Coolest Inventions: Camera Phones

Take two popular gadgets. Merge them into a single point-and-click device. Then watch the world go nuts over it

Sometimes the true measure of a technology's impact is not how quickly it spreads but how long it takes for the backlash to set in. No sooner had cell phones with built-in digital cameras caught on in the U.S. this year than they started getting banned--primarily in health clubs and corporate headquarters. Abroad, concerns about misuse of the gadgets got so bad that Saudi Arabia outlawed them altogether.

Like the Internet before them, camera phones open up a new and surprisingly spontaneous way to communicate. Because they are inconspicuous--many look like regular cell phones--you can snap pictures as discreetly as...

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