Camera phones can brighten up wireless operators' balance sheets by offering "serious incremental revenues" if they deliver appropriate services.
Analyst firm IDC said that camera phone sales will continue to climb, with worldwide shipments increasing from 19 million in 2002 to 298 million in 2007.
But the success of related digital image services hinges on user satisfaction.
IDC's study found that almost half of respondents planning to purchase a camera phone in the next six months would be willing to pay more than $21 per month (in addition to their standard service charge) for the ability to send and receive images over their mobile phone.
But history shows that one-third of current subscribers stop taking advantage of this functionality in just a few months.
Increasing user satisfaction to stabilise retention rates is therefore critical for the long-term success of the market, the analyst firm warned.
"Operators and device vendors are beginning to recognise the importance of lowering the barriers to camera phone adoption and usage for subscribers," said Chris Chute, senior analyst at IDC.
"Everyone wants to grow their revenue streams. But if prices are high and subscribers aren't compelled by the offerings - either services or hardware - they will quickly lose interest."
The study said vendors are addressing these roadblocks by developing easy-to-use camera phones that require a minimal number of button presses to capture and transmit photos.
IDC observed that vendors are also entering into partnerships with operators, such as the recent Nokia/T-Mobile/Amazon deal, which effectively allow subscribers to obtain a new camera phone at no cost.
On the operator side, low-cost/no-cost image transmission services are being offered to new subscribers for a limited time to encourage early adoption.
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