A camera phone is a mobile phone that incorporates a small digital video and stills camera, and is able to store these pictures in the internal memory of the phone and share them with other devices using cables or wireless networks. More than half of all the mobile phones in the world today are camera phones.
Although there have been landline based video phones for a number of decades, the first cell phone to be able to transmit, receive, and display digital images was a prototype device called the Intellect, which was designed in 1993 by the American inventor Daniel A. Henderson. The Intellect was, in essence, a hand held mobile phone with a large, high resolution monochrome screen, that was able to display images and video files that had been transmitted by a computer connected to a wireless transmitter. Many of the technologies and data transfer protocols that were pioneered by Henderson are still in use today, in our modern camera phones.
Other early experiments with wireless image sharing in conjunction with mobile telephony included Apple's Videophone/PDA in 1995, and several prototype digital camera/mobile phone combinations demonstrated by Kodak and Olympus in the mid 90s. However, none of these devices were capable of connecting to the internet wirelessly, which was to prove a crucial development as it allowed instant media sharing with anyone regardless of their location.
However, it was not long before some bright spark, namely Philippe Kahn of Lightsurf enterprises in the US, invented a mobile picture sharing structure, and the first cameraphone to make use of this was the Sharp J-SH04, which was developed in the late nineties and received a commercial release in 2001 in Japan.
Needless to say, the camera phone was to prove a huge success, and by 2006, over half of all the mobile phones in circulation were cameraphones, which spelled the end for two of the worlds leading camera makers, Minolta and Konica.
By the beginning of 2009, there were over two billion camera phones in circulation worldwide.
Footage shot by citizen journalists on cameraphones has even started to crop up on major television news bulletins. The first major international breaking news story to use cameraphone footage in this way was the 2005 Boxing Day Tsunami.
This is expected to become a more common occurrence as time goes on and cameraphones become even more ubiquitous.