Suite 48 Analytics describes what’s driving the photo-app market

Advances in smartphone hardware, APIs and native apps are driving third party photo app vendors to new frontiers

Native smartphone camera apps do much more than enable basic camera functions. These apps include features such as HDR, burst, dual focus/exposure points, exposure compensation and panoramic image capture that were once the exclusive domain, and the main value proposition, of third-party camera apps. While this might appear to doom prospects for these third-party camera apps, Reinventing the Camera App Market, the latest study from mobile-photography research firm Suite 48 Analytics, comes to a different conclusion.

Late last year Google and Apple substantially enhanced their smartphone camera APIs, giving camera app developers a whole range of opportunities to access the improved capabilities of the newer phones’ hardware, and in doing so differentiate their products from native camera apps. According to the study, which analyzes 21 top-selling or otherwise notable camera apps and includes the perspectives of key executives at developers leading the market, numerous apps have already taken advantage of these advanced APIs with many more soon to come.

“As smartphone cameras get better and better, mobile photographers’ expectations for photo quality have likewise increased – they’re demanding better smartphone photo capture tools,” says Hans Hartman, president, Suite 48 Analytics and report author. “That sounds like an obvious statement, but it hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, smartphone photographers were willing to live with lower resolution, grainy, or otherwise low-quality photos, as long as they could still make these photos look enticing through filters from apps like Hipstagram and later Instagram. Going forward, filters are an option for creative expression – not a requirement to make the photos worth keeping or sharing.”

The study concludes the camera app market has become a “long tail” market, served by three main categories of apps:

  • Camera apps offering SLR-like control of the smartphone camera, such as A Better Camera, Camera+, Manual, or ProCamera 8 + HDR.
  • Camera apps focusing on ease-of-use, such as Z Cameraand Camera51.
  • Specialized camera apps with specific use cases, such as CamFindFast Burst Camera, Slow Shutter Cam, or Mobile Hidden Camera.

“The implications of advanced cameras embedded in current and new categories of mobile devices, coupled with enhanced camera apps that leverage the programmatic access to these devices, will be examined in depth in the Disrupting Through Hardware panel discussion at the upcoming Mobile Photo Connect conference, an executive conference focused on promoting innovation and partnerships in the mobile photography ecosystem.

The free Reinventing the Camera App Market white paper can be downloaded at

Make your own photo gallery — on Google

google gallery

Getting your pictures posted on the precious wall space in a traditional gallery can be tough. Soon it will be simple to start your own space — online.

Google is launching an Internet art gallery on which emerging artists can display their work to a larger audience.

There are of course plenty of online image sharing and viewing sites, some free for basic features, some paid and allowing storage and print sales, among other functions. Why turn to Google? For widespread exposure, perhaps.

The Open Gallery will be part of the larger Cultural Institute, which connects to famous museums worldwide. It will let museums, galleries, and individuals create a virtual exhibition for artworks of all kinds.

“We’ve built the technology so you can focus on your content,” the company says. “Powerful free tools for artists, museums, archives and galleries. Easily upload your content. Create collections, exhibitions or tours. Publish a new site or enhance your existing one.”

You can request an invite here.

Google Europe has more on the new project here.


Google automates image selection, enhancement


google photos

We all know that it’s all too easy to take dozens if not hundreds of shots at an event — and all too hard to sort through them all at a later time to see and share the good ones. Now Google will apply it search and image recognition technologies to consumer imaging, in its social service Google+.

Auto Highlight “helps you find your favorites faster by de-emphasizing duplicates, blurry images and poor exposures,” Google says, “and focusing instead on pictures with the people you care about, landmarks, and other positive attributes.”

google highlight

The new free Google+ features will roll out over the next week. “Your darkroom is now a Google data center,” the company says. “Great pictures aren’t taken, they’re made. And it’s the making part that many of us don’t have time for. We’d all love to have photos that capture our vacations and birthdays and anniversaries the way we remember them. But wonderful images require lots (and lots) of work. We think everyone should be able to make beautiful photos, so today we’re launching a set of initiatives aimed at improving your photos automatically.”

Other new features include:

• Auto Backup/Instant Upload: automatically backs up mobile pics as they are snapped, with unlimited free storage for a “standard” size image of 2048 pixels wide.

• Auto Enhance improves brightness, contrast, saturation, structure, noise, focus, “and dozens of other factors automatically.”

• Auto Awesome creates a new image based on a set of photos. “If you upload a sequence of photos, we’ll try and animate them automatically,’ Goggle says. “Or if you send us a few family portraits, we’ll find everyone’s best smile, and stitch them together into a single shot.”

More information is here.

Google packs cameras into the Grand Canyon


google grand canyon

“No matter where you are, you don’t have to travel far or wait for warmer weather to explore Grand Canyon National Park,” Google says.

The Google team captured the “breathtaking imagery collection” with its Trekker, an Android OS-running, 40-pound backpack system with a 15-lens camera.

Google is displaying new panoramic imagery “of one of the world’s most spectacular national monuments.” the company says. “These beautiful, interactive images cover more than 75 miles of trails and surrounding roads, making our map of this area even more comprehensive, accurate and easy to use than ever before.”

With the browser-based immersive imaging, you can “take a walk down the narrow trails and exposed paths of the Grand Canyon: hike down the famous Bright Angel Trail, gaze out at the mighty Colorado River, and explore scenic overlooks in full 360-degrees.”

More than 9,500 panoramas “of this masterpiece of nature” are now available on Google Maps.

More on the Google cams in the canyon is in this Wired article.


