Portrait mode coming to Chromebooks with the Google Camera app

Portrait mode coming to Chromebooks with the Google Camera app

Portrait mode is being tested on the HP Chromebook X2 (Soraka), according to a new commit on the Chromium Gerrit. The Google Camera app is one of Google’s unique selling points for its Pixel lineup. Its post-processing is what gives Google’s flagship phones some of the best results in everyday smartphone photography. One of its best features may be coming to Chromebooks.

Recently, the Google Camera app icon appeared in a Dev Channel update on some Chromebooks. To some disappointment, the app doesn’t actually launch on most devices except for one user’s Pixelbook (that we know of). Google clearly has plans to integrate the Google Camera app, but at the time we weren’t sure to what extent or to what devices.

Messages in related commits mention that, in addition to the HP Chromebook X2, they are also testing the Google Camera app on the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 (Nautilus). Sometimes the developers test features on non-target devices, but from this testing, we can hope—but not definitively confirm—that the Google Camera app will be available on devices other than the Pixelbook.

While this is an exciting addition, software processing can only do so much and still heavily depends on the quality of a physical sensor. Unfortunately, the sensors in existing Chromebooks are nothing to write home about. It would be disingenuous to expect that the Google Camera app will bring flagship-level picture quality to existing devices with poor sensors.

Fortunately, a Chromebook is coming with better camera hardware. Nocturne is one of our suspected Pixelbook 2 devices. It is detachable with Sony IMX355 and IMX319 sensors, the first Chromebook with sensors of this caliber. Nocturne also comes with a fingerprint scanner, backlit keyboard, nvme storage, and we can also infer from the Android DPI settings that it comes with a high-density display like the HP Chromebook 13 G1 (3200 x 1800 QHD).

Impressive specs aside, Nocturne could be the first Chromebook to showcase the real potential of the Google Camera app—and portrait mode—on Chrome OS. In the meantime, any improvement on Chrome OS’ dismal photo quality would be welcome.