How to Sideload the Google Camera App Onto Your Phone

Get the HDR capabilities of the Pixel phone without buying one

People holding a Google Pixel 3 phone.

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesĀ 

One of the biggest advancements in the Android world in recent years was the release of the latest Google Camera app for Google's Android phones.

The latest version of the Google Camera app is optimized to work only on Google's Nexus and Pixel phones, running Android 7.1.1 and later.

The reason there's so much excitement around the app is that Google developers have integrated some of the most advanced image processing technologies. For this reason, many app developers worked on porting a version of the Google Camera app that would also work on non-Google phones.

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Why Is the Google Camera App so Great?

Even though the camera hardware on phones like the Google Pixel aren't the best in the smartphone industry, the advanced features integrated into the Google Camera app allow Pixel and Nexus photos to take some of the best photos of any Android phone today.

Screenshot of Google Camera app settings

Google Camera app features include:

  • HDR+: The software captures a burst of photos using short exposure times. It then takes the sharpest image, and algorithmically processes each pixel and adjusts the color closer to the average color across all photos in the burst. This reduces blurring and noise and increases the overall dynamic range of the photo, even under low-light conditions.
  • Motion: When motion is enabled, the Google Camera app captures a three-second video clip of a scene with motion, and combines those with the gyroscope and optical image stabilization (OIS) from the phone itself. Using both data sets, the algorithm produces a clear snapshot without the typical motion distortion.
  • Video Stabilization: The Google Camera app uses a combination of optical and digital image stabilization (called Fused Video Stabilization) to correct for focus and shutter distortion issues. The result is impressively smooth video, even when you capture video while walking.
  • Smartburst: If you hold the shutter button down, the Google Camera app will capture roughly 10 photos per second. Once you release the button, the app will highlight the best picture in the lot. This is a great technique when taking group photos, to avoid someone blinking during the shot.
  • Lens Blur (Portrait Mode): Perfect for close-up portrait shots, this feature will blur the background to enhance foreground focus on the object or person you're photographing.
  • Panorama: Made popular by Facebook posts made by Android users when it first came out, in panorama mode you tilt and rotate your camera to capture multiple images around you. The Google Camera app then creates impressive horizontal, vertical, wide-angle, or 360 degree sphere panorama images.
  • Slow Motion: Capture video at 120 or 240 frames per second, if the phone camera is capable of it.

How to Install the Google Camera App

Installing one of the Google Camera ports to your phone is easy. The hard part is finding a port for your phone.

XDA Developers organized a Google Camera Port Hub where you can check if there's a port available for your Android phone.

You'll find downloads available for:

  • Asus
  • Essential
  • HTC
  • LeEco
  • Lenovo
  • LG
  • Motorola
  • Nokia
  • OnePlus
  • Razer
  • Samsung Galaxy
  • Xiaomi

Mostly only newer models with Android 7.1.1 or later are available.

Once you find the port available for your phone, save it to your computer. Since you can't download it from Google Play, you'll need to sideload the app to your phone.

Here is how you sideload the Google Camera app to your phone:

  1. Connect your phone to your PC via USB and copy the file to the phone's Download folder.

    Note: You don't have to use USB to sideload an app. Any method to transfer the app from your computer to your phone will work. This might include using a Wi-Fi FTP app or transferring the APK file to Google Drive and then to your phone.

    Copying APK File to Your Android Phone
  2. On your phone, use the file manager to open the Download folder.

    Screenshot of the Google Camera APK in the File Manager.

    Before installing the APK file, you'll need to enable installing apps from unknown sources. You can do this by going into Settings > Security, and enabling Unknown sources.

  3. Finally, click on the APK file to install the Google Camera App.

  4. Once the Google Camera app is installed, you can find it in your Apps list to open up and try it out.

Performance of the Google Camera App on Your Phone

Flower snapshot taken with Google Camera app Portrait mode.

Remember, the Google Pixel Camera app was written with specific camera specs so you may notice some slight differences from the Google Pixel Camera app as described above.

This is because to port the app to a version that works on your specific Android phone, developers adapted the app to only use the features that are compatible with your phone's actual camera.