Video apps for smartphones get more popular

Dec 8 2011 - 3:05pm

The humble camcorder may be going the way of the point-and-shoot camera, largely replaced by a device that's already in your pocket.

Smart-phone applications for recording video have yet to explode in popularity like certain apps for taking photos, such as 14 million-user Instagram.

But some video apps are rapidly approaching those kind of user numbers. At least one of them will be a breakout hit, said Michael Seibel, CEO of Socialcam -- and 2012 will be the year it happens.

"What it really comes down to is the devices," said Seibel, 29. "Fundamentally, 30 million Americans are 5 feet away from a video camera 24 hours a day. It's never been that way before."

In March, Seibel's three-person team launched Socialcam, a free app that makes it easy to capture and share videos on iPhone and Android devices. Nine months later, the company has gained 3 million users.

Socialcam and its peers in the video-sharing category, including Vlix, Viddy and HighlightCam, are riding a new wave of interest in mobile video. Already, 46 percent of smart-phone users worldwide capture video on their devices, according to research firm eMarketer. Of those, 17 percent capture a video once a day.

Even more people are watching video on phones: 19.5 million in the United States last year, according to IDC, which predicts the figure will reach 69.7 million by 2015.

Companies like Socialcam have tried to make taking videos more fun by borrowing an idea from photo apps and letting users apply various filters to their videos, giving them a more cinematic feel, and by enabling easy sharing with friends and family, who can respond to and comment on them.

The result has been a new willingness among users to record video of small moments in addition to big events like graduations and birthday parties.

"When we first started this, there were no smart phones," said John Love, co-founder and CEO of One True Media, which makes Vlix. "People had to walk around with a dedicated video camera to take video. As a result, all the video they took was of major events and holidays. With the mobile phone, that just completely changes the video opportunity. What you see is people taking video of everyday life events, sharing things like kids playing in the leaves."

Vlix started this summer as a free app and is helping drive new users to the company's Web service, which uses a subscription model. The company recently released a Holiday Video Cards app for recording holiday greetings and sharing them with loved ones.

Even as the rise of smart phones has made them popular, video apps still face hurdles in gaining wider adoption. People generally find it easier and more fun to snap a picture or two than to record a clip, and are more confident in their abilities as casual photographers than cinematographers.

"Video takes more effort -- more mental engagement," said Rob Neivert, CEO of HighlightCam, which creates slick-looking miniature movies from unedited smart phone footage. "Taking a quick shot or picture, you might take five and throw four away. With video, it takes a while to get good."

E-mail Casey Newton at cnewton@sfchronicle.com. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com

 

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