Snap and Serve

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Your new cell phone comes with a digital camera built in. And that would be good for ... hmm. Now thousands of phone-cam owners and a few wireless carriers are answering that stumper with phone-cam blogs — websites designed specifically for posting and sharing digital photos from mobile phones.

As phone cams spread like brush fire, phone-cam blogs are popping up all over the Web. The latest figures show that 3 million to 6 million phone cams are expected to sell domestically this year. Yes, the pictures are often grainy or blurry less than half a megapixel, compared with 3 or 4 for a good stand-alone digital camera — but that's part of their charm for some people. "I like the sense of immediacy," says Katherine Hardy, a phone-cam blogger and legal writer in Berkeley, Calif. Her collaborative site, at fotolog.net/phonecam, launched this month with artsy pictures of ice-cream cones and urban fixtures such as neighborhood stores.

For others, the sites become instant photo albums documenting personal outings. Erin Boyle, a student at the University of San Diego, uses the camera on her Sanyo 8100 phone to update friends and family on her latest activities — whether it's a day at the beach or a night at a club. She hardly ever uses her regular digital camera anymore, even though it takes sharper pictures than the phone cam, because she doesn't like the hassle of carrying it around. "I always have my phone with me," she says.

It is too soon to tell if phone blogging will be more than a passing fad, but the early buzz has prompted AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS to offer password-protected online photo albums for up to $15 a month to customers with phone cams. Other services, such as Textamerica.com, let people create public phone-cam blogs for free. Posting pictures is as easy as sending an e-mail. On some phone-cam blogs, you can also add a few lines of text or an audio clip and invite others to comment.

Plenty of phone-cam blogs are devoted to predictable topics such as people's pets (at dogblog.textamerica.com), where you get what you would expect. Other sites are a bit more interactive. At thehunts.textamerica.com, phone-cam bloggers are challenged to photograph a series of items; a recent list included a belly-button ring, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a Matrix Reloaded poster. The first person to submit pictures of everything on the list wins the game. (Sorry, the only prize is the glory of being first.)

At Hiptop Nation hiptop.bedope.com), various themes pop up during the week, such as vending machines an people's daily commute. Members are invited to add their own snaps to this communal blog.

So there you have it: plenty of uses for that spanking-new phone cam. Now all you need is a little time to kill.