There was a point in time when Apple devices featured the best mobile cameras on the market. Over the past few years, however, the company has seen its lead all but disappear—in some cases, Apple has been surpassed.
But don't tell that to Vic Gundotra, former head of Google+, who went on a rant over the weekend slamming Android cameras for their unreliable quality.
In a post on the ex-Googler's Facebook, Gundotra talks about Apple's software algorithms—or computational photography—saying he no longer carries a professional camera due to the high level of quality produced by Apple's iPhone.
"Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning," Gundotra writes about pictures snapped of his kids by the iPhone 7 Plus. "Great job Apple."
That's a pretty innocuous post on its own, and high praise for Apple. But Gundotra pulls no punches when a commenter suggests the Galaxy S8's camera is superior.
"I would never use an Android phone for photos!" Gundotra responds.
Gundotra elaborates in a lengthier comment. Essentially, his main complaint is Android, not any one manufacturer or device.
Here is the problem: It's Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos?
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. That can take YEARS.
Also the greatest innovation isn't even happening at the hardware level – it's happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago – they had had "auto awesome" that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc… but recently Google has fallen back).
Apple doesn't have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it.
Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don't mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.
Gundotra would have been right a few years ago, but several companies have closed the quality gap over the last few years. You can get a comparable experience to the iPhone 7 Plus by picking up the Google Pixel or Galaxy S8.
Regardless of your preference, it's interesting to hear an ex-Googler talk so openly about the perceived shortcomings of Android, especially as it pertains to your phone's most important feature: the camera.
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