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HTC predicts smartphone optical zoom in 18 to 24 months

The feature could put smartphones in direct competition with higher-end digital cameras, HTC says.

What would optical zooms on smartphones mean for the likes of the Canon EOS-1D? Canon USA

Could smartphone cameras go toe-to-toe with the top digital cameras on the market within the next two years? HTC believes so.

Speaking to Vodafone in blog post published Friday, HTC's Symon Whitehorn said that optical zoom is the wall that stands between smartphone cameras and digital SLRs (single-lens reflex). He added it's entirely possible that optical zoom will make its way to his company's smartphones within two years.

"I think we're looking at about 18 months to two years until that lens barrier begins breaking down and it becomes much harder to justify buying a dedicated camera outside of specialist or nostalgia reasons," Whitehorn told Vodafone.

Smartphones have quickly become the go-to products for consumers who want to snap photos. Around the world, smartphones have become the most popular cameras. Whitehorn argues that in some cases, they're actually better at snapping photos than point-and-shoots. The next frontier, therefore, is taking on the high-end digital SLRs that provide better picture quality than point-and-shoots.

Still, it seems unlikely that any smartphone will be capable of matching the highest-end Canon or Nokia digital SLR. And since those devices allow for swapping lenses, smartphones would also need to address that problem. It's a heavy haul, but something that Whitehorn believes, is capable of being overcome.

"Two years ago I would have said that phones will never replace DSLRs," he told Vodafone. Now I'm not so sure. I think there'll always be a role for a dedicated camera, like for sports etc., but I think you'll see the gap closing."

CNET has contacted HTC for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.