What?With the recent release of the HTC and Samsung Google Experience Devices and then the posting of the full system dump online we were always looking to see what might be different between the GE devices and their Nexus cousins. As it turns out the devices actually contained an interesting surprise in the form of the Camera app with the updated UI that was seen in a leak a few months back at a Thailand Mobile Expo.
This app was then quickly extracted and made available for download here or here.
Having installed this on my Galaxy Nexus running 4.2.2 to give it a whirl I've been quite happy to find a few additions to the application, a couple of which were desperately needed.
CameraFirst thing you notice is the updated settings menu that appears when you long press on the viewfinder or tap the circle in the bottom right.
The main improvement beside performance that I have noticed so far is that in landscape shooting where you previously saw ugly black holes at the top and bottom now it gives some extra reference points when taking the photosphere to fill those gaps. This is a great development as I think most people will take their photosphere in landscape, at least the start with, this way they don't feel like they're doing something wrong.
When viewing an image in the Gallery you will notice that where previously there were three circles on the bottom left representing the editing side of the application, now there is the little pen that Google and Android uses elsewhere to indicate editing functionality.
In addition to Local, they also added "Highlights" editing and some more frame options, because apparently you need various types of curved frame...
Those are the main things I've found playing about with it today, it will be interesting to see if Google release this as a stand alone App within the Play Store which would give access to Photosphere to a whole heap of new users. They recently did this with many of their own applications that were previously exclusive to Nexus devices, the Google Keyboard for example.
I think this idea of releasing standalone applications that Google have started with Google Play Services is a great way of getting the latest features and security fixes out without relying on Android operating system updates. Saying that, it would be nice to see what the update to 4.3 brings as I'm certainly hoping for some backend/behind the scenes work that helps improve the performance of my Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 which have been suffering somewhat since 4.2 was released.
Will we see 4.3 release in the next few weeks or months? I'm sure Google knows and maybe enough time has passed since I/O that they can release this now. Why it was bumped from the show in the first place I doubt will ever be revealed but hopefully it'll be pretty well polished by now!