Will your next camera have a data plan?

With more Wi-Fi point-and-shoots and camcorders on their way, mobile broadband might not be too far behind.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Polaroid announced the first Android-based camera (at least the first we've seen) at CES 2012. It's essentially a smartphone, but with a 16-megapixel sensor and a 3x zoom lens.

The camera, called the SC1630, has built-in Wi-Fi, so you could use it for Skype or IM, but Polaroid says it is in talks with carriers and their connected-devices divisions about possibly making data plans available for it.

Now, I can see people buying a smartphone and tolerating a little extra weight and size for better image quality and a better lens. But, what if it couldn't be used as a phone at all and was just a camera with mobile broadband access?

For a monthly fee, you'd be able to have a higher-quality camera that could also be used to instantly share to Facebook and Twitter, store your shots to a cloud service while you shoot, and quite possibly stream live video. Plus, you'd be able to geotag your photos and download apps on the go.

Of course, the big problem is the cost for the data. Camera manufacturers could go the Google Chromebook route and include a year of free service or something like Amazon's 3G Kindle where it's just included in the camera's price (though the amount of data the Kindle eats up would be minuscule in comparison). Or if carriers could offer plans that cover both your smartphone and your camera, it might be a little less painful.

Obviously, it's not clear what the ins and outs and what-have-yous will be, but connected compact cameras are coming.

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