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Mobile industry sees boom in high-tech targeted ads Smartphone cameras step closer to high-end power

BARCELONA, Feb 27, (Agencies): You are strolling past a cafe when a discount coupon flashes up on your smartphone, tempting you to go inside and purchase a drink. But as you’re about to open the door, a rival offer pops up on the screen from a competitor across the street promising an even steeper discount, valid only for the next 10 minutes. As advanced mobile networks gain the capacity to analyse each user’s data, interpreting his or her surroundings and habits, spending on personalised publicity is expected to boom. Improved location and personal data-based advertising could generate as much as $44 billion (32 billion euros) a year in revenue by 2017 for network operators, according to a study by mobile network technology group Syniverse, published during the February 24-27 World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain.


Indeed, research house Gartner Inc. predicts that global mobile advertising will grow from an expected $18 billion this year to $42 billion in just three years, helped in part by geolocation-based publicity drawing in smaller, local advertisers.
For now, geolocation-based advertising exists only in a “very limited way” and has yet to reach its potential, said Mary Clark, head of marketing at Syniverse.
She suggested operators could already make inroads by sharing data about their customers with brands, so long as they withhold information that could identify individuals.
“The operators have a very valuable relationship with their consumers and they have data that is very valuable about their consumers,” Clark said.
The issue boils down to a question: “How do they leverage them while still maintaining the trust with their consumers and the relationship that they have?”
Expect sharper, clearer selfies this year.
Samsung Electronics Co. has beefed up the camera in its Galaxy S5 smartphone due for April release and added smarter camera software, following Sony and Nokia in their upgrades of handset cameras. The tweaks mean smartphone photos, ubiquitous nowadays because of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, will be closer in quality to images captured by digital single-lens reflex cameras, also known as DSLR.


How to give a super-thin smartphone the power of a DSLR camera that can capture moving images with clarity is a key challenge for the likes of Samsung, Sony, Nokia and LG as they try to differentiate their offerings in a crowded handset market. Their efforts to make smartphone cameras more powerful have taken a toll on the compact, point-and-shoot camera market, but catching up to the high-end cameras used by professional photographers had appeared a far-fetched ambition.
The gap is getting narrower thanks mainly to improvements in camera software and other technologies, but may never close completely.
The global wireless show that wraps up in Barcelona on Thursday showed smartphone makers using software trickery to offset their camera weaknesses: inferior image sensors and lack of optical zoom lens. The companies are also making photo manipulation on the phone easier to learn than manually controlling DSLR cameras.
Instead of touting their smartphones as thinner, lighter or bigger screened, Samsung, Sony and LG were boasting how their latest mobile gadgets can record ultra-high definition videos known as 4K, take big-pixel pictures without a second of delay and capture clearer images even at a low-light settings and when a subject is moving.


One trend in smartphone camera this year will be phase detection autofocus, previously available only in cameras with interchangeable lens, said Chris Chute, a director at research company IDC.
Samsung showcased the feature in the Galaxy S5, the latest version of the South Korean company’s flagship smartphone. It reduces the time it takes to focus on a subject to 0.3 second so even when the subject is moving, the image can be captured with a sharp edge, said Seshu Madhavapeddy, Samsung’s senior vice president for U.S. product and technology.
“Now that phones are starting to have this, consumers will only be more likely to use phones for not just everyday pictures, but more and more for special event photography,” Chute said.
With the 16 megapixel rear camera in the Galaxy S5, it is possible to preview the result of applying high dynamic range imaging to pictures. HDR imaging usually helps create better pictures in extreme lighting conditions but with digital cameras, it is processed after snapping a photo.
LG showed off how its high-end G Pro 2 smartphone can selectively blur and sharpen a picture by tapping the area that a user wants to adjust. This feature, which adds depth to a photo, was a major trait in DSLR cameras. While DSLR cameras did this trick in the image’s raw data by changing the lens aperture, the G Pro 2 does it through software after the photo is taken in a special mode. The Galaxy S5 offers a similar option though less sophisticated.


Nokia is also betting big on powerful camera features to lure buyers from Samsung and Apple Inc. Among Nokia’s major products is the Lumia 1020 smartphone announced last year, which can take 38 megapixel images. Larger pixels in the camera don’t necessarily mean a better picture, which also depends on the lens and image sensors. But bigger pixels allow taking photos with sufficient details for poster-size prints, something that professional photographers are keen on. Other high-end smartphone cameras are around or below 20 megapixels.
Sony’s Xperia Z2 smartphone, announced at the Mobile World Congress, has a rear camera with 20.7 megapixels, same as the predecessor Z1, but Sony upgraded the camera’s video-recording power to 4K. The Z2 is also equipped with technologies that allow users to capture moving subjects blur-free.
All these handsets from Samsung, Sony and LG can record ultra-HD picture quality video, something that isn’t widespread among stand-alone cameras.
 

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