permission. In South Korea, a camera phone must emit a beep of at least 65 decibels when taking a picture.
    Some firms and government agencies in the United States have banned camera phones from their offices to protect against corporate piracy and litigation for violation of privacy. For example, the phones are not allowed in any Air Force facility that processes classified information.
    Those who are nervous about being photographed on the sly can buy a key-chain camera detector that lights up when it picks up a signal from wireless devices like cellular phones and digital cameras. Available online at sites such as GadgetBabe ( and iGadget ( for $29.95, it can detect signals up to 15 feet away and is perfect for “spotting” cameras surreptitiously placed in restrooms, dressing rooms, etc.
    Much ado about nothing? It depends upon which side of the privacy fence you fall. But knowing that your actions, attire, meeting-room design and even your performance could be the subject of someone else’s clandestine photographs can be disturbing.