At some point, Google decided to take on Apple's status as the unchampioned camera master in the smartphone world, and for quite the large part, it's succeeded. During the era of the Nexus 6P, the company lay the foundation of that work, introducing new camera features like Smart Burst, slow-motion video, and more. But now Google is reconsidering some of those early features, and a new Camera update drops Smart Burst in favor of Top Shot on the Pixel 3 and 3XL.
While killing off features is always controversial, the removal of Smart Burst makes a degree of sense — since both it and the AI-powered Top Shot are designed to help users find the best pic out of a sequence.
Top Shot may not be an exact replica of Smart Burst's abilities, lacking the ability to manually set burst size, or being slightly less convenient to use for quickly creating GIFs or motion pictures. Still, Google wants to focus on the development of Top Shot going forward and has therefore decided to sunset Smart Burst on the Pixel 3. Keep in mind that the older Pixel phones that don't have Top Shot still get to keep Smart Burst.
We first caught wind of this change last week, when Google briefly published a new changelog for its Camera app:
• Night Sight and Panorama mode have swapped places.
• Smart Burst mode disabled for Pixel 3/3XL
• Bug fixes and performance improvements.
That notice didn't stick around too long before being reverted, but we managed to spot it and reach out to Google. The company confirmed its intent to retire Smart Burst, citing user preference for Top Shot and feedback suggesting that dropping Smart Burst would have minimal impact.
Left: Night Sight is now easily accessible on the leftmost tab. Right: Panorama sits in Night Sight's previous spot in the More tab.
Along with the removal of Smart Burst, Night Sight and Panorama mode have switched places in the interface, making the former more accessible (as previously covered). Google also confirmed with us some processing changes going on under the hood. Such improvements should help reduce the shot losses Google Camera is infamous for — hopefully, this also helps against video recording freezes which have plagued some people, including our own Artem Russakovskii. We also learn about processing changes for Top Shot, Photobooth, and HDR+ processing, letting the camera skip certain processing stages or calculate fewer frames to keep up when your phone is under heavy load.
The new Camera update is rolling out to Pixel phones via the Play Store and should come pre-loaded with Android 10 once it's released. The general improvements will hit all Pixel phones, while only the third-generation devices will lose the Smart Burst capability. Once we have the APK on APK Mirror, we'll update this post.