Why 'droid is the OS Samsung is looking for

Reports that electronics giant Samsung is considering a camera based around Google's Android operating system should come as no real surprise. Not only does it seem like the obvious way of responding to the industry's need to compete with smartphones, it's also a solution readily available to them.

The need for connectivity

The rise in popularity of smartphones has undoubtedly had an impact on the sales and use of compact cameras. Just about every meeting we've had with manufacturers over the past year has turned to this topic at one point or another. There are other factors, of course - not least that lots of people already own cameras they're fairly happy with -  but the always-with-you convenience of a smart phones, combined with their ability to immediately upload the results, is hard to compete with.

The Samsung WB150F was one of four WiFi-enabled cameras Samsung launched at CES 2012

This year's camera launches have showed a concerted effort by manufacturers to bridge the connectivity gap. The cameras announced around CES 2012 included eight WiFi-capable cameras from four manufacturers (with Samsung's four models making it the most committed). This is a big step forward from the occasional, token 'if you want that sort of thing' premium model. If nothing else, it suggests camera makers are aware of the need for better-connected cameras.

All of these models have taken the approach of primarily connecting to smartphones, which already have both the broader connection options and the flexible interfaces required to log-on to and communicate with networks and websites. But, while there's every possibility that a company with the smartphone smarts of Samsung might choose to transfer these capabilities to the camera and offer direct connection to third or fourth generation telecomms networks, Android would still have appeal even if it didn't.

Why Android?

The appeal of Android, in addition to its propensity for connectivity, is the existence of an ecosystem of photo-related apps. These would allow an Android camera to benefit from a range of existing processing tools far in advance of anything any current camera can offer.

And, if Samsung allowed it, the platform's relative openness could also allow dedicated users to modify the behaviour of their own cameras. Don't like the way the buttons and dials work? Write an app to customize it.

It's public knowledge that camera processors running Android are available to manufacturers. We know of at least one device built around Ambarella's iOne chip, it just doesn't happen to reveal its nature to the user (so no downloading Photoshop Express just yet). There's also the Polaroid-branded mobile phone camera displayed at CES, which is more up-front about its intentions. We also have reason to believe Samsung has used Ambarella processors in previous cameras.

At which point it should be obvious that Samsung has motive, means and opportunity to create an Android-based camera if it wanted to. The official response may be that it 'hasn't confirmed anything regarding potential use of Android or any other platform on future generations of Samsung Smart Cameras' but it's no surprise to hear that it's also 'something we are monitoring.'


Total comments: 27
By rondhamalam (Aug 29, 2012)

Windows 8 Samsung phone is coming

By jackedup (Apr 3, 2012)

sumsung will lauch I phone..?????????

By dwnthk (Mar 22, 2012)

Please don't do anymore the touch screen things on cameras :p

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
By Gesture (Mar 15, 2012)

I can program my Kodak DC290. Don't know if there has been anything since, but amazing it has taken so long for this to come forth. Many do "hack" cameras like the Canon ones and Panasonic GH2, but it would have been great for that capability or interface to be open from the start.

By tristanrenaud (Mar 15, 2012)

Apple may be working at an IOS-based high-end compact camera. Should they not, Samsung would this time proves they are one step ahead! That's for sure a clever move... I hope this camera will be released soon, the future of point and shoot is at stake!

1 upvote
By jtan163 (Mar 15, 2012)

Thom Hogan will be happy if Samsung tread this path.

By timccr (Mar 15, 2012)

Well I suppose there are people who want that sort of stuff. Personally I would be more interested in taking a Samsung camera underwater. Why don't Mr. Samsung and Mr. Patima do lunch together sometime? Please!

Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Mar 15, 2012)

Then they have to do something about battery consumption, which is major Android-based devices downside up to date.
It's quite hard to call Samsung a pro camera maker, the solution most close to that they offer(ed) is the clone of dated Pentax K20D (I don't know if it's still available new, something tells me it is not), which can be called amateur or enthusiast camera at most.

We all know that most things successfully tested on consumers, even by 3rd-range manufacturers, eventually find their way to top-level bricks like Canon or Nikon journalist cameras (live view, video, face detection...) or even digital medium format backs (touchscreen).

If this experiment is true and turns out to be success, I presume that we'll have something like Nikon D8 or EOS 1D XV running Android 9 Sweetmeat. I wouldn't want my pro body drain battery like Galaxy SII, though I'd like to have Wi-Fi, LTE and GPS built in instead of paying half of camera price for external dongles and carrying heavy laptop.

Der Steppenwolf
By Der Steppenwolf (Mar 15, 2012)

Battery consuption is NOT an issue that has to do with Android itself, only with devices like smartphones and tablets and these are made as a compromise between portability/design/battery consumtion. A camera has a lot more space to hold much bigger batteries then can fit on back of something thin and flat like a smartphone.

1 upvote
By MarkInSF (Mar 15, 2012)

If you monitor power on your smartphone, you'll find that the great majority is used by the display. Mine has a fairly efficient OLED screen, but the display still accounts for over 75% of energy consumed. Phones have small batteries so they can be impressively thin. A camera can be chunkier. Running Android would make little difference to battery life for a camera unless users are also using the camera to play games between shots.

