The name Vic Gundotra if pretty well known within the Android community as he used to lead Google’s mobile division when he worked for them. He’s likely more known for his contributions to services like Google+ though, but his work also touched other areas within the company. He is credited for a lot of the work done to early versions of Google Maps and worked to grow Google I/O, but then decided to resign after 7 years of being with the company.
Mr. Gundotra recently made some comments in a Facebook post on how he feels about the state of photography when it comes to Android and iOS. The post started off innocently with him simply sharing two photos of his children that he took on an iPhone 7+ using Portrait Mode. He was so impressed with the quality of the photos that he specifically praised Apple on the work they’ve done with their computational photography feature (aka Portrait Mode).
Someone replied to this post and agreed that the era of lugging around a huge DSLR camera was indeed over, and said their Galaxy S8 does an even better job. This is where things take a turn as Mr. Gundotra replied less than 10 minutes later to say he would never use an Android phone for photos. Surprising a lot of people, they asked why this was and this gave him time to explain what he meant by the whole comment.
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.
He claims Android being open source and needing to be neutral to all OEMs is why it is slower to innovate than Apple is with the iPhone. He then claims a Samsung phone has a “confused and bewildering array of photo-options” but doesn’t really go into detail about what he means here other than mentioning a Samsung Camera, Android Camera, Samsung Gallery and Google Photos application. So maybe having too many options available to him is what makes things confusing, though in terms of camera apps Samsung only offers its stock Camera pre-installed.
He does then go on to say that when Samsung innovates with hardware (like putting in a new camera module feature), they are forced to “convince Google” to implement the appropriate API into Android and that can take years. Although, Samsung does create their own APIs for the hardware they use in their devices, so it’s unclear exactly how using an Android device makes you “a few years behind” as Vic Gundotra puts it.
What do you think of Mr. Gundotra’s statements? Do you agree with his assessment? Sound off below!