Android 14 is on the verge of platform stability and is thus approaching the final release in late summer. In Beta 2, “Ultra HDR” moves in for the display and editing of 10-bit HDR photos, which were previously tone-mapped to SDR. Other smartphones are now also supported.
Since Android 13, the operating system has natively supported HDR video recordings, with Android 14 the same should be implemented for photos. Although the cameras of modern Android smartphones already take HDR shots with different exposure levels in order to depict a scene with a high dynamic range, the raw data from the image processor is then saved in an 8-bit SDR file with the corresponding tone mapping shown on the screen.
Ultra HDR available almost immediately
This limitation no longer applies in Android 14, so that a 10-bit HDR recording from the camera or the output of the image processor (ISP) as captured by the camera can be saved as a photo by the operating system and later displayed in applications via the display. Most current smartphone screens are already suitable for HDR, but so far this has only been used on Android for videos. However, since this feature is often already available, according to Google, “ Ultra HDR ” should be available on the devices almost immediately with the rollout of Android 14. An Ultra HDR recording still includes a JPG in 8-bit SDR as a fallback. With Android 14, however, Ultra HDR is set to become the new standard for taking photos.
OEM and SoC partners involved
According to a developer session for Google I/O 2023 (starting at 4:44 in the video), smartphone cameras and decode pipelines must also be expanded for 10-bit recordings and HDR rendering of photos. To this end, Google is working in close cooperation with the Android OEMs and SoC partners such as Qualcomm for their Snapdragon chips in order to fully exploit the hardware capabilities of the devices for Ultra HDR.
Chrome and Google Photos with support
The Android team also works with the Chrome team to display Ultra HDR, so that the corresponding recordings can also be displayed in the browser and on HDR-capable devices other than smartphones, provided Google Chrome is used. There is also support on the Google Photos side, so Ultra HDR photos can be viewed on all supported devices, backed up, edited, shared and downloaded to Google Photos.
Android 14 also adds camera extensions for third-party apps and provides more options, provided they are implemented and offered by the smartphone provider. For example, the progress of a long exposure or a quick preview of the photo before post-processing can now also be displayed in these apps. “Tap to focus” and zooming as well as in-sensor zooming are also supported.