To everyone who wants a mini-DSLR on their older Android device, check out Google’s KitKat camera [No Longer Available]. Unfortunately, only the latest devices can get it. For those with older gadgets, I bring great news: You can install the app on any Jelly Bean device. It only requires a few extra special steps.
The new camera app possess a variety of great features, some hidden and some overt — including a timer, Photosphere, tilt-shift, wide-angle shots and Lens Blur (and 3D images). As an aside, as far as I know, no app effectively shoots Photosphere – which is by far the most useful feature of Google’s camera app. Photosphere, as I’ve written prior, enables wide-angle shots.
On the downside, it’s not perfect. The app can suffer from bugginess: On some devices, it crashes. Fortunately, a few potential fixes exist. If you do decide to install the app, it’s strictly at your own risk.
Install the KitKat Google Camera
Your Android device must possess a gyroscopic sensor, which Google Camera uses to shoot Photosphere, wide-angle shots, lens blur and 3D images. For everyone on Android 4.2 or lower, you will require root access. Additionally, the app comes from outside the Play Store, so you will need to enable Android’s “Unknown sources” feature (see below).
Again, you only need root access on Android 4.2 (and perhaps earlier editions). Acquiring root access differs from device to device. The rooting process sometimes causes damage. For this reason, I suggest installing the much lower risk 4.3 Google Camera app. However, those aware of the risks may wish to attempt installing the Android 4.4 camera app.
For tips on getting rooted, read our guide to rooting Android.
Before proceeding, verify whether or not your phone contains a gyroscopic sensor. I suggest installing the open source Sensor Readout [No Longer Available]. Sensor Readout will not only provide a list of the functional sensors onboard your device, it also indicates if the sensor functions properly.
Just scroll down and find the entry for “Gyroscope” and click on it. After that, you’ll see the sensor’s measurements, indicated in a waveform.
This requirement just requires that you go into Settings -> Security and then check the box for “Unknown sources”. After this, you can install apps from outside the Play Store.
Download and Install
The download hails from El Android Libre (original XDA thread), receiving a translation from XDA Senior Developer :No-Frost:. For those with devices older than 4.3, it also requires root access. Because the app also comes from an unknown source, you must also enable “Unknown sources” (see above for directions). None of the steps involved are destructive, but even so, make sure you don’t brick your device.
Remain aware that installing an application from outside of the Play Store exposes you to malicious attackers. Because the KiKat Google Camera app requires root access, it magnifies the threat. Rooted devices, by their definition, lack security. Although the developer who recompiled/translated the app is well-known, this threat still exists. You were warned.
- First, download the APK. If that APK doesn’t work, try the 4.3 camera app.
- Second, sideload the APK. Sideloading is the practice of moving a file from another source onto an Android device. You can use Dropbox (our guide to Dropbox), another cloud storage solution or directly transfer the file via USB cable. Here’s a quick sideloading guide. Alternatively, you can download the file directly to your Android device by accessing the XDA thread from your Android browser.
- Third, enable your device’s ability to install third party apps. Simply go to Settings -> Security -> Unknown sources and check the box.
- Fourth, locate and install the Google Camera APK. You will need a file manager, such as ES File Explorer. Remember, without root access, this won’t work.
You can now do everything covered in our Google Camera walkthrough.
Unfortunately, if you own an Android device older than 4.3, you will need to copy three “library” files, pulled from later versions of Android. These files inhabit this zipped archive. Again, these come from a source outside the Play Store, so install them at your own risk.
Simply download the zipped archive containing the library files. Unzip the archive and copy the three files inside, one-by-one, using a root-capable file manager (such as Root Browser), or ADB, into the following directory: system/lib
Then reboot your phone. With the new libraries installed, Google Camera should work on older phones. If installed incorrectly, though, the Photosphere feature won’t work.
If you can’t get the Google Camera working, there are two other options for getting Photosphere — one of the big features in Google Camera — a beta app that includes an open-source implementation of Photosphere.
Alternatively, if you have a custom recovery installed, there’ s a flashable .ZIP package. This is actually a much easier method than manually installing the APK.
Installing Focal (Beta)
For everyone else, you can install Focal from the Play Store [No Longer Available], which uses an open source implementation of the Google Camera Photosphere function and should run on any device running Android 4.1 and up. Unfortunately, it didn’t work on any device that I tested it on. If developers get it working, it will bring wide-angle photography to cameras everywhere — if they contain a gyroscopic sensor. Still, give it a shot for your device and see how it works.
Because these apps weren’t designed to run outside of Android 4.4, they may suffer from instability. If this occurs, there’s a handful of measures that users can take to reduce crashes.
- Wipe Google Camera’s cache: Just go into Settings -> Apps and find the Google Camera app. You can wipe both the app’s data and its cache.
- Uninstall and reinstall: Uninstalling and reinstalling sometimes fixes crash issues.
Unfortunately, if wiping the cache and reinstalling fail to work, you will not be able to use the latest build of Google Camera. However, you could always try installing a custom ROM that is built on KitKat!
Anyone have any luck? I got Photosphere partially working on a Asus Transformer and a Zopo ZP998. Both are on Android 4.2. Let us know what devices you have and if you managed to get either app working!
Image Credits: jelly beans Via Shutterstock