Kodak revives brand with camera-centric smartphone

By James Titcomb

The Kodak Ektra claims to far surpass the cameras on mainstream smartphones. Photo / Kodak Website
The Kodak Ektra claims to far surpass the cameras on mainstream smartphones. Photo / Kodak Website

Kodak, the iconic camera company that famously failed to adapt to the world of digital and smartphone cameras, has unveiled a smartphone with a high-powered camera aimed at photography fanatics.

The company has teamed up with Bullitt, a Reading-based manufacturer that specialises in building unconventional handsets, to release the Ektra, a premium phone to go on sale this year.

The two hope to carve out a niche in the brutally competitive smartphone market by focusing on camera obsessives, rather than trying to challenge Apple, Samsung and Google directly. It is aimed at those who may already own a DSLR but want the convenience of having a quality camera with them at all times.

The Ektra - named after Kodak's ground-breaking 1941 camera that ushered in an era of accessible photography - claims to far surpass the cameras on mainstream smartphones.

It features a 21-megapixel camera, advanced menus for tweaking shots and Google Snapseed, a detailed editing app, as well as a dedicated shutter button and styling more reminiscent of a retro photography age than the glass and aluminium designs of modern handsets.

The Android handset is shaped like a camera, features a lens that dominates the rear of the phone, and comes with an SD card slot for extra storage. It has a powerful processor that allows it to instantly process the high-definition shots.

While it is the second Kodak smartphone produced by Bullitt, it is the first that truly aims to capitalise on the company's photography credentials. A previous device, released to a low-key launch last year, was aimed at novices.

Bullitt, founded in 2009, does not build self-branded handsets that compete with bigger manufacturers but designs electronics for niche areas of the market by licensing well-known brands.

It builds ultra-rugged handsets for JCB and Caterpillar, as well as speakers and headphones for Ted Baker and Ministry of Sound. It is also developing a Land Rover smartphone.

According to accounts filed at Companies House, Bullitt saw a 25pc increase in handsets sales last year, although revenues were flat at $99m (NZ$137m) due to a lower average sale price and it swung to a $2.8m (NZ$3.9m) loss as margins decreased and investments rose.

Millions of people identify themselves as keen photographers. This is clearly a niche segment but there are hundreds of thousands of people [in the UK] this would appeal to.
Charlie Henderson, Bullitt's product manager

"Millions of people identify themselves as keen photographers. This is clearly a niche segment but there are hundreds of thousands of people [in the UK] this would appeal to," said Charlie Henderson, Bullitt's product manager. "This stands out in a sea of black or white metal phones"

The Ektra, which will cost £449 (NZ$765) when released in December, is going on sale first in the UK and Europe, with Bullitt holding off on a launch in the US where sales are dominated by mobile networks. The company is in discussions with a number of retailers and operators about selling the device.

Kodak, which had failed to adapt to the rise of the digital camera and then the smartphone, declared bankruptcy in 2012. It sold its portfolio of patents to a group of technology investors including Apple and Google for $525m and re-emerged a year later.

Jeff Clarke, Kodak's chief executive, said: "Kodak has a rich history in imaging technology and the launch of the Kodak smartphone today demonstrates our ongoing commitment to bringing the latest advances in photography to consumers."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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