Google Camera code hints the Google Pixel 4 may have a telephoto lens

Google Camera code hints the Google Pixel 4 may have a telephoto lens

When Google released its first Pixel smartphones back in 2016, the company showed just how far ahead its camera software was from the rest of the competition. Google has continued to impress with its Pixel cameras thanks to new features like Night Sight and Super Res Zoom, but the rest of the smartphone world is catching up to Google if not surpassing them already in areas like zoom and low-light. Thus far, the Google Pixel smartphones have stayed competitive with only a single rear camera on each model, but Google has already confirmed that’s going to change with the 2019 Pixel. The Google Pixel 4 will have at least 2 rear cameras, and thanks to code we discovered in the latest Google Camera app, it’s looking like Google will introduce a telephoto lens on the next Pixel.


google pixel 4
Official Google Pixel 4 marketing render shared by Google. The render confirms the square camera bump which houses two rear cameras, an LED flash, and an unknown third sensor.

Google Camera 6.3 Leaks from Android Q Beta 5

Nearly 4 months ago, Google released the first public preview of the next major Android release: Android Q. The company has promised 6 public betas before the first Android Q stable release goes live in Q3 of this year. Android Q beta 4 rolled out early last month and the fifth beta should be released soon, but some lucky users have already received the next beta. This early release of Android Q beta 5 had a build number of QP1A.190626.001 and the August 2019 security patches. That means the build was not only made fairly recently, but it was also not intended to be released to the public. Fortunately for us, one of the users who received the OTA shared the updated version of the Google Camera app, version 6.3, over on APKMirror which we examined to look for clues about the Pixel 4.

Google Pixel 4 – “Rear Telephoto” Sensor ID?

While looking through the code, we spotted changes to “Sabre,” Google’s internal code-name for Super Res Zoom. A new field called “SABRE_UNZOOMED_TELEPHOTO” immediately caught our attention, which then led us to another interesting discovery: new Google Camera sensor IDs. We confirmed that these new fields are not present in Google Camera 6.2.

The list of sensor IDs includes a “front IR” sensor, a “front regular” sensor, a “front wide” sensor, a “rear regular” sensor, and a “rear telephoto” sensor. There are also “front logical” and “rear logical” sensors, but “logical” most likely refers to a “logical camera device composed of two or more physical camera devices pointing in the same direction” per Android 9 Pie’s multi-camera API. The Google Pixel 3 has dual front cameras (one “regular” main lens and one wide-angle lens) and a single rear camera, so the only two IDs out of the ordinary in this list are the “front IR” sensor and the “rear telephoto” sensor.

Assuming that IR stands for infrared, it’s possible that that ID is for an IR sensor for facial recognition. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure why this line appears in the Google Camera app. The “rear telephoto” ID may refer to a telephoto camera on the rear, which would be the first for a Pixel phone. Since we know that the Google Pixel 4 series will be the first Pixels with dual rear cameras, that means the “rear telephoto” ID definitely doesn’t refer to any cameras from the previous Pixel smartphones. On the other hand, the Pixel 3 has a front wide-angle camera, so we can’t confirm if the “front wide” sensor ID also refers to a front camera on the 2019 Pixel. Lastly, the presence of a rear telephoto camera means there may not be a rear wide-angle lens given what’s shown in the official render, which may be disappointing to some.

If the Google Pixel 4 does have a secondary rear telephoto camera, then all we can really say is that it’ll support some kind of non-digital zoom. We can’t make an estimate of the optical zoom without knowing the focal lengths of the telephoto and primary sensors. We can guess that Google will complement the zoom from the telephoto lens with its digital Super Res Zoom technique, though. I doubt we’ll see results on par with the OPPO Reno 10X Zoom or Huawei P30 Pro, but Google could surprise us once again this year.

Subtle Improvements to Night Sight?

We also discovered code that hints at upcoming changes to Night Sight, though we’re not entirely sure what they mean. There’s a parameter that mentions “sky segmentation” and another that mentions this feature in relation to “cuttlefish,” Google’s code-name for Night Sight. A method called “getOptimize_sky” and another called “setSky_segmentation_gpu” sure make it sound like Google is adding improvements to the Night Sight algorithm to better distinguish the sky, but we’re not sure what the end result will be. There aren’t any strings or other files that we could look at to find out what’s going on here, but we’ll be keeping an eye out on future Google Camera updates to learn more.

Thanks to PNF Software for providing us a license to use JEB Decompiler, a professional-grade reverse engineering tool for Android applications.

About author

Mishaal Rahman
Mishaal Rahman

I am the former Editor-in-chief of XDA. In addition to breaking news on the Android OS and mobile devices, I used to manage all editorial and reviews content on the Portal.

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