Under Cisco, Flip would launch the UltraHD and MinoHD video cameras in September 2010. The devices were priced between $149 and $229, or roughly the cost of a new smartphone. And therein rests the problem. Sure, millions of users would shoot video, upload it to their computers, edit it, and share it via Facebook, YouTube or email from the Flip, but in recent years, so did multiple smartphones. Pure Digital Co-founder Jonathan Kaplan left Cisco this past February.
Unfortunately for Cisco and the Flip, Apple's iPhone 3GS would add video-recording capabilities at up to 30 frames per second with audio. It also has a "tap to focus" feature (which lets users center their video shoot) and geotagging.
When the iPhone 4 launched last summer, users could shoot HD 720p video at up to 30 frames per second with audio. Moreover, the iPhone 4 boasted a 5-megapixel still camera that shoots VGA-quality photos and video at up to 30 frames per second. Content can be geotagged.
Moreover, the iPhone 4 would let users edit right from their phone and create movies with the iMovie video application—which, for $4.99, lets users combine and edit video clips, add music and photos, and share movies on social networks.
If the full-featured video capture, playback and editing werent enough, users could record themselves with the VGA camera on the front. Moreover, the FaceTime application let users do video chats, something the Flip wasnt meant to do. More and more, the iPhone was becoming the Swiss Army knife of digital communications.
It wasn't just the iPhone, though at 100 million sold to date, it would be more than enough to render the Flip obsolete. Handset makers began pumping out Android smartphones with video capture and playback by the boatload, starting in November 2009 with the Motorola Droid from Verizon Wireless. Launched in November 2009, the Droid offered DVD quality (720 by 480 resolution) playback.
HTC Evo 4G
The following spring, HTC and Sprint would launch the HTC Evo 4G, the first Android smartphone with a 4.3-inch WVGA (800 by 480) touch-screen and 8MP camera geared for entertainment and media consumption. Users could record video in 720p.
Motorola Droid X
Motorola must have been feeling jealous after the June launch of the Evo 4G. The company again partnered with Verizon to sell the Motorola Droid X, which like the Evo 4G sports a 4.3-inch screen (854 by 480 resolution) and 8MP camera. The Droid X also let users capture high-definition videos at 720p HD (1280 by 720p resolution) for playback on HDTV. Clearly, the phone makers keep upping the ante, making it hard for the Flip to compete at similar prices when it only focuses on video.
Motorola Atrix 4G
Motorola continued its video recording and playback trend in February this year with the Motorola Atrix 4G, which captures video in 720p on AT&T's network that the mobile carrier is planning to upgrade to 4G. Playback was 720p at launch, but Motorola upgraded to 1080p over the air later. The 4-inch screen is a crisp, clear quarter-high-definition screen with a 960 by 540 resolution.
Finally, we're topping it off with the last high-end Android handset we got to play with, the HTC Thunderbolt 4G from Verizon Wireless. The speedy 4G network ran applications on this phone in spectacular fashion in New York City. Video recorded well in HD 720p. The device also has an 8MP camera with autofocus, LED Flash and a 1.3MP front-facing camera for video chat.
With the wide availability of 720p video capture and playback features on smartphones that rapidly upgraded to 1080p along with the rapidly evolving software on the iPhone and competing premium Android handsets, it's understandable why Cisco decided it couldn't support the Flip any longer. The company clearly realized that sole-purpose devices would find it hard to survive in the market as video cameras on phones continued to improve. With devices such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S II, which sports 1080p full-HD recording and playback, coming out in the future, it will be harder for the Flip to stand tall. Still, it's unconscionable to us that Cisco would close down the business when it could have sold it off to someone who could make use of it. We have a Flip in our desk drawer and it makes a wonderful backup or alternative when we don't feel like using our smartphones to shoot content.