Strategy Flip Out: iPhone 4, Other Smartphones Are Going to Swallow the Flipcam Market

Last Updated Jun 30, 2010 8:52 AM EDT

As point-and-shoot cameras fall to smartphones, the Apple (APPL) iPhone 4 and its brethren seem to be cannibalizing another category: the Flip cam. Cisco's (CSCO) popular brand is now synonymous with handheld video cameras (think Kleenex to tissue), but the increasingly powerful smartphones mean the Flip cam will have to do some strategizing -- fast.

Jay Yarow and William Wei at The Business Insider:

How does the iPhone's new HD video camera compare to the Flip Mino HD? Good enough that we don't think any iPhone 4 owner would ever need to buy a Flip.

The image is better on the Flip, but not so much better to justify buying and carrying another video camera. Lucky for Flip, there's only (maybe) a million or more iPhone 4 owners. Long term, though, that will change and Flip is pretty much screwed.

"Screwed" is a bit much, especially since Flip currently has several millions users. That said, the iPhone 4 has certain advantages at this point.
  • All-in-one: The iPhone 4 cam comes along with the phone service, FaceTime video chat, and, of course, hundreds of thousands of apps.
  • More for your money: The iPhone 4 is $199, $30 cheaper than the aforementioned Flip MinoHD.
  • More battery power: The iPhone 4 battery can last for several hours. Most Flips can do up to 2 hours of video on one battery charge.
However, unlike the near moribund point-and-shoot camera category and questionably relevant GPS devices, Flip can actually preserve some of its market by highlighting certain aspects.
  • Even better low-light sensitivity: The iPhone 4 has an LED flash, but the Flip series has ultra low-light sensitivity (for photogs, up to >1.4 V/lux-sec) that adjusts the brightness. Online iPhone 4 user discussions regarding dark environments will probably begin shortly.
  • Emphasize a cheaper, single-purchase alternative: Where's the iPhone 4's iPod Touch counterpart? For now, users will have to ride with AT&T (ATT) and its expensive plans -- and the extra one-time fee for a Flip cam seems reasonable. Priced between $149 and $279, a Flip MSRP cut would create an even better lane for Cisco's product.
The Flip's powerful specs and better video aren't enough to encourage the average consumer to care, but emphasizing the excellent environmental light and a low-cost video solution could stave off the iPhone's cannibalizing march.

Photo courtesy of Krassy Can Do It Related: