Let me put this out there and own it: I have been insanely critical of the general camera experience on Chromebooks. I’m not going to link all the articles and videos where I’ve put this whole camera mess on blast, but if you are new around here, know that I’ve not been nice.
In my defense, the whole thing has been a dumpster fire for years with very little in the way of improvement. Even with Chromebooks arriving left and right with much better camera hardware, Google has done nothing about the terrible Chrome OS camera app to actually make use of these new devices.
See, there I go again.
I’ve long advocated for the Google Camera to replace the worthless Chrome OS camera. With almost every Chromebook equipped with the Play Store, there’s no reason not to leverage the far-superior camera software Google has at its disposal.
It looks like my wish is being granted.
First read on XDA who sources a user on Reddit, we only became aware of this new development last night. Users began reporting with the latest Dev Channel update that they were seeing two separate camera apps in their tray. The Chrome OS camera and the Google Camera.
In the XDA article, they dug a bit deeper and found the commit referencing all this change. The most telling part is here:
This CL creates a persistent camera icon in launcher. When users click on it, whether to open Chrome camera app or Google camera app is determined dynamically.
CCA or GCA based on whether consolidation is done and whether ARC is enabled.
Some of you are following along, but if you aren’t, here’s what that means.
ACR being enabled just means the Chromebook has access to the Play Store. CCA (Chrome Camera App) and GCA (Google Camera App) are both present, but this fix will make the Google Camera launch in the event that the Chromebook has Android apps. Since most Chromebooks have this access, it is reasonable to assume most Chromebooks will leverage the Google Camera App down the road.
We Tested It
So, in my curiosity, I switched over to the Dev Channel and found myself with two camera apps. There’s no way to tell the difference between the two, so I clicked the first one. It brought up the loathsome Chrome OS camera app. Clicking on the other, I was met with a semi-familiar camera interface. All the bells and whistles aren’t present, but you get the basics. It is clearly a work in progress, but I was able to snag a pic and video with the Pixelbook’s clearly low-res front-facing camera. You can see those below.
Of course, for Chromebooks with 720p front-facing cameras, this isn’t that big of a revolution. For some of these devices with rear cameras (like the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 or the HP Chromebook x2) or world-facing cameras (like the Samsung Chromebook Plus v2), the development of a proper camera software will make those devices WAY more compelling in reference to their hardware.
So, with this finally on the horizon, I’m fully prepared to stop hating on Chromebook cameras and cannot wait until this black eye on my favorite OS is simply a distant memory.