In 2014, smartphone companies started creating products for the biggest social phenomenon of our times
Selfie: A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.
If the Oxford dictionary included this “early 21st century word” in its dictionary, it is a testament of how this tech-driven social passion has become a global phenomenon. If the world now shoots over 2 billion photographs a day, we can be sure that a bulk of these are shot on the smartphone and a chunk of those are selfies meant to be shared at that very moment. For me, 2014 was the year of the selfie.
This year, everyone from heads of states to three-year-olds were an active part in taking the front-facing camera’s capabilities viral, thus making the big phenomenon big enough for companies to change their product strategies. It is tough for technology companies to ignore something that is this strong and widespread. So through the year you have smartphone companies adapting to give a better selfie. By the end of the year, there were enough selfie camera phones for sale that traditional camera companies would soon be trying to tackle this new threat to their very existence.
The first smartphones that started touting themselves as selfie specialists were those that had a 5-megapixel camera in front. Traditionally, the front camera was neglected as the only known use was to do a video call once in a while. But as more and more people started making duck faces and pouts before these lenses, the companies had no choice but to offer better cameras up front. “Selfies became a global phenomenon with the introduction of front-facing camera smartphones. With the advent of the ‘individual’ and the availability to share pictures instantly on social media using tools such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc, a self-portrait or ‘selfie’ has established itself as the new form of self-expression, and recognition from friends and peers,” says Sachin Rai, Business Head, Xperia, Sony India. Sony has introduced the Xperia C3 with a 5-megapixel camera with front LED flash targeted at selfie lovers.
But while 5-megapixel cameras can offer a selfie as a much better resolution, a lot of companies started pushing the front camera to new frontiers this year. Almost kick-starting the trend was the Oppo N1 with a unique rotating camera. The phone had a 13-megapixel camera that could rotate 206-degrees to face front if needed. So you have 13-megapixel resolution and quality on both sides, enough to satisfy any self-obsessed photographer. Towards the latter part of the year, HTC took things to another level by offering 13-megapixel cameras on both sides in the Desire Eye, promising the same results without the need to rotate anything. This offered another possibility, of being able to click at the same time with the front and back cameras and superimposing the two together. The Taiwanese phone company aptly named its launch event in New York Double Exposure. Closer home, Micromax too announced the Canvas Selfie a smartphone with two 13-megapixel cameras, underlining that this was a feature that no one could tend to overlook any more.
But the power of the selfie is not fully expressed with hardware alone. People want to tweak their photos, add filters, maybe even some red hair and extra large goggles to go with it and make the selfie more fun. That is why camera apps across brands are being updated or replaced. Lumia phones, for instance, have a Lumia Selfie app that opens with the front camera and offers lots of edits before you share the photo online. It also lets you shoot with the rear camera where the phone recognises when you are ready, and steady enough, for the shot. HTC has the Eye camera app that gives you timers, dual camera shots and other tweaks that selfie addicts will love. Sony bundles its ProSelfieCam and Portrait Retouch app on Xperia C3. Everyone is doing something.
But if selfies were about one person, or maybe a couple with their kid, 2014 brought in the concept of the wide selfie. Smartphone companies started adding wider front-facing cameras so that more and more people could be accommodated in the shot. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a 90-degree wide angle front camera and an added wide selfie mode that increases this angle to over 120-degrees. The Lumia 730 too claims similar capabilities, letting you add more faces into the frame. Plus, most of these cameras also come with voice trigger, sensor or timer options that let you shoot a selfie without actually touching the screen and thus shaking up the picture. For those who need an even wider angle there is always the selfie stick which is becoming as popular as the selfie itself. Now, go click your selfie.