Most of the time, we execute APK teardowns by comparing the code of older app versions to an updated version. Newly released apps can hold juicy information too, though. We've quickly taken apart Google's newly released camera app and discovered a few tidbits worth mentioning.

Our primary target for this teardown is the strings file. This file holds a wealth of strings not yet revealed in the interface that look like they'll bring missing features back and add some new ones, too.

Photo Sphere Live Wallpaper

One of the most exciting finds in the strings file is reference to "featured" photo spheres, and displaying photo spheres as live wallpapers. There's not much information to go on, but it seems as though Google may start promoting the photo sphere feature from within the actual camera app.

<string name="photosphere_wallpaper_description">Displays photo spheres as a Live Wallpaper.</string>
<string name="select_featured_photosphere">Featured Photo Spheres</string>
<string name="select_featured_photosphere_description">Select one of our featured Photo Spheres.</string>

There's also a relevant PhotoSphereWallpaperPreferences activity, along with a colored photo sphere wallpaper to accompany the interface.


Advanced Camera, Time Lapse, Wide Angle Mode

Next up, more shooting modes. Currently, users can choose from photo sphere, panorama, lens blur, camera, and video. But there are three others hiding in the code - Advanced Camera Mode, Time Lapse Mode, and Wide Angle Mode. Time lapse and wide angle already have their own iconography.


<string name="mode_craft_desc">Switch to Advanced Camera Mode</string>
<string name="mode_advanced_camera_desc">Switch to Advanced Camera Mode</string>
<string name="mode_timelapse_desc">Switch to Timelapse Mode</string>
<string name="mode_wideangle_desc">Switch to Wideangle Mode</string>

Presumably, wide angle mode would allow for actual 16:9 capture, while time lapse mode has strings for capture intervals all the way up to 24 hours. Advanced camera mode is less clear, but there are more strings related to more fine-tuned shooting, including white balance settings that were present in the old app.

<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_default">auto</string>
<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_title">White balance</string>
<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_label">WHITE BALANCE</string>
<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_entry_auto">Auto</string>
<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_entry_incandescent">Incandescent</string>
<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_entry_daylight">Daylight</string>
<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_entry_fluorescent">Fluorescent</string>
<string name="pref_camera_whitebalance_entry_cloudy">Cloudy</string>

Also of interest is a selection of "focus modes," which would calibrate the camera's focusing for specific tasks including macro shooting and "infinity," which would keep the entire depth of the scene in focus.

<string name="pref_camera_focusmode_title">Focus mode</string>
<string name="pref_camera_focusmode_entry_auto">Auto</string>
<string name="pref_camera_focusmode_entry_infinity">Infinity</string>
<string name="pref_camera_focusmode_entry_macro">Macro</string>
<string name="pref_camera_focusmode_label_auto">AUTO</string>
<string name="pref_camera_focusmode_label_infinity">INFINITY</string>
<string name="pref_camera_focusmode_label_macro">MACRO</string>

There are also "scene" settings, including Action, Night, Sunset, and Party, along with a timer mode that can be set for up to 15 seconds.

Video Effects

Users may also remember the ability to take photos while shooting video - the feature isn't present in the new camera app, but there is a string for it.

<string name="video_snapshot_hint">Touch to take photo while recording.</string>

There are strings related to what appear to be video effects as well, allowing for "silly faces," and background replacement.

<string name="effect_silly_faces">SILLY FACES</string>
<string name="effect_background">BACKGROUND</string>


<string name="effect_goofy_face_squeeze">Squeeze</string>
<string name="effect_goofy_face_big_eyes">Big eyes</string>
<string name="effect_goofy_face_big_mouth">Big mouth</string>
<string name="effect_goofy_face_small_mouth">Small mouth</string>
<string name="effect_goofy_face_big_nose">Big nose</string>
<string name="effect_goofy_face_small_eyes">Small eyes</string>
<string name="effect_backdropper_space">In space</string>
<string name="effect_backdropper_sunset">Sunset</string>
<string name="effect_backdropper_gallery">Your video</string>

Bits and Pieces

Finally, there's reference to a "torch" mode, which would likely use your phone's flash as a flashlight.

