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The Pixel 3 needs an updated Google Camera app
If you’ve ever read about the Pixel 2, you probably already know the smartphone’s camera is great. Google’s camera app is a big part of what makes it so great, handling most of the photo processing work. It does a great job making pictures look great, but its features lag well behind other apps on the market.
In the current smartphone marketplace, it’s pretty easy to see which brands are succeeding and which ones are not. If Google wants to keep growing the Pixel line, and plans to do so by marketing the upcoming handset’s fantastic camera, it’s time to add a few features.
- Timelapses are a fun and easy way for users to capture the passing of time.
- If the Google Camera app can handle shooting 120 or 240fps slow-motion clips, it can handle time lapse.
Timelapse mode is a staple camera feature in many phones. It lets you put your phone or camera down for several minutes, record the world around you, and watch a sped up version of the footage.
The absence of this feature is even more strange given Google offers a slow-mo video option already, with 120 and 240fps modes. If the camera app can handle this type of intensive workload, doing the reverse action and only taking a shot every few seconds shouldn’t be much hassle.
Related: 15 best camera Apps for Android
Clearly, someone at Google thinks time lapses are worthwhile — it was just included in a Google Clips update. In this case, the Clips camera continuously snaps photos every few seconds and automatically stitches them together.
According to Google, using the Clips’ timelapse option drains the battery pretty quickly, so maybe that’s why the feature hasn’t made it to the camera app. However, this slight drawback alone shouldn’t be enough of a reason not to give Pixel owners additional ways to enjoy their smartphone. Plenty of great features increase a phone’s power demands.
- Google's Camera app allows almost no manual settings.
- Pixel owners currently have to rely on hardly-optimized third-party apps to change the camera's ISO, exposure, and more.
The Google Camera app is fantastic for when you need to quickly snap a photo. However, when you want to take some time to frame a shot or adjust for lighting that’s not ideal, a manual mode would be pretty useful.
Pro modes exist in countless camera phones. They let users adjust individual settings, like shutter speed and ISO, to better capture a picture-perfect moment. Right now, Pixel owners have to download a third-party camera app to get this degree of control.
A lot of these apps looked for a long time like they hadn’t been updated since 2012. Thankfully Moment, the company behind some of the best smartphone lenses on the market, released a pretty spectacular pro camera app.
While third-party apps work, photos taken with them running on a Pixel don’t turn out as crisp and beautiful as those shot with Google’s Camera app. Considering all the options Moment’s app adds, it’s still probably worth it. However, should users really have to make that trade-off?
Our best is guess Google hasn’t added the feature because it wants the Pixel to be a phone almost anyone can pick up and use. To reflect that, the company didn’t add any extra options and features to the primary interface and made it dead simple to snap a photo or shoot a video.
The Pixel’s camera is still the one to beat in the smartphone market. It’s great for most, but adding manual controls might drive more professional use of the company’s smartphones.
Features already in development: RAW support and wide-angle distortion correction
- An APK teardown of Google's Camera app hinted at several in-development features.
- Changes could include support for RAW files and removing facial distortion from wide-angle photos.
Google, like most companies, almost never comments on future features. Because of how software development works, hints at new functionality sometimes pop up in the program’s source code.
This happened just last month during a teardown of one of the latest versions of the Google Camera app. In it, strings of code hinted at RAW image file support and the ability to automatically remove facial distortion caused by a wide-angle lens.
The inclusion of RAW support points toward more manual controls over the camera. Having the ability to shoot in RAW is something professional photographers use because it gives them more material to work with. JPG files are compressed, less complete version of the shot you take; RAW files include everything, which is ideal for image editing.
Typically, if a phone or camera allows for this type of large image capture, it has manual controls. This pairing allows photographers to fine-tune the shot before and after they take the photo.
The automatic ability to correct facial distortion sounds like another one of those smart, AI-driven camera features that will happen in the background. Most smartphone lenses are wide angle, so this will help with the slight distortion sometimes seen at the edge of the frame.
Lastly, the teardown hinted at the app’s potential ability to choose the best framerate while shooting video and an option to only use one of the smartphone’s mics.
Google clearly really wants to make it easy for any consumer to pick up any Pixel and take a beautiful photo. When those same users or professionals want a little more control over their shots, they have to find another (lesser) option elsewhere.
The photo performance of Google’s smartphones blows almost other handsets out of the water, but other manufacturers are innovating faster. They’re all incorporating different shooting modes and options, and Google’s been basically just adding neat AR tricks. If Google wants to promote the upcoming Pixel 3’s camera later this year, I think adding new features to attract new users would be wise.