Can Android Save Point-and-Shoot Digital Cameras?

By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

In the competitive digital camera market, point-and-shoot camera models are becoming obsolete. In this market, these digital cameras are pitted against high-end smartphones, many of which claim to mimic today's camera features very well). And the not-so-old point-and-shoot digital camera simply isn't as popular as it once was.

A study by The NPD Group shows that in the first 11 months of 2011, the point-and-shoot camera shrunk dropped 17%. Yet despite these numbers and consumer apathy, Nikon is hoping to breathe new life into the camera market with its innovative Android-powered camera, the Coolpix S800c; it will be the first mainstream camera to run Android 2.3 Gingerbread. But with a $350 MSRP, can it breathe new life into the point-and-shoot market?

A Camera That Thinks It's a Smartphone

Hardware-wise, the Nikon S800c has everything you'd expect to find in a modern-day camera including a 10x optical zoom, 3.5" OLED touchscreen, 1080p movie capture, and a 16-megapixel sensor. However, it differs from other cameras is in that it runs Android 2.3 and boasts built-in WiFi. While the latter are impressive specs for a camera, they're actually run-of-the-mill features for most of today's smartphones.

WiFi-packing cameras aren't as uncommon as you may think. Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony, for instance, all have their respective WiFi-enabled models. Sony has even announced a mirrorless, WiFi-enabled camera, the Sony NEX-5R, that can run PlayMemories Camera Apps. Nevertheless, the S800c is the first mainstream camera to run Android.

A World of New Apps

In addition to running a mainstream, and user-friendly OS, the S800c was designed to quickly upload photos and videos to social networks and cloud services. The camera also gives offers instant access to the Google Play store, so users can download photo-editing apps (like Instagram) to make their photos really shine before sharing them online. If a hotspot is nowhere to be found, the S800c has the ability to also create an ad hoc network, allowing users to beam photos from the camera to a smartphone.

However, most any iPhone or Android smartphone can already do all of this. While the S800c does offer an optical zoom — something that no mainstream smartphone has — it's hard to justify the $350 price tag for this single feature. In fact, the S800c's price tag may even be a bit much for its own league: this summer 16-megapixel Nikon cameras averaged about $122, albeit none of them ran Android or Google Play apps.

A Focused, Yet Tough Sell

The S800c is due out in September and while Nikon is hoping it helps resurrect the digital camera market, it's looking like a tough sell. Aside from running an Android OS, the S800c doesn't offer consumers anything radically new. Moreover, professional photographers will find better performance from a DSLR or mirrorless camera; Facebook photographers will find it easier to upload their photos instantly via a smartphone, which works with or without a WiFi network. And at $350, the S800c is pricier than many of today's smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras.

Ultimately, the S800c's future lies in the consumer's hands. That said, is Android the future of point-and-shoot digital cameras or do you prefer Android remain the OS of your smartphone? Sound off in the comments below.

An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez

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The photo software and editing capabilities of my ICS phone are much better than anything available on a regular digital camera.  If my phone only had a decent lens, it would be perfect.

I would love to see a camera with a decent zoom lens that allowed dl'ing of apps like Paper Camera, etc.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera was just announced last week. It will be running a newer version of Android, has 21x optical zoom, and will have 3g/4g capabilities.  I am not sure if you would be able to use Google Voice to make calls, but it might be a possibility. I don't believe pricing or release date has been announced yet.
What's the point? If there is no GSM radio built-in, I still have to carry a phone in addition to this camera. How is that any different from my non-Android camera? The whole point would be if someone released a good camera that could also replace my phone. If someone does that, I'm in.