Smartphone photography is making huge leaps towards becoming accepted as a valid form of art. Art galleries are hosting exhibitions devoted to photographs produced and edited exclusively on phones, while websites like Pixels at an Exhibition sell fine art prints from a curated catalogue of smartphone images.
Android phones offer significantly higher resolution cameras than their iPhone competition (8 megapixels on most current Droids vs 5 megapixels on the iPhone 4), and Android boasts a higher market share than iOS. Yet the emerging art movement is known as iPhoneography, and virtually all the major players are shooting on an iPhone. Why?
The iPhone App Store boasts a wealth of photo apps that stagger the imagination. If you can picture it in your mind, there is an app to help you achieve the effect in your photo. From specialized apps that do one thing very well to toy camera simulators like the incredibly popular Hipstamatic (iTunes link) to full editing suites that act as a mobile Photoshop the iPhone has what photographers want.
The Android Market, on the other hand, is a veritable wasteland for photo apps. There are a few exceptional options, such as Vignette. But there are some gaping holes in the current photography offerings that a savvy Android developer could profit from filling.
HDR, or high-dynamic range, photography involves taking 2 bracketed exposures and blending them together to produce a broader tonal range than a single photo can capture. When Apple included an HDR option in the default iPhone 4 camera it was a pretty big deal, and there are always a couple HDR apps in the App Store’s top 100. Currently Android has zero similar apps, the best a user can do is fake the effect (badly) using an app like Camera360.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, faularoids are popular with the iPhoneography crowd. The instant nature of mobile photography offers the same immediate gratification, and there’s something about the retro look of a fake Polaroid that adds an emotional layer to a simple photograph. fxCamera for Android does fantastic “Polandroid” images, but only at terrible resolution. You only have to look as far as ShakeItPhoto (iTunes link) for iOS to see that a high quality, high resolution instant camera app can become a beloved staple for many users.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 months you’ve heard of Instagram, the powerhouse social photo sharing app for iPhone. Android users have been begging for an Instagram app to no avail. Recently an API was released (you can sign up to use it here), opening the door for intrepid Android developers to beat Instagram’s parent company Burbn to the punch.
(I would argue that competitor, PicPlz, is actually the superior platform. But they offer an Android version of their app so building on their API is less of a low-hanging fruit for easy success.)
Urbian’s Retro Camera has some great filters, but suffers from performance and resolution issues on all but the latest and fanciest Droids. A toy camera app that offers true high resolution images, less crashes and more customization (such as the ability to mix and match frames and lens/film effects) could easily dethrone Retro Camera to become the Hipstamatic of Android. Make sure you focus (if you’ll pardon the pun) on quality filters rather than just a pretty UI though.
Vignette’s creators also offer the only decent tilt shift app for Android, but it only offers selective focus on a horizontal plane. Even the free version of TiltShift Generator (iTunes link) for iOS offers vertical, horizontal and circular options for selecting the in-focus portion of your photo.
So go forth and carve out your app’s place in the Android Market while there’s still minimal competition. Feel free to send me a copy of your app for feedback, beta testing and review.