I’m a sucker for year in reviews. So, with things slowing down after the holidays and CES in full swing, bringing us right back to the future, here are six consumer imaging trends I feel stood out last year.
2018 Consumer Imaging Trends
1. AI Is Becoming Ubiquitous
Artificial intelligence moved way beyond its initial imaging use case of classifying objects portrayed in photos (“show me all photos with a cat”). For each of the phases of the consumer imaging chain (capture, enhancement, organizing, sharing and printing), AI solutions kept cropping up in 2018. In fact, it’s hard to talk about any imaging-related use case that isn’t touched in some way by AI-based innovations.
2. Image Capture
Computational photography is driving things forward, not optics. With the proliferation of super powerful smartphone chips, 2018 saw the likes of the iPhone XS, Google Pixel 3 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro prove that the image quality of smartphones can still leap, even with the sensor/lens size restrictions imposed by its form factor. The driving force? On-the-fly AI-infused magic. It combines multiple images taken by multiple sensors, or multiple images taken in rapid succession by a single sensor.
3. The Long Tail: How a Maturing Industry Grows
On the business side, the maturing photo industry is increasingly aware that one size doesn’t fit all. It is now catering to specific use cases or the needs of specific demographics—from teenagers who hang instant photo prints on their walls to grandmas who view their grandkids’ photos on a digital photo frame these kids upload remotely. Vendors are developing segmented long tail solutions for capturing, enhancing, organizing, sharing as well as printing photos. And yes, they even include several new breeds of cameras, as we analyzed in our The Long Tail of Cameras study.
4. Stories: The Happy Medium Between Permanent and Ephemeral
This mobile-native sharing format is becoming the medium of choice through which consumers visually share whatever in their lives beckons to be shared. Introduced by Snapchat and surpassed by Instagram, Stories enable consumers to share how their days unfold via photos, short videos, text or graphics. Moreover, there is no need for restraint; most Stories disappear after 24 hours. With currently 1.2B Story users worldwide on any given day, Facebook says the Stories format is on a path to surpass Feeds in 2019 as the primary way people share what’s happening in their lives.
5. Subscriptions: The Holy Grail of Monetization
Every vendor would love to derive a reliable revenue stream from their customers. But can consumers be convinced to commit themselves to a monthly fee? After more failed than successful attempts, software companies have figured it out, starting with Adobe Creative Suite. So have cloud storage vendors; subscriptions are a natural fit for an ongoing need such as storage. Now app developers are also on the bandwagon, leveraging the subscription options that app stores have started to offer.
In the photo world, we heard last year at the Visual 1st conference about Lightricks’ daring move in this direction. (And it has proven to be tremendously successful.) This year, most successful photo app developers have followed suit or are in the process of rolling out subscription offerings.
It’s coming, it’s coming and now finally it’s here for real! Heralded for a long time as the visual format that would challenge photos, the capturing, enhancing and sharing of videos is finally going mainstream. It took a fair amount of technical innovation to push the use of user-generated videos forward. This included smartphones capable of taking 4K video at 60 fps, devices offering sufficient storage, and also AI-based video editing or summarizing tools, to name a few.
However, what appears to be the most important driver is the array of solutions that have emerged to easily create, enhance or share short form or hybrid videos/photos, which we refer to as phodeos.
Not convinced? Perhaps, it’s time to download TikTok and ponder why they’ve amassed 800M downloads to date.