<string name="torch_on_desc">Torch on</string>
<string name="torch_off_desc">Torch off</string>

Final Thoughts

That's all we've found so far. If we find any other interesting bits, we'll update the post.

In the end, the first iteration of Google's Play Store-ready Camera app removed a few features from the old app, and added a great lens blur tool along with a slick new interface. As with any discussion of unreleased features, we can never be totally certain, but it looks like a lot of those features may be returning, and more new functionality just might be in tow.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Jim

    1st 😉

    • Arthur Dent

      Cool story, bro. Thanks for the valuable contribution.

      We got a Commenter of the Year contender, here, folks!!!

  • Del

    As per usual, amazing work!

  • christopher3712

    The blur tool seems a bit off. When increasing the blur to max precision, it doesn't really follow the circular guideline as displayed onscreen. You get a 'blocky' area resembling more of a rectangle that remains in focus.

    • Nick

      That's kind of how depth of field works on a camera. That is, if I'm understanding you correctly.

      • christopher3712

        I mean in the fact that the transition between the blur and the focused field is abrupt, as well as the focused area not being round as the on-screen indicator would have you believe. Try a shot, focus on an area, take the pic, set the blur to max, zoom in.

    • Shaunak Guharay

      It works nicely if the object is a bit far away (atleast 1-2 feet).

      If its close (say 1/3rd feet), it turns out a bit blocky.

    • Patrick

      It's a bit tricky to get used to the way you have to shoot. Also I don't think it is supposed to make a circular focal point, rather it is to simulate a narrow depth of field to enhance the subject better by simplifying the background.

      • christopher3712

        Ah, that makes much more sense.

        • Patrick

          One more tip, tap the little gear icon on the bottom right when on the mode choice screen, in those settings you can enable high quality lens blur under the "Resolution & Quality" tab. it makes a world of difference.

    • gk1984

      Depth of field isn't a circular area of focus like many of those fake DoF apps make people think. It's a plane of focus somewhere between the lens and the furthest distance the camera can see away from the lens (front/back). So, an entire object within that plane should remain in focus while the rest of the image doesn't. However, if the object isn't entirely flat or sitting on that plane of focus, parts of that object could still blur. The shape of the blur would depend on the distance pieces are from the lense vs the plane of focus.

      • christopher3712

        Thanks for the explanation, that changes my expectation somewhat. Glad we have this feature though!

  • http://www.droid-life.com/ Steve B

    Anything about a burst mode? Really hoping for this.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      Not a peep in the code unfortunately.

      • iandouglas

        bummer, that's my #1 "want" in a camera app

        • Mobile_Dom

          well now its in the play store they could app it like next week if they wanted too

        • Imparus

          They probably need that new HAL api they talked about for doing that, so they probably haven't put it in the code since it isn't dogfood ready yet. That is at least my theory.

    • silaslenz

      I found 'str1 = "Burst capture DONE";' in the code, but that might be something else?

    • someone755

      Would be great if we had "burst" with pressing and holding the "capture" button.
      Then again, each phone on KK has different specs and not all would be able to take burst shots.

      • firesoul453

        Ya but what one phone can do shouldn't be limited by what other phone can or cannot do.

        • someone755

          But then again, there'd be hordes of people complaining about burst not working. And for the app detect the capabilities and adapt to each model is time-consuming and all 'round wasteful.
          Always think everything through from every user's point. They may have high-end S801s in there or they could still be rocking an HTC Leo.
          Once you get that over with, think about how the devs would see it.

          • i2k14

            every phone running 4.4.2 should be able to shoot bursts.

          • someone755

            Ask Shamesung about that. Though LG also has a few in the L series.
            Single core, 512MB RAM devices? The thing can barely make a call without lag.

  • Bo

    I would like a way of turning on flash quickly. I do not want a dedicated flash app whenever I need a quick access to flash light.

    • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

      This is one of my favorite features of custom roms or GravityBox. The ability to add a flashlight toggle to my Quick Settings is perfection. Out of the way when I don't need it, but instantly accessible from any screen when I do need it.

      • Arthur Dent

        I use Gravity Box and have it set to turn on the LED flash just by holding down the lock slider on the lock screen, in addition to the quick settings toggle. Love that feature.

        • teolinux

          ^ THAT

      • Fatty Bunter

        You do not need GravityBox/root to do that. Many apps are able to do with without root. I use Power Toggles.

        • didibus

          But Power Toggles either sets a widget or takes a spot in your Notification center, the whole point of the quick settings was to have it group quick settings, so it's nice to have it there.

          • PowerToggles is Amazing

            Not true. I have power toggles, and if you even bothered to look in the options for the app, you can choose no notification box, make a whole notification box, add a small notification for battery life and customize everything from which buttons you would like to what colors you want including adding a second bar. either on homescreen or in notifications. actually TRY something before you blurt out. If i was wanting such an app Id be looking for comments from people who actually went through the options and not omeone who who jus installed looked and uninstalled before checking the options. With no ads. Amazing App and exactly what I want in regards to quick settings, better than anything ive ever seen including the Samsung preset quick settings

          • didibus

            You didn't understand. Power Toggles is great, but it can not add toggles to the Quick Settings panel, which is where I'd like my toggles to be. GravityBox on the other, is capable of adding Toggles to the Quick Settings panel.

      • pfmiller

        There are plenty of flashlight lock screen widget apps in the play store that work great. I have never been using my phone when I suddenly needed a flashlight for something, so I don't see the point of having it in quick settings.

      • didibus

        Android's quick settings is the least polished and most pressing module in need of immediate work. It's lacking in so many ways.

        • VAVA Mk2

          For those who REALLY want a better selection, there are Quick Toggle mods easy to install on rooted Nexus phones. Not the solution you are talking about and I agree we need, but hey, it is something.

          • cabbieBot

            link? I'd like to take a look at this.

    • gk1984

      Many apps allow you to turn on the LED flash for the purpose of using it as a flashlight. They even include widgets for faster access. I use Widgetsoid and added a quick-toggle for it in the notification pulldown. Also added a widget with this feature and many other quick toggles. Just do a little bit of searching in the play store.

      • Pablo Almeida

        Widgetsoid even has a all-black icon so you never see it there.

    • vyktorsouza

      I recomend xposed so you can long press a button while screen off and the flash light will turn on

      • Egnimatic_Foolishness

        This is what I use. I think it's xposed torch. When the screen is off, I hold the volume key and "Voila! Let there be light!"

    • Jorge Ivan Sanchez Gonzalez

      I use the DashLight Widget, it is pretty usefull.

    • didibus

      In the meantime, I'd recommend Flashlight by Lars Team: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.findsdk.flashlight

      It requires the strict minimum amount of permissions of most flashlight apps I've seen.

    • abqnm

      Except the mode in the camera is more than likely for the camera. Some camera apps allow you to turn the flash to torch mode that keeps the light on, rather than just firing it when taking the photo, so you can more easily frame photos in the dark.

    • i2k14

      I've had since day 1 on android with Power Toggle's in my notification menu.

  • usaff22

    YES. So happy none of my favorite features will be sacrificed for the new camera update. I love time-lapse mode and especially taking photos while recording video. Also miss the 16:9 viewfinder on my HTC One S. Seriously, all phones should have 16:9 sensors nowadays - no phone screen is 4:3! Seems like even goofy faces is coming from the ICS camera.

    This is really seeming like the fully-featured camera app vanilla Android deserves.

    • Corey Watford

      The reason behind the 4/3 is you get a proper viewfinder image. As photos printed are 4/3 NOT 16/9 the photo you see is what you get, not a semi cropped wide-screen image. Wide-screen great for movies, but 4/3 photos aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

      • usaff22

        To be honest, I still prefer 16:9 photos. They are much easier to share to other people's phones - having a huge border around the image looks awful IMO. Each to their own, I suppose

        • Corey Watford

          personally I like full screen images, but sadly it comes down to form over function.

