Originally published in the USA Today
Eastman Kodak Co. is making another push into the crowded smartphone market, announcing a camera-focused device Thursday that becomes available overseas later this year.
The new Kodak Ektra smartphone is Android-based and won’t be released in the United States until next year. Still, the Rochester-based company is describing the device as a “unique hybrid of photography innovation and DSLR functionality” with a larger and more powerful lens allowing for higher-quality images, particularly in low-lit areas, CEO Jeffrey Clarke said on CNN this morning.
“It’s going to help you with all sorts of different photography,” Clarke said. “We think this is the most unique — the best camera phone — a camera that has a phone rather than a phone that as a second thought has a camera.”
Kodak officials are hoping their new smartphone will bring revenue to the company and compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung. The company reported $8 million in net income in August, its first officially profitable quarter since emerging from bankruptcy.
“The iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy, etc. are pretty generic so having an exceptional camera is a market we think people are going to want,” Clarke said.
This is Kodak’s second attempt at the smartphone market after launching its IM5 last year.
The Ektra camera offers an adjustable shutter speed with a 21-megapixel main camera a f/2.0 aperture. It also offers optical image stabilization, auto focus and a 13-megapixel front-facing camera. The device has a 5-inch high definition display offering 1080 resolution and the ability to capture 4K video. Corning’s Gorilla glass provides screen and lens protection.
The smartphone won’t be made in Rochester and its U.S. release won’t have an impact on locally based Kodak jobs.
Clarke said the smartphone takes Kodak “back to our roots,” paying homage to a previous company camera called the Ektra.
“The original Kodak Ektra camera was launched in 1941 and in its latest reincarnation opens up a world of creative opportunities to all who care about photography,” the CEO said in a statement.
Clarke said the Bullitt Group, based in the United Kingdom, is manufacturing the device. It’s not yet available in Europe, but when it is, the price will be 449 pounds, or $550. The company hasn’t released a price for the U.S. market.
Kodak is diving back into smartphones during what some might view as an inopportune time.
Recent figures from the International Data Corp show shipments of cell phones to the U.S. customers is flattening this year. For example, the number of Samsung phones has dropped .6 percent and the number of Apple phones has dropped 16 percent. The decreases, analysts say, stem from Chinese manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo and Huawei gaining more ground in the smartphone customer market.
Rachel Lashford, vice president of analysis for California-based Canalys Chinese smartphone manufacturer are being aggressive about selling overseas.
“These vendors are expanding beyond China, nurturing their channels, spending on marketing and making their differentiation around technology and positioning abundantly clear to consumers,” she said.