Using the Google Camera app on a non-Pixel or Nexus phone

One of the biggest developments in the Android world in recent years was the release of the latest Google Camera app for Android phones from Google.

The latest version of the Google Camera app is optimized to work only on Google Nexus and Pixel phones, running Android 7.1.1 and later.

The reason there is so much hype around the app is that Google developers have integrated some of the most advanced image processing technology. For this reason, many app developers worked on migrating a version of the Google Camera app that would also work on non-Google phones.

Why is the Google Camera App so good?

Although the camera hardware on phones like the Google Pixel isn’t the best in the smartphone industry, the advanced features built into the Google Camera app allow Pixel and Nexus Photos to take some of the best photos of any Android phone today.

Screenshot of Google Camera app settings

Google Camera app features include:

  • HDR+ : The software captures a burst of photos using short exposure times. It then takes the sharpest image and algorithmically processes each pixel and adjusts the color closer to the average color across all photos in the burst. This reduces blur and noise and increases the overall dynamic range of the photo, even in low-light conditions.
  • Motion : When motion is on, the Google Camera app captures a three-second video clip of a moving scene and combines it with the phone’s own gyroscope and optical image stabilization (OIS). Using both data sets, the algorithm produces a clear snapshot without the typical motion blur.
  • Video Stabilization : The Google Camera app uses a combination of optical and digital image stabilization (called Fused Video Stabilization) to correct focus and shutter distortion issues. The result is impressively smooth video, even when capturing video while walking.
  • Smartburst : If you hold down the shutter button, the Google Camera app will capture about 10 photos per second. Once you release the button, the app will highlight the best image of the lot. This is a great technique for taking group photos, to prevent someone from blinking during the shot.
  • Lens Blur (Portrait Mode) : Perfect for close-up portraits, this feature blurs the background to improve the foreground focus of the object or person you’re photographing.
  • Panorama – Made popular by Facebook posts made by Android users when it first came out, in panorama mode you tilt and rotate your camera to capture multiple images around you. The Google Camera app creates stunning 360-degree panoramic, vertical, wide-angle, or sphere images.
  • Slow Motion : Capture video at 120 or 240 frames per second, if your phone’s camera is capable of it.

How to install Google Camera App

Installing one of the Google Camera ports on your phone is very easy. The hard part is finding a port for your phone.

XDA Developers organized a Google Camera Ports Hub where you can check if there is a port available for your Android phone.

You will find downloads available for:

  • ASUS
  • Essential
  • HTC
  • LeEco
  • lenovo
  • LG
  • Motorola
  • nokia
  • one plus
  • Razor
  • Samsung galaxy
  • Xiaomi

Most newer models running Android 7.1.1 or later are available.

Once you find the available port for your phone, save it to your computer. Since you can’t download it from Google Play, you’ll have to sideload the app on your phone.

Here’s how to load the Google Camera app on your phone:

  1. Connect the phone to the PC via USB and copy the file to the phone’s Download folder .

    Note : You don’t have to use USB to load an app. Any method of transferring the app from your computer to your phone will work. This may include using a Wi-Fi FTP app or transferring the APK file to Google Drive and then to your phone.

    Copying an APK file to your Android phone

  2. On your phone, use the file manager to open the Download folder .

    Screenshot of Google Camera APK in File Manager.

    Before installing the APK file, you will need to enable installation of apps from unknown sources. You can do this by going into Settings > Security , and enabling Unknown sources .

  3. Finally, click on the APK file to install the Google Camera App.
  4. Once the Google Camera app is installed, you can find it in your list of apps to open and try it out.

Google Camera App performance on your phone

A snapshot of the flower taken in the Portrait mode of the Google Camera app.

Remember, the Google Pixel Camera app was written with specific camera specifications so you may notice some minor differences from the Google Pixel Camera app as described above.

This is because in order to port the app to a version that works on your specific Android phone, the developers adapted the app to use only features that are compatible with your phone’s actual camera.