Ever since the Nokia N95, my phone has always been my main camera. I've bought point and shoots, mirrorless/DSLRs, several 360 cams, but nothing beats the simplicity of pulling out the device that's already in my pocket, tapping a few on-screen buttons, and snapping the photo I want. On big occasions, I'll make the effort to take my Olympus mirrorless with me, but smartphones — especially Pixels — have gotten so good that I still revert to them when I'm in an especially challenging situation. This often happens in cathedrals and other half-dark half-brightly lit places where capturing the image that's in my head would require a level of cam-manipulation and post-processing knowledge that I don't have.
This story was originally published and last updated .
Got a Pixel? Then you've got one of the best damn cameras in all the Android land. But hold the phone: Your kickass camera can do even more than you realize.
Sure, it takes incredible pictures — but that's just scratching the surface of the Pixel camera advantage. Google's homemade phones have thoughtfully created photo-related software with all sorts of scrumptious smarts baked in. And that means they're overflowing with useful tricks and tucked-away options that are all too easy to overlook.
In honor of my new Pixel Academy e-course — a totally free seven-day email adventure that helps you uncover tons of next-level Pixel treasures — I wanted to share some of my favorite hidden Pixel camera possibilities with you, my favorite Android Police pals.
Out with the old, in with the new: LineageOS cut support for Android 9 Pie earlier this year, and to make up for the loss, the open-source project has just released version 18.1 based on Android 11. It comes with official support for about 60 phones and tablets.
The Google Camera app, an exclusive to the company's Pixel phones, has seen a spate of one-star reviews on the Play Store recently. In fact, its overall rating has declined over the last year and a half from 3.8 stars to 3.3, and details in the bulk of complaints may indicate that the well-known Pixel camera curse is spreading to affect more devices. However, Google tells us there aren't any known app or software issues related to the problem, implying the apparent increase in customer complaints is due to hardware damage.
Back in October, Google confirmed to us that the Pixel 2 and 2 XL were only promised one last wrap-up security patch, having reached the end of the three-year update promise. At the time, we were told it would roll out in December, though yesterday's updates landed without including the Pixel 2 series. But a few hours ago, these likely last images were posted for download, and we expect the update to start rolling out in the more traditional sense soon.
Most people upgrade phones every 2-3 years, a schedule that's often dictated by carrier promotions and on-contract deals. While our readers likely buck that trend, Pixel owners hanging onto the same model for the last 2-3 years are probably considering upgrading. In the case of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, there's not much choice — it's that or stick with a phone that's less and less secure with each passing month. So is the Pixel 5 a worthy upgrade? For some of our readers, it might be, especially if they waited out the Pixel 4, as we generally recommended.
November officially marks the end of the line for the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL, as security updates for both phones have halted. The devices are still functional, and you can switch to custom ROMs like LineageOS to keep the security fixes coming, but the hardware is starting to age as well.
This is a strange year for phone releases, especially from Google. Owners of the Pixel 2 have three Pixel phones to choose from, if they want to stick to Google-made phones, and figuring out how they all stack up is a bit complicated. Thankfully, we're here to do all the hard work.
Portrait Light was announced along with the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5. It's one more neat Pixel camera feature that lets you manually control light in portrait pics and adjust face brightness as you see fit, either for a more dramatic and contrasting effect or to balance things out in poorly-lit photos. The feature was said to be coming to older Pixels too, and now it's there on the Pixel 2, 3, and 4.
I admit, I held hope that Google might surprise us with the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. They were only guaranteed updates until this month, but Google was able to bring the original 2016 Pixels Android 10 last year even though they weren't promised to get it. Secretly, I wanted that to be a trial run for the Pixel 2, dreaming that Google might surprise us with an extra year of updates. After all, 2017 wasn't that long ago, and the hardware has the headroom for at least another year or two of updates. But, though the phones commanded a premium $650-750 price tag at launch, they're being left behind.
Google has confirmed to us that the Pixel 2 and 2 XL will get their last update this December. While the October update released today was the last guaranteed by the company's original calendar commitment, we are told that Google is promising one last update that includes a final set of critical fixes, following a trend it set last year with the original 2016 Pixels.