Ex-Google chief says iPhone is years ahead of Android camera-wise

By @ULB1N on
An Apple iPhone 7 and the company logo are seen in this illustration picture taken in Bordeaux, France, February 1, 2017
An Apple iPhone 7 and the company logo are seen in this illustration picture taken in Bordeaux, France, February 1, 2017 Reuters/Regis Duvignau

A former Google exec believes that the iPhone is “a few years” ahead of Android smartphones when it comes to photo quality. According to him, the main problem is the operating system’s open source nature, which makes it difficult for both hardware and software to be simultaneously updated.

There’s a reason why only Apple handsets are listed on popular image hosting site Flickr’s top five most used cameras. It’s because iPhone cameras are considered to be the best in the smartphone industry. A large chunk of iPhone users buy the handset primarily because of the quality images it manages to capture.

Just less than a year ago, an Android handset cracked Flickr’s top five list. One would think that Google-powered smartphones should take over phone feature rankings like that since they outnumber Apple’s mobile devices and are produced by various companies. But a former exec of the Mountain View, California tech giant reveals that Android smartphones just aren’t up to par with iPhones in terms of photography.

Vic Gundotra, who used to be Google’s senior vice president of engineering, praised the iPhone 7 as a suitable replacement for his likely more expensive and supposedly better DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera on a Facebook post. And when a commenter claimed that the Samsung Galaxy S8 “does a better job” than the Apple handset, Gundotra politely disagreed and brought up the apparent problem: Android OS. Android’s open source system, which “sounds good until you get into the details,” according to Gundotra, has to be neutral to all parties, thus making it hard for simultaneous hardware and software innovation.

He pointed out a typical Samsung smartphone’s “bewildering array of photo options” as an example. Apparently, users of the South Korean electronics titan’s mobile devices usually have the dilemma of choosing between the brand’s propriety camera and the Android camera. The same goes with the Samsung gallery and Google Photos, according to Gundotra.

“It’s because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera), they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API, [which] can take years,” the former Google exec said. “Also, the greatest innovation isn’t even happening at the hardware level – it’s happening at the computational photography level.”

Gundotra added that his former employer “was crushing this five years ago,” referring to Google’s supposed image-improving features that utilised AI techniques to automatically do away with wrinkles, whiten teeth, enhance vignetting  and many others. Unfortunately, Gundotra said that Google has taken more than a couple of steps back in recent times.

Apple, however, doesn’t have to worry about such restrictions, according to Gundotra, since the Mac maker simply innovates its underlying hardware before updating the software with contemporary innovations, and then ships the product. The former Google SVP actually believes that the iPhone is the best when it comes to image quality, and that Android handsets have much to improve.

“Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone,” Gundotra concluded. “If you don’t mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.”

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