Android 4.4.1 will massively improve Nexus 5 camera, rolling out in a few days [Update: rolling out now]

by: Bogdan PetrovanDecember 5, 2013

android 4.4.1 before and after update

The update to Android 4.4.1 will bring massive improvements to the imaging capabilities of the Nexus 5. According to Google, the update will roll out “over the next few days.”

Talking to The Verge, Director of Engineering for Android Dave Burke said Google’s been working on improving the camera on the Nexus 5 since its launch, with changes aiming to improve image quality and the camera app itself.

Android 4.4.1 will bring faster autofocus times, and generally improve the speed of the camera. By tweaking the firmware, Google was able to “make everything faster” and “fix the motion blur”, says Burke. On Android 4.4, the Nexus 5 is often unable to focus on moving subjects, which results in unwanted motion blur.

The Verge received the firmware update early and was able to test it out. Here’s a test shot of a busy New York street (uploaded on Instagram), that turned out crisp and well-focused.

Bring it on.

A photo posted by Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) on

The app itself is faster, loading up to a full second quicker than the previous version. To show the user that the app is working in the background, Google added a progress indicator for the HDR+ function. Burke says more changes are coming to the camera app, including to the settings menu, in an effort to make it more intuitive and easy to use.

Thanks to the faster autofocus, it’s now easier to take good images on the first try, says The Verge. Google also made images a little more vibrant and improved contrast. “We just wanted to make photos pop a little more”, explained Burke. Here are a few sample shots that really drive the point home:

The updated app is reportedly still not as good as it could be (autofocus could be even faster, some shots are over processed), but Google is aware of the problems.

Google said the update is coming soon, but offered no details on what Android 4.4.1 will bring to devices other than the Nexus 5. A bevy of bugs have surfaced since KitKat debuted, so there’s a good chance we’ll see fixes to many of them. Stay tuned.

Update: Taking to Google+, Google’s Nexus team has officially announced that the update is rolling out today. As always, expect this to be a staged rollout — so don’t be surprised if it takes a few days to reach your device.

  • NeedName

    shows just how amazingly bad the camera software is, and how much improvement we have to go.

    • SwankMonsta

      Yup Android camera software has a long way to go!

      • LG G2 owner

        No Apple Fan Boy…
        He means the N5 has a long way to come.
        What I don’t understand is why AFBs like you bother to go to Android websites…. go back to your Apple-shaped cave.

        • leecasey

          just because he says the camera software has a long to go he’s an AFB? I see only one FB here.

          • SwankMonsta

            Thanks lee. BTW @foramex:disqus i use a nexus 4 and yes the Android stock camera is crap. It has a lot of catching up to do.

  • LG G2 owner

    But why the battery? Only reason I passed the N5. That extra 700mAh would add 0.1 mm’ but made such a difference. Great phone, but the battery was a deal-breaker. And please don’t bullshit me by saying it lasts a day by turning off all the features and with conservative use. Spare me.

    • Ryan Wallace

      My S3 on CyanogenMod lasts a full day with everything turned on so…

      • MasterMuffin

        So what? It’s S3

        • Tcv4

          My s3 does what it wants. With fantastic coverage I can end the day with well over 60%, but anytime I’m in an area that barely gets 3g I have to charge it around 4 pm

    • etiggy

      I think it is kindof a deal not to make a flagship phone. IMHO they pick a medium camera and medium battery on purpose, otherwise I guess we could hear the tantrum – from the opposite side of the world – the other manufacturers would threw.

      • Bone

        They picked the best Qualcomm SoC and 8MP Sony sensor available, also a pretty high class LCD, so why would they purposefully un-flagship their concept? I believe Google, a SW company, simply doesn’t “get” that flagship hardware is more than just top specs, it’s top build and battery too.

        A pity that they don’t use their products as much as they want us to use them cause it’d be pretty obvious that 4hr SoT is not gonna cut it.

    • dominik andreas

      actually, since the standby battery drain is so low, my nexus 5 lasts much longer than my galaxy s4. But if you’re a heavy user with more than 2 hours of display usage per day, that might be different for you

    • iamtravis182

      The screen is the only thing that seems to eat up the battery on the N5.

      I initially just left the brightness on Medium all day, and found the juice to get sucked up quickly. I began to manually adjust the screen based on lighting conditions, and I have found that the battery life is decent.

      • Nathan Powell

        you know there’s an auto feature, right?

