Huawei P20 Pro is almost out, and it has the best smartphone camera ever made. This is despite the fact that a smartphone is a device whose top two functions are 1. Communication and 2. Content consumption; where content consumption includes areas such as Internet browsing, social media, video viewing, photo viewing, and/or gaming. The third function of a smartphone is content creation, but when ranked against communication and content consumption, content creation comes a distant third. In as much as content creation can be done using a smartphone, no professional content should ever be created with a smartphone, a simple rule of thumb that smartphone companies like Huawei seem to have forgotten.
Content is broad. Content such as this article, Office Work (Accounting, Bookkeeping, Spreadsheets, Databases, Word Processing), Professional Photography, Filming, Audio Production, Research and Data Analysis, and similar others cannot easily be created via smartphones – no matter how smart the smartphone App for that particular professional content is. This is mainly due to design, size, and hardware limitations inherent in smartphones.
Despite the obvious fact that professional content mentioned above cannot easily be created via smartphones, we find smartphone companies led by Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo and a few others paying too much attention to making smartphone cameras mimic capabilities of professional DSLRs or mirrorless cameras at the expense of the two core functions of smartphones. For example, you will find Google implementing AI on the Google Pixel 2 XL to allow the phone create professional like portrait photos, yet the company has not invested as much resources to ensure intelligent network signal reception in areas where there are poor network coverage, or greatly improve consumption of social media messages.
The obsession smartphone companies have with smartphone cameras has seen almost all companies implement dual rear cameras on their flagships, with Huawei going a step further to implement a triple camera on the Huawei P20 Pro. The implementation of a triple camera on the Huawei P20 Pro has given the smartphone a name in the industry, as tests with this camera has shown it is better than any flagship camera out there – including iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, which have been carrying the crown for best camera smartphones before the arrival of Huawei P20 Pro. But I really wonder – to what end?
Browse around. Look at selfie photos being uploaded by your friends across social media platforms. Then tell me, do you see anything close to a professional photo being taken by your friends using their high end smartphones? Your friends, and any other lay person in the streets, are most likely non-professional photographers. They have little or no understanding on image composition and framing, ISO, White Balance, Manual Exposure, and a few other photography basics that are required for an aesthetically done professional photo. The ordinary non-professional photographers who take the billions and trillions of photos per day using smartphones do not care about the improved capabilities of smartphone cameras, and no matter how the smartphone companies want to make the smartphone cameras have the capabilities of high end DSLRs and mirrorless professional cameras, the type of images that smartphone consumers will take using their phones will still be armature.
Secondly, professional photographers, videographers and filmmakers are not going to start using smartphone cameras to create high end professional content anytime soon – may be never. I am not seeing a time when a wedding photographer will charge a client over Kshs 50,000 and appear for the job with Huawei P20 Pro as his/her primary camera or even as a backup camera. I am not seeing a time when principal photography for a Hollywood Blockbuster will be done using an iPhone X. Not only that, but even random photos and videos done by the pros are not done using the small, inadequate and limiting smartphone cameras.
What the two scenarios tell us is that it is a waste of time and resources for the smartphone companies to continue investing in improving the capabilities of smartphone cameras. Just the same way Samsung stopped investing in making smartphones become productive devices for office work, just the same way they stopped producing their rather clumsy and ugly looking Samsung Galaxy Zooms, is the same way all smartphone companies should stop putting resources in dual/triple camera smartphones – and concentrate in bettering the two primary functions of smartphones – communication and content consumption.
Smartphone companies should invest their resources in bettering smartphones’ signal reception for voice and video calls, ensuring available of cellular signals everywhere across the globe, making smartphone screens smarter and sharper, and improving hardware designs to make content consumption seamless. Investing on cameras on the other hand has made the flagship smartphones more than twice as expensive compared to top end pricing five years ago, but hasndone nothing to improve how people actually use their smartphones.
As a consumer you may be lured to buy a phone such as Huawei P20 Pro for over Kshs 100,000 simply because it has triple cameras at the back and a 24MP front facing camera. But if you strip the camera from the phone, you’d end up with a device that is as good as another one being sold for Kshs 50,000 or less. To make matters worse, you’ll find that someone is ready to spend an extra Kshs 50,000 for device whose major advantage (the triple camera implementation), will not be of any practical use to him or her. If it is a her, you’ll find that most of the time the phone will be used composing endless messages on WhatsApp followed by taking hundreds of daily selfies for IG and snapchat – phone functions that can be achieved by an under Kshs 20,000 device. If it is a him, you’ll most probably find him using the Huawei P20 Pro for scrolling down Twitter and Facebook Timelines looking for selfies taken by a her…and never use that phone for taking any selfies let alone any professional photo – a marketing gimmick Huawei used to lure him to buy that device.