    • Casen Brashear

      If you have a phone that shoots natively in 16:9 the black part of the shutter area is translucent, like the video record screen. The N5 has a 4:3 camera sensor though.

  • JLM

    I wonder if Advanced Camera will actually be a different mode or how they are handling the advanced options in the menu like Manual Exposure.

  • Raymond Berger

    Is there any way to set this at the default camera app for Moto X? I really like the double twist to open camera but it'd be even better if I could use this app instead of the default moto camera app.

    • jamaall

      No, that feature is built into the Motorola Camera app itself, not the system UI.

      • Raymond Berger

        Do you know if there are any mod or exposed modules that could mimic this feature?

        • jamaall

          No idea, I'm no expert, but I guess someone could attempt to mimic the feature. I don't know of anyone that has though.

        • Shaunak Guharay

          You can still use twisty launcher to open this app.
          Make sure to disable the stock gesture in the stock app.

        • Bradley Albert Nemitz

          Someone on reddit (/r/motox) posted about using Tasker to do it. Basically, make Tasker kill the stock Camera whenever it launches and have it launch Google Camera instead.

          So the gesture would still sorta launch the stock app, but Tasker would take over and redirect.

    • Joey M

      I had a similar bout with s-voice on my Note 3 - I wanted to use the always on "Okay Galaxy" to launch Google Now vs. S-Voice (no longer an issue, using GEL... but still)

      I got around that with Tasker, I imagine you could do the same here.

      Create a profile that says > When Camera (stock) is opened, immediately close it and open Google Camera. Not sure how much time that would add to the process but assuming you're rooted and use the root kill method for the stock camera I imagine it'd be pretty quick.

    • Fernando Pena
      • Raymond Berger

        Thanks this is perfect!

  • jamaall

    I've already posted about these missing features, glad to see that they are already working on it. The only thing that's missing from there though, is the Slo-Mo option for videos.

  • T-Rex

    So after Google ditched video effects in Jelly Bean, they're bringing it back? Great :)

  • Omega192

    This certainly sounds like that rumor a while back about a whole new Camera framework. Super relieved that time lapse will return. Can't wait to see what else is in store. A way for developers to add new modes a la "lenses" on Windows Phone would be awesome, too.

    • Arthur Dent

      Yeah, there's supposed to be a whole API for apps so maybe ...

  • Arthur Dent

    So additional features are clearly planned for and/or present in the app already but not exposed. I wonder if these will be exposed when the new camera API becomes available, possibly with 4.4.3?

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      It's possible some of this will be exposed then, but I am not holding my breath for the new camera API in 4.4.3. Maybe they will mention it at IO.

    • firesoul453

      My guess is that google is starting to get the ball rolling on 5.0.

  • Pratik Holla

    About time google! Thank you! I am tired of installing buggy photosphere cameras. The UI is cleaned up from the abomination you had before with radial dial menu.

  • Aaron Birnbaum

    Any hint as to why some features are available on some phones, but not on others? (ie, I can't see the HDR mode on my Moto X)

    • lensgrabber

      I can't either. Hopefully HDR will be available on the X at some point.

    • Fatty Bunter

      HDR is computationally intense. I wouldn't be surprised if Google disabled HDR for all but the high-end processors to be conservative. Moto X probably just barely missed the cut.

      • VAVA Mk2

        HDR+ on my Snapdragon 800-toting Nexus 5 LOL. ( I know this is obvious but just like saying it haha)

      • serotheo

        Doubt it, seems more like selective thing with optimization based on whether or not its a GPE or Nexus device.

        My Note 3 doesn't have the feature. Makes sense considering my Nexus 4 does have the HDR option.

      • Aaron Birnbaum

        That makes sense, but the Moto camera app does HDR just fine, so I'm not sure. Is the HDR+ on the google camera much more processor heavy than HDR on the Moto app?

    • Sergii Pylypenko

      No HDR on Exynos Note 3 either, looks like it's just not available for everyone.

    • gab_gagnon

      Not sure but HDR+ seems only available for Nexus. Maybe a marketing move...