    • Simon Belmont

      I’ve actually been really pleased with my Nexus 5’s battery life. It’ll last me 48 hours off the charger with around 3.5 to 4 hours of total screen on time on LTE.

      I don’t turn off any of my features either. It gets used….a lot. If you are going to compare it to a phone with 3000+ mAh battery, then you’re bullshitting. Cheers.

  • Dimitri Sevastis

    As a Nexus 5 owner i’m really happy right now :) that’s a huge difference in quality

  • Vasishta Nagalla

    Really Nexus 5 is amazing and I am 100% satisfied as a user.

    • Simon Belmont

      Me, too. It’s definitely been the best smartphone I’ve ever used.

      That’s not to say I didn’t love my previous phones. They were all great in their own time, too (still great today, for backup phones).

    • kaleem

      me too. fully satisfied expect the facebook contacts integration into people app. waiting for CM 11 for my nexus.

  • MasterMuffin

    YES :)

    • Ryster1

      Did you get a Nexus 5 Muffin? I just got mine, very cool.

      • MasterMuffin

        I’m thinking if I should buy a 32Gb model from eBay or wait for it to come to my country and pay double for a 16Gb model :s

        • Ryster1

          Good idea, you might be able to get one cheaper off of Ebay. I got a 16gb model for $383 in Canada. Probably be allot more in Finland. I used the device on screen, on wifi for 4+ hours last night and it was at 40%, allot more on screen time then others report :)

          • MasterMuffin

            The 16Gb model is 530€ (723 dollars) here and we can’t even get a 32Gb model >_<

            Have you had any screen or speaker problems some people have reported about?

          • Ryster1

            Wow that’s steep!! That would be tough to afford! No screen problems, volume is a little bit low but that can be fixed with a firmware update I think, or if I wanted to void my warranty I could take it apart and put more holes where the speaker is, but I need the warranty :)

          • MasterMuffin

            Good, it seems the screen problem is rare! And I don’t know what firmware update could fix hardware problem ;)

          • Ryster1

            :P well I think they could somehow manipulate the volume bar to increase power to the speaker within the operating system, but maybe its wishful thinking LOL The volume really isn’t all that bad, except when it’s noisy around, but then vibrate should help. I also have software that I can manually increase the volume of wave files, and then load them onto the phone for notifications and ring tones etc. :P

          • MasterMuffin

            Or use magic. That always works!

          • Ryster1

            haha smartass ;)

          • David Mueller

            How? …wanted always a separate ringtone like you can set up for some iPad apps….

          • John Doe

            Where the hell is here?
            I got mine for $99 on a 2yr contract (Telus)
            Got’a say, I love this phone!!
            Not sure what every one’s issue is with the Battery, as mine last 2 days on normal use (Personal/Work)

            And my prediction on camera fixes being in 4.4.1 seems to be correct from last week… snap! lol

          • MadCowOnAStick

            It’s extremely bright so usually I don’t even turn the brightness to the full lol
            The viewing angles are really good
            Everyone is drunk

          • MasterMuffin

            Sure Mad Cow sure.. ;P

          • Mav6

            Not drunk, they just don’t know what they’re talking about. No cell phone screen is perfect but tests prove the Nexus 5 is really good and best overall so far.


          • MadCowOnAStick

            and as for the speakers, they’re loud enough. I

          • David Mueller

            In Germany the 16gb version cost 350€ – officially from the Play Store

          • MadCowOnAStick

            383 canadian dollars? i think that’s cheaper than in the u.s. ._.

          • Ryster1

            Yup cheaper in US dollars

          • MadCowOnAStick

            what is this sorcery

  • takpro

    I don’t spend my life looking at a 4.97 inch screen, so I haven’t been upset about the battery life at all. The N5 did panic when it couldn’t find a network, but once I turned the scanner off, that stopped. Normal use yesterday took it down to 79%. Sometimes I think these forums can discourage the average user away from the Nexus phones with all the battery talk. Frankly, I’m grateful to Google (Nexus) and T-Mo for making it possible to have good service and a great phone for less than $800 per year. Sadly, I do believe this will be the last Nexus phone.

    • NeedName

      I really doubt the “average user” reads these blogs.

      • takpro

        I am!