Google finds photos faster


google image search

Have you worked with Google’s Image Search? I find many a photo exec’s pic there when I couldn’t track it down anywhere else. (It’s amazing how many companies in the photo industry have websites without pictures of their latest products or important personnel.) Now that task may get even easier, as the Web search leader has once again tweaked it photo finding features.

“People looking for images on Google often want to browse through many images, looking both at the images and their metadata,” the company says. “Based on feedback from both users and webmasters, we redesigned Google Images to provide a better search experience. In the next few days, you’ll see image results displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable. You will be able to quickly flip through a set of images by using the keyboard. If you want to go back to browsing other search results, just scroll down and pick up right where you left off.”


• Metadata will now appear underneath the image in the search results, instead of redirecting users to a separate landing page.

• Key information will be featured much more prominently next to the image: the title of the page hosting the image, the domain name it comes from, and the image size.


Apple, Google to co-purchase Kodak imaging patents?

Apple and Google teamed to offer more than $500 million to buy Kodak’s  imaging patents, Bloomberg reported late last week.

With their  leading smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android, the two companies have dominant positions in mobile imaging, and doubtless would rather not face patent infringement claims from any potential rival buying Kodak’s intellectual property.

It’s not an uncommon move: Apple worked with Microsoft and Research in Motion to acquire 6,000 patents for $4.5 billion from bankrupt Nortel Networks last year.

Kodak, in the midst of bankruptcy and reorganization, seeks to sell 1,100 imaging patents.

Kodak has claimed the patents may be worth more than $2 billion, but others counter the patents are already too widely licensed to be of much further value.

More on the story is here.


Google adds 3D imagery to Earth v7


The virtual world viewing app from Google now provides new ways to see cities in 3D and a new tour guide feature, the company says. The features debuted in the mobile app, but now “you can get both of those features on a bigger screen” which “makes it even easier to explore.” Google Earth 7 for desktop PCs has comprehensive and accurate tours of more than 11,000 popular sites around the world, Google adds.

The new software includes comprehensive, accurate 3D imagery for Boulder, Boston, Charlotte, Denver, Lawrence, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Seattle, Tampa, Tucson, Rome and the San Francisco Bay Area (including the Peninsula and East Bay), as well as “a handful of metropolitan regions” including Avignon, France; Austin, Texas; Munich, Germany; Phoenix, Arizona; and Mannheim, Germany.

The experience of flying through these areas and seeing the buildings, terrain and even the trees rendered in 3D makes “all of your virtual travels more realistic than ever,” the company says.

The tour guide feature serves as a local expert, suggesting nearby places you might want to explore. Simply click, “and you’ll embark on a virtual flyover of famous, historical and cultural sites close by.”

HTC and Apple settle patent dispute

While Apple’s battle against Samsung and Google over the Android OS continues, the company settled its years-old lawsuits against #2 Android phone maker HTC.

The companies jointly announced that all patent litigation between the companies were dismissed as HTC and Apple “reached a global settlement that includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits and a ten-year license agreement. The license extends to current and future patents held by both parties.”

The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Both companies conclude that the resolution will let them “focus on innovation.”

Google offers Nexus in three sizes

“People increasingly have more than one device, and they switch between them many times a day,” Google says. And so the company announced three new Nexus devices, “in small, medium and large.”

The Nexus 4 smartphone is made by LG. It has a 4.7-inch display with 320 ppi resolution “that’s perfect for looking at photos and watching YouTube,” Google says. A particularly cool addition: wireless charging. “You just set the phone down on a charging surface to power it up, no wires needed.” The Nexus 4 starts at $300 for 8GB storage unlocked and without a contract, or $200 with a 2-year contract.

The Nexus 7 mini tablet is “a slim, portable package that fits perfectly in your hand,” Google says. It’s $200 for 16GB storage or $250 for 32GB.

The Nexus 10 “is the ultimate tablet for watching movies or reading magazines,” the company says. Made by Samsung, it is “the highest resolution tablet on the planet” Google claims, “with a 10.055-inch display at 2560 x 1600 (300ppi) –  that’s over 4 million pixels right in your hands.” The Nexus 10 starts at $400 for 16GB.

Also: With “Jelly Bean,” Android 4.2, Google says it has “reinvented the photo experience with Photo Sphere, which lets you capture images that are larger than life.” It looks a lot like Microsoft’s PhotoSynth to us, but Google says it “snaps shots up, down and in every direction to create stunning 360-degree immersive experiences that you can share with friends and family, or add to Google Maps for the world to see. Up, down and all around you, it’s like no camera you’ve ever seen.”

And the Android Beam feature shares photos and videos “with just a simple tap — just touch two NFC-enabled Android devices back-to-back, then tap to beam whatever’s on the screen to your friend.”

Google to buy Viewdle for $45 million

Visual analysis company Viewdle may be the latest acquisition of Google; the search leader is reportedly paying about $45 million for the Ukraine-based imaging firm.

Motorola, the handset maker acquired this year by Google, was reportedly interested in Viewdle last year.

Acting CEO Jason Mitura participated in our social imaging earlier this year; you can read his outspoken views in the 6Sight Magazine here:

As we reported last year, Viewdle developed SocialCamera, a free Android app that adds face recognition to identify “the people you take photos of the most, and tag them for you,” the company says. SocialCamera creates a “faceprint of your friends, so you can automatically match their social contact info to their picture. Your camera will know who to send your photos to,” via Flickr, Facebook, email, or MMS.

We first covered Viewdle way back 2007, noting the company claimed its facial recognition technology recognizes a face after seeing it just once —and its video indexing and reference system fuses its facial-recognition visual analysis technology with other search techniques  for frame-by-frame analysis that indexes video at 55 frames per second —“nearly instantaneously.”