mobile photography technology, culture and community

Study shows app users ripe for physical photo purchases


A new study from research firm Suite 48 Analytics indicates an untapped market for app makers. 

The study reveals that 55% of North American photo app users have never ordered any type of photo output products -- think prints, mugs, calendars and more. 

Hans Hartman, principal analyst at Suite 48 Analytics and lead author of the report, interprets this information as an opportunity for app makers to offer their users easy ways to order photo products via their apps. 

Another recent survey from Suite 48 Analytics showed that only 5% of the circa 500 top ranking photo apps in the Apple and Google app stores offer any photo product creation or ordering functionality.

What do you think? Have you found any apps that do make it easy to order some kind of phycial output of your smartphone photography? 

Full press release

Contrary to conventional wisdom, smartphone and tablet photo app users are a significant opportunity for photo output product vendors

Data from a new study by Suite 48 Analytics shows the new generation of mobile photographers will buy photo products if given innovative apps and workflows

Photo app users are a largely untapped opportunity for the photo output industry, according to the new study, Photo Product Purchasing Survey among Mobile Photo App Users, which Suite 48 Analytics conducted among 982 North American and 515 European photo app users.

The study found that 42% of the North American photo app users are younger than 25 and 55% have never ordered any type of photo output products – let alone products that include any of their smartphone photos.

“The biggest bottleneck for this new generation of photo app users is not the quality of smartphone photos, as is often assumed”, says Hans Hartman Principal Analyst at Suite 48 Analytics and lead author of the report. “Only 13% of the photo app users stated that the quality of photos from their smartphone has held them back from ordering photo products. It turns out the bigger problem is a lack of innovative photo product creation and ordering apps, coupled with cumbersome creation and ordering workflows.”

Only 5% of the circa 500 top ranking photo apps in the Apple and Google app stores offer any photo product creation or ordering functionality, as reported in The Photo & Video App Market Analysis October Report, a recent study of the photo apps market by Suite 48 Analytics. Accordingly, it’s no surprise that the Photo Product Purchasing Survey among Mobile Photo App Users found that only 9% of smartphone users who order photo output products do this directly from their smartphone, and the corresponding figure for tablet users is just 25%.

According to Hartman, the lack of output product ordering capabilities in the apps is forcing smartphone and tablet users to revert to more complicated and burdensome workflows that involve uploading or transferring mobile device photos to larger screen devices, such as computers or kiosks. 

Based on information supplied by survey respondents, Hartman recommends a dual approach to accessing this untapped opportunity:

- In order to be successful with the “here and now generation” of photo app users, the industry needs easy apps that enable photo app users to immediately place orders for the simpler photo products (photo printings, greeting cards, mugs, T-shirts, etc.). These could be dedicated photo output product apps or product ordering features added to the more popular photo enhancement or sharing apps.

- Both this new generation and the older generation that is more familiar with ordering photo output products on their computer or kiosk, could benefit from easier and more ubiquitous workflows to have their photos at their fingertips at any time, on any device – without needing to plug in cables or USB sticks, or to manually upload photo files. These workflow improvements could be of particular value for the more complex photo products, such as multi-page photo books, which are harder to create on smaller screens.

Finally, the study also measured the potential for innovative photo apps that leverage the unique capabilities of smartphones as a photo taking platform. 34% of the photo app users who have never ordered photo output products containing smartphone photos declared themselves likely or very likely to order photo output products if given an app that automatically requested photos from friends who took photos at the same time and place. The study highlighted these findings as an example of how innovative photo apps could spur demand for photo output products.

The 96-page Photo Product Purchasing Survey among Mobile Photo App Users study address the following high-level topics:

  • Who were surveyed?
  • Which mobile devices and operating systems do they use for taking photos?
  • What apps do they use and why?
  • Have they ever ordered photo output products?  How?
  • Have they ever ordered photo output products that contain smartphone photos?
  • How do they order photo output products that contain smartphone photos?
  • What do they do with their photo output products that contain smartphone photos?
  • Why do they select particular photo output product ordering methods?
  • How satisfied are they with the photo output product ordering methods they use?
  • Would they consider ordering more photo output products with the right innovative app?
  • What would need to change before they’d order photo output products directly from their smartphones?
  • If they haven’t yet ordered any photo output products with smartphone photos, why not?
  • What could make them sway towards ordering photo output products with smartphone photos?
  • Appendix A: How are each of these questions answered differently by different demographics? (by gender, age, household type)
  • Appendix B: How are each of these questions answered differently by geography? (North Americans vs. Europeans)

The report includes 82 graphs and 13 tables.

For more information:

About Suite 48 Analytics

Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market, conducts app market analysis and research among smartphone and tablet users.

Reports include “The 6Sight Social Imaging Survey,” published by 6Sight/PMA, and “The Photo & Video App Market Analysis October Report,” and the “Photo Product Ordering in Photo Apps” free white paper. For more information:


Total comments: 8

Eh. The question is not what people perceive as a "gift". It is what they are willing to purchase.

And for the most part, people don't want physical products these days. When I've done experiments and provided high quality prints at-cost to parents for events with their children, even then it's almost impossible to get them to order prints and the like. The rare person will, but they are the exception.


"Have you found any apps that do make it easy to order some kind of phycial output of your smartphone photography?"

"Who were surveyed?"

I don't have any phycial output, and I don't know who were surveyed.


I use the iOS app "Cards" but it is ripe for replacing with something more customizable.


I think that they drew the wrong conclusion from the data. What it likely actually means: people aren't that all interested in physical photo outputs anymore.

Erin Lodi

Interesting argument. The full release may offer more insight into the report's conclusions. I've added it in full here.


I tend to agree. Yes, it could be easier to order physical photo products from a phone, but it may not make much difference if that happens.

At least the study did ask the question, "What do you do with the products you order?" I don't think people with smart phones are ordering photos to stick into physical scrapbooks! A coffee mug, a photo for a wall or tabletop, that's about all I can come up with.


Thanks for the feedback. We surveyed people who have downloaded at least 1 photo app on either their smartphone or tablet.

Yes, many might never order photo products, but it's not a "lost generation," as some people in the photo output industry sometimes tell us.

We found that if given a choice of interesting photo output products, with an attractive price, more convenient ways to create and order these products, and apps that truly leverage the smartphone (e.g. being location- and friends- aware when taking photos) a portion of these new generation photographers could be swayed toward ordering photo products.

Sharing a photo digitally is a convenient and fun way to share an experience - we all do it, but these digital photos are never going to be perceived as a *gift* by the recipient - unlike photo output products, such as personalized calendars, mugs or drinking bottles, just to name a few...
Hans Hartman, Suite 48 Analytics
- Author of the report


Touchnote, which has been offering, thanks to Samsung, free really high quality physical postcards during all the Olympics is great...

But the cost is now a bit too high for a regular use ($1.5/card, delivery included if bought by 5).

1 upvote
Total comments: 8
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