Some of the newest mobile phones from the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson are equipped with high quality video cameras capable of recording up to an hour’s worth of video without an additional memory card.

Nearly 30% of mobile phones shipped worldwide in 2005 were outfitted with video recorders, up from 17% in 2004, according to research from IDC.

Josh Stoneman is addicted to his cellphone — not for talking, but for making movies. The 35-year-old advertising copy editor has used his mobile phone to shoot videos of a squirrel taking a dirt bath in the park, a drag queen performing “Stairway to Heaven” on a fire escape, even drunken friends dancing at a party.

Now, Mr. Stoneman estimates he takes one video a week. “This phone has changed my life,” he says.

Mobile phones with video-recording capabilities have come of age. Released in increasing numbers over the past two years, the latest models take higher-quality pictures than their predecessors, record as much as an hour of video without a memory card and transfer the final product at higher speeds than before. This March, LG and Samsung both introduced phones with 1.3-megapixel video-capable cameras — up from a mobile phone’s typical 0.3 megapixels — that retail for about $99 each. Sony Ericsson and Nokia have even fancier camera-phones on the way, with 3.2 and 3.0 megapixels, respectively, and video stabilization, which helps prevent jerky images — a first for cellphones. They should hit stores this summer with a $599 suggested price tag.

Mixed Messaging

New features are another way, of course, for makers to draw attention in a crowded market. Mobile-phone sales in the U.S. are projected to reach $16 billion this year, up from $13.5 billion in 2005, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Manufacturers hope consumers will embrace short-clip video messaging — which generally download in seconds — with the same fervor as they have text messaging. The percentage of cellphones that can record video is climbing: making up about 30% of those shipped world-wide in 2005, up from 17% in 2004, according to David Linsalata, an analyst at market research firm IDC.

But how many people make movies with their mobiles? The videos still aren’t camcorder quality, and as with digital photos, it might be hard to find an appreciative audience. Mr. Stoneman, for one, says he would take more videos if he knew “people were actually watching them before hitting delete.”

Even award-winner Mike Potter is on the fence. Last January, Mr. Potter,won his college’s 2005 CellFlix Festival — the first annual phone-film contest, which drew 178 entries of 30-second clips from students nationwide — with a clip that featured his grandparents. Though he upgraded to a video phone to enter the festival, Mr. Potter says he hasn’t shot a clip since taking home the prize. “I can see how they would be good for capturing on-the-spot moments happening right in front of you,” he says. “Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced one of those moments yet.”

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