1 upvote
By kff (Mar 15, 2012)

I think that better is a simillar solution like Asus Padfone

Did You take photos with tablet ?
What a exciting!!!!! What a view!!!!

But we need to get serious camera with mounts like NX, NEX, m4/3,
M39, Pentax K ... and with posibilities to change senzors (by module solution) ....

Do You understand?

Maybe a first will be Nokia with W8 tablet ....

And who tell that tablet/camera (T-cam) must have only one OS ?
The best solution is propably a sharing of data (RAW and JPG pics) between camera's and tablet's processors ...

Comment edited 5 times, last edit 11 minutes after posting
By JohnnyWashngo (Mar 15, 2012)

Its a great idea and one that I have been espousing since Android become relatively mature around version 1.5/1.6.

All digital cameras have operating systems and I imagine the cost of development of such software is not inconsiderable for a company building a camera. To have an off-the-shelf OS which is suitably amenable to configuration and extension would provide a massive cost saving. It would also mean that the camera could make use of existing software for the OS as this article suggests.

By doak (Mar 15, 2012)

The question is then, is Android suitably amenable for real-time operation?

1 upvote
By dylanbarnhart (Mar 16, 2012)

@doak, that's a good point. However, most people used cameras on Anroid and iPhone just fine (with a few curses over the sluggish performance). For action/sport shooters where it's critical to get the timing right, a real-time operating system is still necessary.

By Anepo (Jul 12, 2012)

A dslr will never be using this, and if they put it in.... Hello bankruptcy

By zodiacfml (Mar 15, 2012)

It is easier to do it starting with a smartphone and just attach whatever reasonable sensor they have. Their largest is the 1/1.7" sensor from the TL500 with 10MP before APS-C. That sensor could do pretty well versus Nokia.

Glen Barrington
By Glen Barrington (Mar 15, 2012)

Will we get to pick the color that our BSOD will display in?

Bruce McL
By Bruce McL (Mar 15, 2012)

People do not want to take pictures. Getting an image into a camera is not anybody's goal. Even getting images on to a computer is not anybody's goal. The goal is to look at pictures and to share pictures. Cell phones allow people to achieve those goals, most cameras do not.

In the sense of helping people use their pictures, nearly every phone camera is far "better" than nearly every dedicated camera. Adding Android to a dedicated camera would help them catch up to cell phone cameras.

Reg Natarajan
By Reg Natarajan (Mar 15, 2012)

This is very well said. The best photos are the ones that get taken, not the ones that would've been taken if only you had lugged that giant DSLR that's collecting dust on your shelf out with you.

By Joesiv (Mar 15, 2012)

Errrr, sorry Reg, it seems you totally misunderstood what Bruce was talking about.

He was talking about the best camera is the one that helps people share their photos (online/facebook/twitter/etc..) easier. Current cameras, including dslrs just capture images that then need to be transfered to a computer, and then shared.

Bruce never mentioned having to lug around a giant DSLR, but clearly that's on your mind :)

By munchmeister (Mar 15, 2012)

Agree wtih Bruce. People want to share pictures. Just did it seconds ago with a co worker's new baby. Why NOT put WiFi upload capability into EVERY camera??? If you have a DSLR and take a great shot and want to upload it to Facebook etc. why not. Your "followers" are now your photo biz customers. Look at what Chase Jarvis does. If you take a great shot and want to sell yourself to your customers, whoever they are, you want to post it as quickly as possible. We've now got in-camera processing to a degree. Adobe and others are putting apps on phones. Photographers, pro and amateur want to share, NEED to share. Why haven't the mfgs. gotten the message? And now, the iPad gets a better camera? Think iPad owners won't be taking pics with that big, beautiful screen?!?!? Just wait.

1 upvote
Reg Natarajan
By Reg Natarajan (Mar 16, 2012)

@joesiv It's entirely possible for me to agree with another person's point, and then make one of my own. :)

1 upvote
By sherwoodpete (Mar 30, 2012)

So the best way to improve the camera is to improve the screen, improve connectivity, and remove the lens and sensor.

By Anepo (Jul 12, 2012)

Eh.... Yea.... So many so wrong here undermthis comment, i just wish you guys suicided really >.> you have proven your more ignorant than george w bush!

Also guess what? My goal is NOT to share my photos. My goal is to take good photos and professionals doing professional work will NEVER upload straight from the camera. Why? Photoshop, thats why they are the best and thats why they arent like you (a "noob" in photography)

And munchmeister.... I can hear chase jarvis in the distance laughing at you after reading your comment... >.>

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
1 upvote
By GodSpeaks (Mar 15, 2012)

So, now, instead of phones pretending to be cameras, we will get cameras pretending to be phones?

By Turbguy1 (Mar 15, 2012)

Cameras with "Operating Sysyems"...how 'bout more control over than cam itself?

Something like CHKD for Canons...

1 upvote
By Joesiv (Mar 15, 2012)

Cameras already have operating systems, that's what the firmware is. Canon's CHKD modifies the run time portion of that operating system.

The problem with the current camera's is thier OS's are completely archaic, I'd consider it akin to working with windows 1.0 without networking as apposed to an android operation system which is more akin to windows 8.

Having an android OS, would allow much greater control and stabilizability than even CHKD does, that's the point...

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
Total comments: 27