So much is a given in the smartphone business. Another product cycle begins, and we'll see new hardware. Refined software. Improved user interfaces. It'll happen, just like clockwork. Those are the broad strokes, though. It's tough to nail down individual features.

One of the items we're very much hoping to see adopted this year is Photo Sphere, the 360-degree (more or less) panorama feature that Google added to Android 4.2 on the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus. It's not just a matter of Samsung or HTC or Motorola or LG slapping Android 4.2 onto its devices and calling it a day -- software and licensing usually don't work quite that easily. But if there's one feature from the latest version of Android on the latest "Pure Google" phone we want to see spread to the other hundreds of millions of Android smartphones that'll be sold this year, it's Photo Sphere. Not that we won't see it ported to other devices, though, but we're talking about official support here.

There's another side to this, of course. Viewing of Photo Sphere images is still fairly limited, with Google+ (both on the web and mobile) and Google Maps serving as the primary ways of viewing Photo Spheres. Google released an API in December 2012, but it's still in its infancy and will take a little time for anyone else to implement on the mobile side. At some point we'd expect the ability to embed a Photo Sphere onto a web page like any YouTube video. But for now, that's all Google's baby.

Work on this year's crop of Android smartphones is well under way, and we should start seeing the fruits of manufacturers' labor in the next month or so. Here's to hoping Photo Sphere manages to be a part of it.


Reader comments

Photo Sphere: Coming to a non-Nexus near you in 2013?


If Samsung S3 going to have it, it would be a great phone. OR...

I have to root it to get it.

I expect that the S3 SHOULD eventually get Key Lime Pie, so even if Samsung skips over 4.2, we will eventually get it.

I feel special now. hope this get adopted in all Android phones.

would be awesome if they let us attach photosphere to street views on restaurants and bars. i mean indoor street view.

I've used photosphere a couple times to check it out. But other than that, I've never had a use for it.

thanks for mentioning this... looks better than photosphere and viewing on a pc is a lot better because of how much easier it is to scroll...

Photo Sphere was the moment that Android jumped the shark. Totally pointless, and a 'just because we can' feature. The mere existence of Photo Sphere makes me concerned about how much other bloat and useless cr*p Google will be adding to future versions of Android. The fact that it's a familiar story with software projects - they simply don't leave well enough alone when something is basically good enough bar a few rough edges (Gnome Hell, anyone?)- doesn't make me feel any better.

Stop buggering about with junk like this, Google! But of course they won't - Android will get heavier and cr*ppier, just to force folks to buy more powerful phones to run newer versions. They're in a symbiotic relationship with the hardware manufacturers, after all.

What Photo Sphere tells us - quite definitively - is that Google is going down the same route that Microsoft did with PCs. And just like the PC environment, both hardware and software vendors will benefit (and industry mags ;-). It's only the punters - us poor mugs - that will lose out financially from the upgrade treadmill.

i have an easy solution for you, go buy an will only get your updates once a year and you'll never have the same tech that the current flagship has when your new once a year phone manifests in your hands after sitting outside all night in line sipping starbucks while talking about an independent film festival or about your new Tom's shoes

I have a better solution: try BB10. Nothing against iOS, but it seems rather stale, whereas BB10 looks very interesting and should be a meaningful contender in 2013.

P.S. How do you know what they're sipping on and talking about while waiting in line all night? lmao

I can see where you're coming from, but I honestly think you have the wrong idea concerning new features. Whereas Windows PC OEMs have a bad habit of adding their own program suites that eat up GBs of space, Google is adding features to components of Android that already exist. Adding Photosphere as a feature to the camera only enhances the Android experience.

Also, Android is actually more fluid than it has been, thanks to Project Butter; and Project Butter is the result of upgrades to Android, bringing it up to version 4.2.1. Software can't get better if you don't do updates. Will some updates be better than others? Sure. However, taking the safe route and not updating software while their competitors are issuing feature-packed updates is not good for Google or consumers (us poor mugs as you put it).

Oh, and how will Google lose out financially from striving to create better software? As long as Google can push out software directly to Nexus devices, they minimize the number of people involved in issuing an update.

Agree Phil, it's really a great feature, now let's see sites support it, mainly FB. It makes for such a better social upload picture.

Pretty easy to get if you have 3 things:
-Android phone running any version of Jelly Bean
-Your phone has a gyroscope

Then just install the Android 4.2 Camera app package and hope phone's camera driver is compatible with the camera app. It's not official support, but honestly going to be 100% the same thing as official. Some phones will never get official Android 4.2 update, you'll just have to accept it if you have one of those phone.

You can't even post Photosphere shots to Google Maps if you have a rooted phone. That makes Google+ the ONLY place to share Photosphere shots for many users. I took over a dozen Photosphere shots on my last vacation using a rooted Verizon GNex (AOKP 4.1 with Photosphere app.) Most of those shots came out flawed or buggy even though they were very carefully taken. Some had stitching issues, and some weren't even recognized as Photosphere shots at all. Photosphere is still in alpha or beta stage. Great idea, poorly implemented so far.

The key to getting good photosphere shot is to keep the camera lense fixed in the same position while tilting the phone around it.

No PhotoSphere app is even close to the REAL one fetured in the Nexus 4. Users with rooted Nexus 4's can use photosphere and put them on google maps. Think before you write next time.

I agree there needs to be more options to view them. I I also see many practical applications like viewing places you want to visit. But it seems like for the average person it would be come gimmicky quickly. It's very cool but I wouldn't see myself using it very much. But of course each person is unique.

I want Photo Sphere on my Samsung Galaxy S II. Yes, it's just a gimmick. But it's a gimmick I want! :-)
(I was actually ready to buy the Nexus 4 for just this, even though I hate the restriction of no extra memory cards. But when I found out USB On-The-Go was a "no go" too, no... :-( )

I wonder how this feature compares to the panoramic mode I have on my iphone 5 but I haven't been more excited about talking pictures until I discovered that on my iphone. I live that more than anything on the iphone.i hope that feature cones to my note 2.

I don't understand the point of this article. New phones will be released with the latest version of Android! More at 11.