Digital Photo Frames Lose their Luster

Ed Lee
Jun 15, 2011

Just a few years ago, the digital photo frame was the star of the imaging industry. But the luster has worn off rather quickly. A number of factors have led to the passing of the baton. Some include: alternative methods for viewing photos becoming available, digital photo frames not making it past the gifting stage, and updating content on the frame takes work.

When digital photo frames arrived on the scene, they were the best alternative for viewing photos that were trapped in cameras, on computers, and online services. With the recent introduction of new products and services, photos can now be viewed on a wide variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and televisions. The instant viewing and portability aspects of smartphones and tablets make for easier and more pleasurable photo viewing. No more being tied to the AC adapter in the wall. According to InfoTrends’ 2011 Connected Experience survey, viewing photos is one of the top five most popular activities among tablet owners. Furthermore, HD televisions offer a viewing experience on the largest and best screen in the house. Why limit photo viewing to an 8-inch screen when there is a 42-inch HDTV in the same room?

Digital photo frames were a hot gift item for early and late adopting consumers. Early adopters loved them because they were the latest and coolest technology, but now they have moved on to tablets. Late adopters received them as gifts because photo viewing was a relatively easy task. In most cases, inserting a memory card into the frame started a slideshow. Digital photo frames have not caught on with the majority of the mainstream market. InfoTrends research shows a household penetration rate of under 15% in 2011. While the market will continue to grow, household penetration is unlikely to exceed 20% within the next five years.

Getting fresh content to the frames has been a challenge. Services like FrameChannel pushed content like weather, news, and photos to frames, but Thinking Screen Media just announced today that it was shutting down the service due to challenges with the economy and its financial situation. Whether another company steps in to fill this void remains to be seen.

The one bright spot for the digital photo frame market is the Wi-Fi-enabled frame. Wireless connectivity offers the ability to access personal content effortlessly. A good example is the Kodak Pulse frame system, which allows consumers to email photos to the frame and to connect to photos on Facebook and Kodak Gallery. For the digital photo frame market to stay relevant, the remaining vendors must build the services that integrate their Wi-Fi-enabled frames into the Digital Imaging Ecosystem. Otherwise, digital frames will end up on the side table among the analog picture frames, where the picture hasn’t changed in the last ten years.

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