Despite the lavish praise the Google Nexus line received thanks to its openness to development, the smartphones have received much criticism for their camera prowess. That changed (though some would argue it hasn’t) with the release of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, however, as Google took a more consumer directed approach to their smartphones and the results showed in the camera department with the smartphones receiving top tier scores from DxOMark. Part of Google’s more recent success with picture quality has been thanks to their amazing HDR+ technology that is exclusive to their smartphones. For the average user, HDR+ presents an incredibly easy way to produce stunning photographs without the need to learn manual photography or edit RAW images. And now, you can take advantage of Google Camera’s HDR+ thanks to a modified version of the APK ported to work on any device with the Hexagon 650 ISP (found on the Snapdragon 820, 821, and 835 SoCs).
The Google Camera app is no stranger to being modded. A popular Zero-Shutter Lag (ZSL) HDR+ mod of the app brought the Google Pixel’s picture taking speed to the Google Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, and a quick modification that we did brought Google Camera 4.2, taken from the Pixel’s Android 7.1 Nougat system dump, to the last generation Nexus devices. But it’s not typical that you see a Google Camera modification make its way to other, non-Google branded devices. Even rooted users with Magisk installed are unable to enjoy the full advantages of Google Camera HDR+, but thanks to some recent developments that will change.
Modded Google Camera 4.4 with HDR+
A Russian developer by the name of B-S-G on the forum 4PDA has posted a modified version of Google Camera v4.4.012.156195200. This Google Camera app is the same one pulled from the third Android O Developer Preview that was released in June of this year. The developer was able to modify it to work with any device that utilizes the Hexagon 650 ISP or above, which includes those devices with the Snapdragon 820, Snapdragon 821, or Snapdragon 835 SoCs.
I have personally tested this application on the following devices and have confirmed that it works:
The modified Google Camera app with HDR+ support does indeed seem to work with Google’s HDR+ technology, as the notification that the app is processing HDR appeared after each picture and there was a clear difference in the pictures after it was done processing.
Top row: OnePlus 3 without Google Camera HDR+. Bottom row: With Google Camera HDR+
Additional sample photos taken on the OP3 with Google Camera HDR+
We independently confirmed the safety of the APK file thanks to Amir Zaidi who is the developer of the rootless Pixel Launcher app that brings the Google Now panel to unrooted devices. He published a full diff, using APKTool, of the smali changes that were made to the app to see if there was any malicious insertions to the APK file. We found none of the sort, and can confirm that it is safe to install. Interestingly, you’ll see that the developer added tons of references to “muskie” and “Google Pixel XL 2”, so it seems he attempted to force Google Camera into thinking the app is running on the next generation Google Pixel 2 smartphones.
We reached out to B-S-G and have received direct permission from the developer to rehost his modified Google Camera APK with HDR+. We have uploaded the file to AndroidFileHost so you can easily download and install the camera app onto your own device.
Mini-Interview with B-S-G
Through an interpreter (XDA Senior Member Daniiiiik49), we spoke with the Russian developer about this project. First, we asked how he was able to get this Google Camera HDR+ modification to work:
I took Nexus 6 as entry device to spoof. Then you just take needed device from HDR-supported (like Nexus 5X/6P or Pixels) list and replace all necesarry stuff to get different processing.
I spent about 6-8 hours to get it work. 2 evenings of suffering…
Next, we asked him about his future plans for the app:
For now it’s just beta version and I don’t really know which device is the best to spoof in order to achieve the most impressive results of HDR+ processing. Currently, I’m trying to get frontfacing camera to work with disabled flashlight. Only after I’ll a find fix for that, I’ll look deeply into improving photo quality.
Finally, we asked him about his plans on supporting devices that are older than the Hexagon 650:
I have no plans to support any specific device, but I’ll probably make some versions of my modification with different spoofed devices. Every device works differently with HDR+ and it’s better to find the favorite one yourself. I already have at least 5 different versions here on forum (4pda) with different processing algorithm (2 hybrids, Nexus 6P, Pixel XL, Pixel 2 XL).
So there you have it. This wonderful modification is the result of one developer’s blood, sweat, and tears over 2 evenings. He worked hard getting it to work where it is now, and if you enjoy this modification, send him all your thanks!