Advances in smartphone hardware, APIs and native apps are driving third-party photo app vendors to new frontiers
Native smartphone camera apps do much more than enable basic camera functions. These apps include features such as HDR, burst, dual focus/exposure points, exposure compensation and panoramic image capture that were once the exclusive domain, and the main value proposition, of third-party camera apps. While this might appear to doom prospects for these third-party camera apps, Reinventing the Camera App Market, the latest study from mobile-photography research firm Suite 48 Analytics, comes to a different conclusion.
Late last year, Google and Apple substantially enhanced their smartphone camera APIs, giving camera app developers a whole range of opportunities to access the improved capabilities of the newer phones’ hardware, and in doing so differentiate their products from native camera apps. According to the study, numerous apps have already taken advantage of these advanced APIs with many more soon to come.
“As smartphone cameras get better and better, mobile photographers’ expectations for photo quality have likewise increased – they’re demanding better smartphone photo capture tools,” says Hans Hartman, president, Suite 48 Analytics and report author. “For a long time, smartphone photographers were willing to live with lower resolution, grainy, or otherwise low-quality photos, as long as they could still make these photos look enticing through filters from apps like Hipstagram and later Instagram. Going forward, filters are an option for creative expression – not a requirement to make the photos worth keeping or sharing.”
The study concludes the camera app market has become a “long tail” market, served by three main categories of apps:
- Camera apps offering SLR-like control of the smartphone camera, such as A Better Camera, Camera+, Manual, or ProCamera 8 + HDR.
- Camera apps focusing on ease-of-use, such as Z Camera and Camera51.
- Specialized camera apps with specific use cases, such as CamFind, Fast Burst Camera, Slow Shutter Cam, or Mobile Hidden Camera.
Features offered by third-party camera apps exceeding native-OS camera apps include manual shutter-speed control, extended digital zoom, manual focusing, ISO control, fill-in light, RAW export, stabilizer, semi-automatic presets, screen shutter button, incognito shutter release, EXIF data input, ultra fast burst, composition assistance, manual HDR bracketing, image recognition and on-screen photo capture guidance
As more and more of consumers become accustomed to editing and to adjusting mobile images to match their personal vision and taste, it’s more likely they will want to share these on a wide range of personalized products. Having good quality images that are worth using is one of the key drivers to increase the output market and these kind of apps can help in this regard.