This was the Kyocera VP-210, the first camera phone in history (selfies included)

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Today we take for granted that we can take relatively good pictures with our mobile phones. These incorporate increasingly sophisticated cameras and even some manufacturers are taking the first steps to place the front sensor below the screen. However, two decades ago this feature was a real novelty.

In 1999, the world’s first camera mobile phone was launched. It was about the Kyocera VP-210, a terminal that, like many other models, was sold only in Japan. The device featured a 0.11-megapixel CMOS sensor and a 5-centimeter (2-inch) reflective TFT LCD screen capable of displaying 65,000 colors.

The first with a camera and front!

A curious detail, as we can see in the images, is that it was a front camera. The internal storage space (and the only one available) allowed a maximum of 20 JPEG images to be taken, which could be sent by email. In addition, the mobile phone I could make video callsbut this feature was severely limited.

Kyocera VP 210 The World's First Camera Mobile Phone 4

From Kyocera Marketing explained the benefits of the video call system with the following example: “If a builder takes this phone to a construction site, he can show how the place is”. However, video calls worked only 2 frames per second and the operator DDI Pocket (currently Ymobile) charged additional charges for data usage.

Another of the limitations that the Kyocera VP-210 had was that it could only make video calls with other terminals of its type. It also used the PHS mobile network (mainly available in Japan, China and Taiwan) whose antennas had a maximum range of hundreds of meters, as opposed to the range of kilometers of CDMA and GSM technologies.

Limited, but at the same time advanced for its time

At that time mobile phones only allowed voice calls and, in some cases, SMS, but Kyocera wanted to add one more functionality: to communicate with another person by seeing their face on the screen. Thus, the company worked for two years with its research and development team to bring the VP-210 to life.

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However, the phone was not as successful as expected. Others were added to the aforementioned limitations, such as the fact that it was more expensive than the average of the time (it cost 40,000 yen, about US$325) and arrived at a time when the size of the components had not been reduced so much, so its dimensions and weight were generous (140x54x29 mm and 165 g).

Samsung Sch V200 Sharp J Sh04

But the phone from the Kyoto-based manufacturer set a precedent and other manufacturers began to bet on camera phones. In June 2000, Samsung launched in South Korea the SCH-V200 (to the left of the image above), with a 0.35 MP camera. In November of that same year Sharp did the same in Japan with the J-SH04with a 0.11 MP sensor (on the right).

The truth is that mobile phone cameras have been improving considerably over time, an evolution that has caused a strong change in the industry and in consumers. The data from Statistical leave it out: digital camera sales fell 87% between 2010 and 2019and this trend is expected to continue.

Currently we have completely ambitious terminals when it comes to photography. Among the best that we have been able to test this year is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which has four rear cameras and a laser sensor. Also, the iPhone 13 Pro, which incorporates three rear cameras and the support of the computational photography.

Images | Kyocera | Samsung | Sharp

Today we take for granted that we can take relatively good pictures with our mobile phones. These incorporate increasingly sophisticated…

Today we take for granted that we can take relatively good pictures with our mobile phones. These incorporate increasingly sophisticated…

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