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Why Instagram on Android is worse than on iPhone (and how it could change soon)

Most third-party Android apps take worse photos than iOS ones. But what is the reason?

Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat … Whatever social network you use to share your photos and videos, in all these years you have probably realized that image quality of the camera built into these third-party Android apps It is much lower than that offered by the same applications in their version for iOS. It is not the first time we have talked about the subject, but year after year, users of Google's operating system continue to face the same problem.

Fortunately, the solution could be closer than we imagine. After all, tools needed to completely end this situation they are already there, and it is only a matter of time – and the developers will – until they are used to reduce the existing gap between third-party Android apps and iOS apps.

The Instagram app on an Android mobile.

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A matter of APIs

The biggest problem that we find when using third-party apps that use the camera of our mobile on Android, is that the image quality is not up to standard of the camera included in the device natively.

The reason, as explained on Reddit an Android app developer, reside in existing APIs for developers when implementing the camera functionality in their terminals.

On the one hand, there is the API Camera, the oldest of all available. It is the API with the most and best support by devices, but its main problem is the fact that have a very limited number of functions.

Waterfall photo on OnePlus 7T Pro

All recent mobiles have support for the Camera2 API.

Later, Google launched the API Camera2, a renewed version of the previous one, which is available on devices with system versions equal to or higher than Android 5 Lollipop.

This second API has support for a greater number of functions than the original, but it still does not incorporate important features such as support for HDR algorithm used by each device manufacturer. And since, today, device cameras depend so much on the HDR processing of each manufacturer, it is not surprising that the image quality decay so much when using apps that do not have access to this functionality.

Camera2 It is also the API that most modern applications already use, and on which almost all new applications are based.

If we talk about the case of iOS, we will see that there is only one Camera API full-featured and HDR processor support, which greatly facilitates developers' work by not forcing them to having to choose between one or the other.

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The solution is left to the developers

But not everything on Android is bad. A few years ago, Google announced the arrival of CameraX, a third camera API –And with a bit of luck, the final one–, which would be available for any device with an Android version equal to or greater than Lollipop.

In Google's words, it is a More consistent and user-friendly API, which inherits the functions of Camera2, but uses a simpler approach based on case studies, in addition to solving the device compatibility issues no need for extra work from the developer.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra cameras

The latest Samsung models offer support for the CameraX API.

And more importantly: the CameraX API gives the possibility to take advantage of the same camera features offered by the native camera apps of each mobile with just two lines of code. For this, they are used extensions designed to add effects like portrait mode, night mode and, above all, HDR processing.

Keep in mind that this API must be supported by the devices to be able to work with the applications that use it. For example, all Pixel series devices have support for it, as well as Samsung mobiles starting with the Galaxy S10 series.

So, Is CameraX the solution to the problems of apps like Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok on Android? It is probable … although I fear we will have to wait.

And is that this API is still under development, and although it is already possible to implement the CameraX libraries thanks to its beta phase, Google continues to recommend the use of Camera2 in applications.

The company itself has confirmed that CameraX should be fully ready in the second half of this year 2021. And if everything goes as planned, major developers should update their applications to support this API once it is fully available.