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Sprint thinks print with Fujifilm partnership

Carrier looks to goose wireless data business by letting subscribers print photos at various retailers, directly from their camera phones.

Sprint is trying to goose its wireless data business by letting cell phone camera subscribers get printouts of their photos at Ritz Camera, Sam's Club, Wolf Camera and other retail outlets, the carrier announced Wednesday.

Sprint believes its Sprint PCS Picture Mail is the first retail photo-printing service "to be offered directly from the cell phone" rather than requiring customers to upload pictures to a personal computer before printing.

The Sprint service is part of an overall push by all wireless operators to find new revenue sources as the amount of money each earns from voice calls slips due to vicious price wars. That effort, however, has so far met with relatively limited success. Last year, cell phone users generated $86 billion in worldwide revenues by making phone calls but just $2 billion downloading games, ring tones and other nonvoice services that carriers offer.

But photography using cell phones has emerged in the last two years as a surprisingly successful new service. Jill Aldort, a consultant with InfoTrends, predicts consumers will print a quarter of the camera phone photos that they take over the next four years.

Sprint is making the service possible by partnering with Fujifilm, which is expanding its move into the mobile phone market. The Sprint deal is just one of several major partnerships the manufacturer has with cellular carriers in addition to handset makers Nokia, NEC and others, Fujifilm said in a statement.