Vic Gundotra is Wrong About Smartphone Cameras

Posted on July 31, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile, Music + Videos with 31 Comments

Vic Gundotra is Wrong About Smartphone Cameras

Former Google executive Vic Gundotra recently declared that the iPhone’s camera is better than that of any Android device. He’s wrong about that, actually. In fact, it’s not even close.

I remember Mr. Gundotra mostly from his 15 years or so at Microsoft. But he is more generally famous for moving to Google in 2007, after a one-year delay because Microsoft sued to force him to honor the non-compete clause in his work contract. At Google, Gundotra played a key role in getting the firm to embrace mobile, most specifically with the iPhone. But he later went on to mastermind—probably not the right word—Google+, the search giant’s failure of a social media service.

But it is the iPhone bit that figures most prominently in the today’s Vic Gundotra. He had become friendly with Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs back when that company was planning the first iPhone, and he still has a real bias for iPhone over Android. And it’s clear from his recent comments about the cameras on these platforms that he no longer has any idea what he is talking about.

In a Facebook post (ironic?), Mr. Gundotra says he has left behind his DLSR and now uses only his iPhone. I made a similar transition in 2013, starting with the Lumia 1020. But I guess we all embrace new technology at different speeds.

This got some people commenting. And that’s when he went off the rails.

“I understand this topic reasonably well,” he responded to one comment. “I would NEVER buy an Android phone again if I cared about photography.”

Which is interesting. Because if you care about photography, what you care about is getting the best photos. Right? Well, according to the photography experts at DxOMark, there are fully 12 Android handsets that deliver better photo quality than the iPhone 7 Plus that Gundotra loves so much. And if you listen to the unbiased consumer advocates at Consumer Reports, their latest roundup of smartphone cameras lists 5 Android handsets that are better than the iPhone.

My own experience is that the iPhone 7 Plus is surprisingly terrible from a camera standpoint, especially the software-based and deeply-flawed Portrait mode. The cameras in many phones I’ve owned, including the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ are all superior. But then I like to base my opinions on experience, not hearsay.

But, please, sir, explain to me why my real world usage is countered by your theories.

“The problem is Android,” he writes. “Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung Gallery or Google Photos?”

No. What I wonder is why so many Android phones have better cameras than Apple’s seamless solution.

His conclusion is priceless.

“Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone,” he writes. “If you don’t mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.”

Sorry, but that is simply not true, not anymore. It hasn’t been for years, in fact. And, if anything, Apple actually took a step backward with the iPhone 7 Plus especially.

So I’ll do what I always do when I got to Barcelona this week: I’ll use the best camera for the job. Which in my case is the Google Pixel XL. And not the iPhone. Just wait until you see the low light shots that remain impossible on Apple’s devices.

Sorry, Vic.


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