Android brings a cameraphone without the phone

The lines between different pocket digital devices have been further blurred: Nikon is releasing a digital camera that runs the Android operating system.

The Coolpix S800c is an attempt to win back some of the business that’s been lost since many people decided a smartphone camera was good enough that they could live without a separate camera.

According to Nikon, the idea is to offer a device that offers all the convenience and connectivity of a smartphone (minus, of course, making phone calls) but with a superior camera. The S800c has a 16-megapixel lens that is billed as working even in poor lighting conditions, a 10x optical zoom, and full HD video recording. It also has many features you’d expect from a digital camera such as panorama, continuous mode, motion detection and vibration reduction.

The camera can run any Android app (including those with nothing to do with photography) on the touchscreen at the rear, though it only has Wi-Fi connection rather than 3G. If you can get online, you can instantly access Nikon’s online storage facility for an “infinite” photo album. There’s also a GPS tool that can geotag pictures as well as providing the data for location-based apps.

The main selling point however is that the camera is a “social imaging device” allowing you to instantly share pictures online and get comments from friends. (Well, as instantly as you can find WiFi.)

One major problem is that the camera costs $350. While that’s considerably cheaper than many high-end smartphones (once you take into account SIM-free price or contract payments), and it may be a “fair” price for a quality camera, it may simply be too much for many potential buyers.

As it’s not going to be a substitute for a smartphone, it’s going to be a duplicate for most potential customers. And while smartphone cameras are generally inferior to this dedicated device, it’s likely most people will find their phone camera is good enough that they don’t see a need to pay so much extra cash.

The biggest limitation is that for this device to really flourish it would need 3G access, at which point people who wanted a great camera could get this and make do with a crappy budget featurephone for voice calls. But once you add 3G you’re in the world of monthly service plans, at which point you might as well just get a smartphone.