        • LG G2 owner

          Then you’re not an average user smartass

          • takpro

            Oh…I wish you hadn’t said that. What’s the matter, did you run out of words you knew how to spell…poor baby! Do you want to keep the forums all to yourself? Do you get lonely and upset if your battery gets a little low? Does your world come to an end when you have to plug it in at night? Does wetting the bed seem like a good thing to you, so you can get up to make sure the phone is charging? Or were you disappointed when your daddy told you that LG was going to go back to emphasizing televisions and not focus on smartphones. Do you wake-up worried that means you won’t get the latest update before the Motorola flip phone. Or do you just spend your time thinking of knew ways to make yourself a special kind of JERK. Congratulations, at least you have succeeded at something.

          • Jayfeather787

            Wow. That was beautiful.

          • LG G2 owner
          • LG G2 owner


    • Nathan Buffington

      Last nexus phone??? um NO

    • John-Phillip Saayman

      Why do you say last nexus?

  • Matt

    So much goodness comming!!

  • Xavier_NYC

    I think I’ll stick with my Nexus 5s (G2 running kit kat) because my friend has the Nexus 5 and say’s he has random battery drains.

    • Humberto


      Are u having any kind of trouble with kitkat in relation to the G2 camera? Is it possible to use LG camera app? If not, is the KK camera app good, in terms of pic/vid quality?

      I’m asking cuz I’m trying to decide between G2 or N5 and my top priorities are camera and fast android updates.

      • Jayfeather787

        G2 will not get fast updates. If you want that, get a nexus 5, or flash roms on the g2.

        • Xavier_NYC

          It wont get fast updates from LG but its already has CM 11 + AOSPA 4.4 Kit Kat. I’m more interested in the hardware aspect because I can put my own ROMs on it. 3000 mAh trumps 2300, 13mp with IOS trumps 8mp with IOS

          • Jayfeather787

            Ok good, I like custom ROMs better any way. I have a HTC sensation and a Samsung Galaxy Exhibit both running CM11, and a Droid X running CM9, and a Nexus 7 2013 running stock because one of my family members has an account on it, so I cant touch that, but I really like stock android.

          • Xavier_NYC

            That was one of my main concerns before buying this phone but it has a big dev community and that’s mainly because of the battery and slim form factor. Can’t go wrong either way G2 or Nexus 5

          • Jayfeather787

            big dev community… something my DX no longer has. I’ll see if I can build a rom for it, but I have no idea how. I do intend to learn, but I have homework.

      • Xavier_NYC

        Camera works perfectly fine for me plus the devs are implementing code in the ROMs to make sure it’s 13mp. Still in Alpha phase. So quality will be the same. Reason I say get the G2 is because it has a better battery (3000 vs 2300 mAh) and better camera. I can easily go a day and a half with 5-7 hrs of on screen time on one charge.

        • MMC

          I think (from lot of review samples), LG G2 camera suck. No match for Samsung/Nokia/iP5/iP5S…..The video capture is terrible & panorama is just plain cr*ppy….. Why compromise when spending so much $$$$

          • Xavier_NYC

            1) The G2 is regarded as one of the best phones on the market. 2) The Nexus 5 and G2 are both made by LG so I can guarantee the G2, which is LG’s own flagship, will take better pics than the N5. 3) if you’re talking about the s4 you’re delusional, the G2 beats it pic wise hands down. If you’re talking about The Note 3 , I would hope it was better recording video because it has the technology to record 4k video. Also I’d hope the Nokia would beat the G2 seeing as how it has a 41mp camera. I think 41mp would beat 13 any day of the week.. Listen you’re entitled to your opinion but I’m more than happy with my G2, I’ll pass on the windows crap with the lumia and I don’t need a phablet aka note 3. But that’s just me.. Forgot to mention it made it’s way onto the consumer’s best list that was featured on Android Authority:

  • MadCowOnAStick

    Idk you guys but I thought the camera was fine xD I took this on 4.4 with the Nexus 5

  • Zodiak

    A very needed update. Anyways Update your Galaxy Nexus to Android 4.4 right here!!!

  • Since KitKat is for all new(ish) Androids, are all the camera improvements N5 specific, or are there possible benefits for other phones (who could use ’em) like the Moto X?

    • patdrumsrush

      Yeah, my Moto X runs 4.4 and it could use a camera update, too.

  • patdrumsrush

    I got my Nexus 5. I love it. Now how do I update it to 4.4.1? Do I just have to wait until Google does it for me? I’m dying to try out the new camera, cuz the old one certainly does suck.