Android photography is years behind the iPhone according to ex-Google SVP

Android photography is years behind the iPhone according to ex-Google SVP

Vic Gundotra, a former Senior Vice President of Social at Google, says that he "would never use an Android phone for photos!" This declaration was sparked in the comments of a recent Facebook post of his, which was in praise of the iPhone 7's computational photography (or, Portrait Mode) prowess. Here's why he believes Google is behind Apple on this front, and why I believe he's wrong.

Could it be the end of an era? According to Gundotra, the sun is setting on DSLR for most people and the future is mobile. After taking "stunning" portrait shots of his children at a restaurant with his mobile phone, an iPhone 7, he posted the photos to Facebook and declared "The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived," and that he "would NEVER buy an Android phone again if I cared about photography." As someone who ran Google's mobile efforts for years and was an engineering SVP, according to his comment, he has a lot of understanding of this subject. But why would an ex-Googler believe so strongly in Apple's photography technology? He explains in a comment:

"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."

Theory vs practice

On the face of it, his argument about why Android phones are supposedly years behind is convincing. But let's talk about results. Two Android phones still fared better overall than the iPhone in our most recent blind camera test across photos in a variety of environments. The Google Pixel, followed closely by the Samsung Galaxy S8, simply produced better shots than the iPhone 7 Plus, according to AndroidPIT readers' votes.

google pixel iphone 7 plus camera test results
Google Pixel on the left (1F, 4B), iPhone 7 Plus on the right (1A, 4F). / © NextPit

The continued dominance of the Pixel, which was released six months before the Galaxy S8 and just a month after the iPhone 7 Plus, is due largely to software innovation rather than hardware. The camera app of the Pixel is full of enhancements - and it is proprietary, not freely available to Google's competitors, unlike like the Pixel's camera sensors or the mostly open Android operating system. So, Google has every reason to continue developing its computational photography innovations at full speed, just as unconstrained as Apple. Google's competition, in the case of Samsung at least, seems to have no problem keeping up either, as the Galaxy S8 did almost as well as the Pixel in our test.

Do you agree with Vic Gundotra? Is Android really years behind in the realm of photography? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Peter Harwood Aug 8, 2017 Link to comment

    The man dosent know what hes talking about fact is a phone camera will never take as good a photo as a dslr or most decent cameras as for the iphone 7 taking better photos than any android phone is total rubbish ive a xzpremium and its the best android camera in my eyes at the moment and would definitely give the iPhone 7 a good run out in everything.

  • John Kerr Aug 5, 2017 Link to comment

    The last part of the headline says everything: ACCORDING TO EX-GOOGLE SVP

  • Jose Salce Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    He could have been using a mid to low end Android device and could be comparing it to an iPhone. He said something negative , in a tweet, about Microsoft after leaving the company for Google but Larry Page told him not to tweet again :).

  • CJ Brown Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    Vic sounds like a disgruntled former Google + Employee (he's allowed to be an iPhone fanboy, but I don't think we've seen the end of DSLR / Mirrorless APS-C) ...

    At the end of the day we are all entitled to our opinions (ie I have had prior experiences with Moto-Lenovo that were poor, while my experiences with ZTE have improved) ...

    This could be a debate as open as screen size (my opinion, 5.5 is big enough, while anything over 5.7 takes time to get used to).

  • Kent Shephard Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    DSLR is far from dead. Mirrorless APS-C or 4/3 is far from dead. What is dead is the point and shoot.
    First the low light performance of any phone sensor does not compare to an APS-C sensor (we'll lump DSLR and mirrorless together). The sensor size for phones, even when using two is just too small. The pixels are too small and too close together for good noise performance. The other issue is shutter lag. They may overcome some of it by taking constant pictures as soon as you bring the camera up, but you pay in battery life. There is no free lunch and cell phones are far from a threat to DSLR and mirrorless cameras. There era of the point and shoot is dead though.

    That's not to say you can't take great pictures with a cell phone. You can. Sometimes it means getting any picture vs no picture at all.

  • Andrew Burgin Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    Wrong comment stated Android cameras are way better than Apples,even my iPhone mates are amazed of the photos i take with Galaxy camera phones,now more dual camera phones on the way,Apple will end up struggling to compete,just can"t wait to see what the Note 8 dual camera as to offer

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  •   10
    Deactivated Account Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    He was in charge of Google Plus - we know where it's now. He was in charge of Mobile division. ...but he left (or was made leaving), suddenly the cameras of Android Smartphones are amazing and honestly ahead of Apple iphones. I'm not saying that the iphone has a bad camera, which it doesn't. But the guy maybe wasn't the right choice for those positions because it harmed Google/Android in what they were doing. So while for him the iphone might have the best camera and is far ahead, i hope he will be lucky to find a job at apple for this public advertisement. Because i'm quite happy with my Android smartphone and the camera. Me personally i think Android smartphones have better cameras than iphones, but that's it.

  •   46
    Deactivated Account Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    My wife has the only android among her friends the S7 flat screen. When ever it is picture and selfie time all the I phones are put away. I hate the phone in general it has been nothing but a head ache rebooting and over heating. I will admit it does have a good camera.

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  •   31
    Deactivated Account Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    ex Googler...
    do I detect a hint of bitterness with the Never buy Android attitude..
    also known during his time at Google as the "Vic-tator"...
    seems happy with his iPhone
    which is exactly what he deserves..
    a lifetime of iOS

  • Charudatt Kumbhare Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    Absolutely rubbish comment made by ex VP, he should see the photo comparison between a stupid iPhone 7 and Google Pixel and Samsung s8 again and then comment.
    And when he says that its the end of DSLR cameras i think he is out of his mind.
    I think android community is going to stay for next 50 years as dominant OS and tremendous evolution over the period of time and one day phone cameras would be @ par worth DSLR cameras.

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  • storm Aug 1, 2017 Link to comment

    He has a point. But he painted with a too broad of a brush (and an outdated ones) as there are android cameras that after considered superior to Apple.

    Also, for the money in the mid range market, Apple doesn't compare so well.

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