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EE gets in on the camera action

Michael Garwood
June 22, 2015

Operator launches world’s first 4G live action camera to spearhead connected device strategy

EE CEO Olaf Swantee predicted sales of ‘connected devices’ will top those of smartphones in under two years, as he unveiled EE’s latest drive into new markets with the 4G Action Cam.

According to Swantee, who was speaking at an intimate launch event in Central London this month, more than 20 per cent of EE’s 10 million 4G customers now have a secondary connection, such as a tablet or mobile WiFi device.

The new Action Cam, which goes on sale on June 16, is the latest move by EE to enter and ‘mobilise’ new markets, having launched EE TV in November.

Swantee said EE was at a “tipping point” with 4G having achieved 90 per cent UK coverage (as of this month) and the time was right to utilise its network across into new market segments.

“It’s our ambition to connect as many products as possible,” said Swantee discussing EE ‘connected strategy at BAFTA’s head quarters. “We have nearly 31 million connections on our network, with the highest growth coming from those new connected products such as tablets.

“With a big commitment to innovation and new products we believe we can be the first operator moving beyond mobile into new categories and new connected devices. Fundamentally we believe we are entering a new phase of ubiquitous connectivity and EE wants to enable customers to connect to a network with new devices. That’s what our vision is all about.”

Get connected
According to forecasters Gartner, the number of ‘connected devices’ being used globally will increase 30 per cent to 4.9 billion this year. That figure is set to reach 30 billion globally by 2020, with the estimated market value (including service revenues) rocketing from $69.5 billion to $263 billion during the same period.

Smartphone sales are expected to rise from 1.3 billion this year, to around 2.5 billion.

Swantee said it was important for EE to capitalise on these opportunities, revealing four new business areas; Connected Business, Connected Home, Connected Car and finally Connected You in which the new Action Cam falls under.

“Over the past two years we’ve witnessed how 4G connectivity has changed behaviour and instilled a desire to connect and communicate instantaneously when out and about. We’ve introduced our ‘connected strategy’ as we understand our customers not only want superfast coverage, they want products that give them the very best experiences, coupled with the most innovative and exciting ways in which to share them.”

Action Cameras are one of the fastest growing segments in the camera space – with sales set to double to almost nine million by 2018.

2/10/13 Picture by Ashley Bingham. Picture taken for EE.

EE CMO Pippa Dunn (pictured right) told Mobile News the operator first started exploring the idea of a connected camera allowing for live 4G video broadcasting around 18 months ago, but discovered the technology, nor a comparable product, did not exist.

Dunn later held a meeting during Mobile World Congress 2014 with Taiwanese firm Qisda, who manufactured EE’s Harrier and Harrier Mini smartphone devices, and they took on the challenge.

“The action camera is the fastest growing part of camera technology,” said Dunn. “We felt there was a real opportunity because people not only want to record things, but
they also want to share their life as it happens, something we have seen with apps like Periscope (one million users in the first 10 days).

“We went out and spoke to pretty much everyone you could possibly think of in this market. We talked about our vision and where we felt the opportunity laid, and believe it or not, there wasn’t a product anywhere in the world that was able to fit the needs of what we had. Rather than wait for someone else, we decided to partner up and built it ourselves. That’s what we have done and we have built the world’s first 4G live streaming camera. Because of the quality of our 4G network, you can share it live and instantly.”

Design and features
The device, the first of several expected to launch this year, is being targeted predominantly at those involved in extreme sports and places, according to Dunn, you “wouldn’t normally take a camera” through fear of damage, such as the beach or in water.

As a result, the camera comes with a (optional) fully waterproof case that will protect it up to 60 metres.

Other features include a 2260mAh battery which can last up to three hours and is capable of capturing both full HD video (1080p) and 13MP stills. Users can also reduce the definition to capture 60 frames per seconds footage. It weighs 128g and comes with 4GB of internal storage, plus space for a microSD card up to 64GB.

Users are able to broadcast their videos live over 4G (or 3G if not available), or simply record and save them to an SD card,

Dunn claims the device is capable of competing with anything else on the market – mentioning market leader GoPro, which doesn’t offer mobile connectivity, on numerous occasions.

She added the Action Cam has been designed specifically to ensure the best user experience, with users also receiving a separate watch, which allows the user to see which direction the camera is facing (if on a helmet for example), as well as control the recording and/or live broadcast.

“Quite often when you see people using action cameras they are wandering along spending time trying to work out if their camera is pointed in the right direction, or checking whether it is on or actually recording. We thought, why don’t we create a companion app and watch which allows you to effectively have a viewfinder on your wrist and total control. It’s a very simple thing but actually dramatically enhances the overall user experience.”

Price and availability
The device has already captured the attention of some of the UK’s leading technology retailers, with Selfridges, Carphone Warehouse, Jessops and Amazon already confirmed as stockists.

The device is also available to buy as part of a number of EE prepay and contract packaged.

Customers on an existing EE Shared plan can purchase the device for £99.99 and pay an additional £10 per month over a two year period.

Existing EE contract customers can receive the device for free by signing a two year data contract for £15 per month with a monthly allowance of 2GB. Alternatively customers can receive 10GB of data on EE’s ‘double speed’ network for £20 per month over the same period. Non EE customers signing up to any EE contract will be charged an initial £49.99 for the device.

Prepay customers – where Dunn expects most of the business to come from – can pay £299.99 which includes the device and 2GB of data for the first 30 days. Customers are required to purchase additional data bundles thereafter. Or for £399.99 customers will receive the device and 24GB of data (2GB per month) for the year.

Swantee concluded: “The Action Cam is the first of several highly innovative products from our devices portfolio to be unveiled this year for work and for play, offering a video experience like no other currently available on the market.”

For the full coverage, see Mobile News issue 591.

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