Google is readying Android 4.4.1 for imminent release, primarily tackling the mediocre camera performance of the Nexus 5, the company has confirmed, with particular emphasis on speed and reliability. The Nexus 5's 8-megapixel camera and new HDR+ mode were billed as particular strengths when the Google phone first launched, but enthusiasm soon soured when users discovered it could be slow, prone to blurring, and unpredictable as to when it was done taking images. Now, Google promises, that's all changing in Android 4.4.1.
Part of the changes, Google director of engineering for Android Dave Burke told The Verge, are in recognition that people expect speed from a smartphone camera, not just performance. Google got carried away by the Nexus 5's optical image stabilization, Burke admits, and tried to implement it - and longer exposure times - too often.
The end result was good shots if photographers kept the camera still, but a greater chance of blur if they moved the phone during those prolonged shutter speeds. That's been tweaked with a faster framerate and quicker shutter-speed, Burke says, while traditionally tardier modes like HDR+ get a progress indicator to give more insight into where, exactly, the Nexus 5 is in the capture process.
It's not the only UI change, either. The camera app loads quicker - a full second faster than before, so it's claimed - and the hierarchical settings menus which can require confusingly precise swipes across the semi-circular button strips will eventually be flattened somewhat, making options easier to access mid-shooting.
Google's target is a more reliable, predictable camera overall; one which produces a great shot in multiple environments, rather than being tuned to a specific type of scene. That's not to say there won't be more prosumer-centric additions too; RAW output has been mentioned as potentially in the pipeline.
The Android 4.4.1 update will be pushed out "over the next few days" Google says. There's more on the Nexus 5 in our full review, and we'll be putting the camera through its paces again once the software patch drops.