    • http://www.binarytuberculosis.com BinaryTB

      FYI, my HTC One (last year's M7) has HDR mode with this camera app. Hopefully Moto X will get supported soon.

    • Rahul Nebhnani

      HDR mode available on my moto g but no panaroma or photo sphere :/

      • Simon Belmont

        That might have to do with a lack of gyroscope in the Moto G. But I'm not 100% sure on that.

        You'd think all phones would have a gyroscope by now (my 2011 Galaxy Nexus does). Oh well, probably to cut costs (the Moto G is a value priced phone).

        • Rahul Nebhnani

          But cant the photo sphere use an accelerometer instead?

          • Simon Belmont

            No, unfortunately. The gyroscope is needed because you're orienting your phone in a X, Y, Z 3D space to get the various angles of the Photo Sphere.

            An accelerometer doesn't account for that movement in 3D space. It accounts for the velocity of movement relative to the current position.

      • Vinicius

        My Moto G does not show HDR mode, why is that?

    • Aaron Birnbaum

      Tried changing the build.prop to some nexus 5 values. The HDR+ button shows up, but trying to turn it on causes a force close. I guess we'll just have to stick with the Moto X camera app for HDR for now.

  • Patrick

    It'll be fun to see the "Silly Faces" option. They were fun to use in the original google talk/hangouts video chat.

  • frozencloud

    I dont know why so many ppl like photosphere. Each time I use it, the stitching is just bad.

    • Nomaan

      Have you used it on a Nexus?

      • codemonkey85

        I've used it on the Nexus 5, and the stitching was pretty bad. But then again, I probably did it wrong.

        • Nomaan

          It works great for me on N5. I just consider myself as a center and move the phone around without moving from my place.

    • Patrick

      There is an art to it doing it. the main thing is to move the device like the camera is the pivot point. essentially walking around the camera sensor, not standing in one and moving the camera around you.

      • Arthur Dent

        Did one earlier and it was terrible. Just tried what you said and it turned out MUCH nicer. Still a spot where you could see a doorway didn't line up perfect, but just a little off and it was much better than previous attempts.

        • Imparus

          It also work best outside where you have more distance to your surroundings

      • AluKed

        Parallax is a bitch :D

      • Simon Belmont

        Outstanding. Couldn't have said it better.

        It took me a few tries to figure that out and start making really nice Photo Spheres back when they first became available. They really look great once you get the concept.

    • firesoul453

      First few times I did it had the same problem but then got the hang of it.

  • bremberdee

    I think the viewfinder should be smaller

    • YahooWizard

      Haha, I think this problem is unique to you.

    • Kylecore

      I seriously just laughed so hard

      • teolinux

        I'm in tears

    • Julio M

      Shh, your phone is taking a selfie.

    • http://dabuxian.com/ Dabu

      I think you don't know that the button is so big so you can see a whole photo, instead of just a part of it? I personally prefer to actually see what I'm taking a photo of, so I like the new UI.

    • VAVA Mk2

      LOL I see what you did there

    • Chris Hannan

      It's funny if you're not actually complaining about the new viewfinder. :P

  • humulos

    Well this is more comforting, glad to see a lot of the missing stuff isn't necessarily forgotten. Timer is the only thing I didn't see that I want.

  • Leif Sikorski

    I really like the new app but one thing that annoys me a lot is that they make it always easier to use the digital zoom than doing an exposure compensation. Do so many people use a bad quality digital zoom that it is worth a gesture but the exposure compensation is not?

    • AluKed

      This. ExpComp in an automatized camera is, possibly, the single most important setting.

  • jimv1983

    Why did they remove white balance, scene modes, timer, red/green color from focus ring? Why did they put the location tagging toggle and image quality settings in a different menu instead of directly from the main camera screen?

    Very disappointing update.

  • Devon Warren
  • Stacey Liu

    There's still about 3 hours of shutter lag between one picture and the next.

    I can focus myself beforehand... I don't know why the app tries to refocus when capture is pressed.

    On an iPhone, 5 rapid taps will give you 5 instant pictures, all in under a second.

