Motorola’s camera and why “pure” Android matters

Motorola’s camera and why “pure” Android matters

Motorola's camera and why "pure" Android matters

Ever since Motorola was reinvented – first under Google and then Lenovo – the company has played it smart, especially when you look at its offerings in India. Rather than throwing a bunch of different models on the dartboard to see what will stick, the company has been much more thoughtful and restrained in its product line.

And it’s a strategy that seems to be working – at the Moto X Play launch in September, Motorola India Managing Director Amit Boni announced that the company had sold 5.6 million handsets since returning to the Indian market in February 2014.

(Also see: Time to start taking Motorola seriously again)

One of the selling points of Motorola’s phones is that they offer a largely “pure” Android experience, and the company is usually quick to bring Android version updates to handsets as well. But there’s one area where Motorola really needs to up its game – Motorola’s camera app needs to change, and fast.

I’m a proud first-gen Moto X (2013) user and have no plans to jump ship just yet. The fact that Motorola released an official Lollipop update for a two-year-old phone shows its dedication to its products.

On the other hand, Motorola does nothing about its camera app, which is painfully slow and has very few options to tweak. With this app, you still can’t reduce the resolution of video recording to anything in Full HD. That’s not a problem if you have expandable storage, but on a phone with just 16GB, that seems silly. Apart from space issues, a lower resolution video is also easier to share on chat apps and easier to upload to social media.

Sure, you could argue that Motorola having a bad camera app isn’t a dealbreaker, because you can download any of the thousands of camera apps available on Google Play, but that misses the point. A good camera is a key part of the experience for most people, and while a tech-savvy user might not have any issues, there are more than enough people we all know personally, who will still struggle with the default app.

The Google Camera app offers much better flexibility compared to Motorola’s stock app

And the camera is – for many of us – still a core feature of our phones. We all share photos on social media and we ditch standalone cameras when we use our phones for photography. It’s the first thing many people try on a new phone, and there’s a reason the word “selfie” was the word of the year in 2013.

(Also see: It’s time to ban the selfie)

There are certainly alternatives. I found the Google Camera app to be the best quick alternative to the standard Motorola app. For starters, it’s free, and second, it’s from Google, so any issues or bugs are quickly addressed through updates.

The app has similar functionality to Motorola’s stock app, but you get additional features like HDR and Panorama modes. More importantly, you can switch to 720p or even 480p video resolutions. Even if you have one of the newer Moto X smartphones with more storage space, the Google Camera app is a better choice than the stock app because the autofocus speed is faster, it so much easier to capture those candid moments.

Another must-have app is Manual Camera. It’s not free and some features are limited on the original Moto X, but this app is a fantastic alternative to the stock app for taking photos. The best part of Manual Camera is how easy it is to use. The app is beautifully designed, giving you the various settings to adjust on the left and a dial on the right to adjust the level. Before you rush out to buy it, run this compatibility check to make sure your phone is compatible with all features.


The Manual Camera app offers pro-level tweaks, provided your phone supports it

In fact, most lower-midrange phones with 13-megapixel cameras would just benefit from upgrading to a better camera app. What is the crux of this problem; Issues with Motorola’s stock camera app are a big deal, but they’re not limited to Motorola’s devices, not by a long shot. How many OEMs would benefit from a better camera app? More than Google would like to admit.

There are a few exceptions; Samsung’s camera app includes a pro mode with which you get options for manual focus, white balance, ISO, shutter speed and even RAW support. A few other manufacturers also focused on making camera-centric phones and did better. Google’s camera app isn’t a bad choice, and unless you’re offering something better, why bother?

Coming back to Motorola, I really hope that the company can take inspiration from these third-party developers and come up with something better in its Marshmallow update. Having a broader feature set will help offset some of its issues with camera performance, which hasn’t exactly been stellar compared to what the competition has to offer.

Basic options, like the ability to shoot at a lower resolution, should be present and it doesn’t hurt to have manual controls either. Smartphone cameras have evolved to the point where it’s no longer just about taking a shot, but about making that shot really stand out. We now have the optics and power to easily shoot RAW or have optical image stabilization, so why not include more professional photography options in the app? Why limit camera functionality when you can afford so much more?

Check out the latest from the Consumer Electronics Show on Gadgets 360, in our CES 2023 hub.


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