    • didibus

      I don't think this is necessarily the camera app's fault. I think it's mostly hardware, the camera in most android phone just doesn't focus and snap as fast.

    • sdcoiner76

      On my nexus 5 I can click that fast and it does not try to refocus. Just tried it.

    • VAVA Mk2

      Um shutter lag and focus lag is pretty much non existent with this update on my Nexus 5.

  • Guillaume ‘XpLoDWilD’

    Goofy faces and background replacement were already in Android 4.0 AOSP camera, but got removed with the app redesign in Jelly bean.

    • br_hermon

      So my question is will they be bringing back these features or are they possibly residual code leftover from before?

      • Roberto Mezquia Jr

        supposedly this camera app was built from the ground up... at least i read that on the interwebz

        • Simon Belmont

          It was. From what I can tell.

          I think these features are definitely making a comeback. I always liked them.

    • Simon Belmont

      Yep. But, actually, they were there in Honeycomb minus time lapse (which was ICS).

      Never understood why they took them in out in Jelly Bean. I think it was Android 4.2?

  • EE-EHN

    Time Lapse, Silly Faces, and Background remover were in Honeycomb. It'll be nice to see them again

    • Simon Belmont

      Agreed. Always wondered why they took out the silly faces and background effects (they were cool).

      Time lapse was introduced in ICS, I think. The silly face, etc, was Honeycomb, like you said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danieltye88 Tungmeister

    I hope all these other features show up on the nexus 5 sharpish!

  • fahadayaz

    If you drag to the right (the gesture that reveals the camera types), you'll see a settings button in the bottom-right. There's an advanced option in that.

  • Eric

    Taking photos and focusing on N5 are still painfully slow!!
    Na.. I don't care how it is compared to N4. I want them compared to iPhones.

    • wahwah

      What are you taking about? Taking photo's and focusing on the nexus 5 is almost instantaneous now.

    • sdcoiner76

      Focusing and taking pics on my Nexus 5 are also almost instantaneous now.

      • Simon Belmont

        Same for me. This app somehow made focusing and shutter speed much faster.

        Combine this with further camera improvements in Android 4.4.3, and it will be really great. Can't wait.

  • ynksbsbll2

    Also you can pinch to zoom for digital zoom. Maybe this has always been there, but today is the first time i've ever tried it

    • Bojan Bunić

      Yep, it was there earlier.

  • Fiverocker

    This "update" ist nothing else but an INSULT to all Google and all Nexus/Android users that were hoping for a FAST and UP2DATE camera app like it´s standard on other smartphones... SHAME ON YOU, GOOGLE!

  • surethom

    Wide Angle Mode 16:9 mode is urgently needed every device on the planet is widescreen & hopefully at 6 megapixel on the nexus 5 not 2 megapixel like before the update.

  • Yogesh Laxman Raut

    Phone is definitely heating up with new blur option. And it takes at least 30 minutes to finalize the picture. Even on nexus 4

    • hoosiercub88

      30 Minutes? My Moto X did it in like 30 seconds... 0.0

    • Simon Belmont

      30 minutes? Inconceivable.

      I may be on a Nexus 5, but every picture has processed in maybe 10-20 seconds max. Even on high setting.

    • Roh_Mish

      20 secs Max in high. Nexus 4

  • Simon Belmont

    Wow. Sounds like nearly every feature and setting that people were complaining about being removed will get added back eventually (including ones that were removed a long time ago in Jelly Bean, like the big eyes, nose, etc)

    I have to say the most exciting part of this app, for me, is just the fact that it's now on the Google Play Store. Knowing it can be updated with fixes and new features without an OS update is awesome.

  • firesoul453

    I installed it on a device (via apk) that runs 4.3 and it installed but is missing a bunch of features. Also seems like google is rolling out slowly.

  • Mike Wilk

    Anyone know what happened to the basic "SCENE" selector for the Camera. You used to be able to select Action, Sunset, Party, etc. What happened to that? If I select "manual exposure" for the camera in the Advanced settings the only thing I can control is white-balance.