What Is an Android Photo Sphere?

Photo Spheres

Android Photo Spheres are panoramic images on steroids. You can take 360-degree images of the entire room, the entire outdoors or just a portion of each. Best yet, your Photo Spheres are compatible with Google Plus and will display in posts and allow visitors to interact with the spheres to view them.

Android supports Photo Sphere on Android Jelly Bean and higher. That includes most recent phones and tablets, although your device must have a gyro sensor in order for it to work.

Stock Google Nexus phones support Photo Sphere out of the box, starting with the Nexus 4 phone back in 2012. Other non-Nexus Android phones may have a similar feature that goes by a different name. 

Snapping a Photo

To take a Photo Sphere:

  1. Go to the camera app. Tap the camera icon and pick the item that looks like a small globe with a panorama stretched over it. That's the Photo Sphere mode.
  2. Keep your camera steady.
  3. You should see a message to align your camera with the blue dot. Tilt your camera up, down, left or right slowly to match the center of the screen with the blue dot for the next area. The picture will snap automatically when you get there.
  4. Keep going for as long as you wish to take as many images as possible and make your complete Photo Sphere.

It may look a little weird if you try to take pictures of people since they tend to move between shots. Landscapes and interior shots are your best bets.

Share your photo to Google Photos or Google+, and everyone who has access to view your post will enjoy your work.


Photo Spheres debuted in 2012; since then, many different smartphone manufacturers have built or offered some sort of 360-degree photography app. Google itself offered a version for iOS.

Photo Spheres was built into the Camera app, so you do not need to download a separate app from Google Play Store. Beware of any app in the Store that bills itself as "Photo Sphere" or some close iteration thereof.

Use Cases

Although many 360-degree photography apps market themselves as a cool novelty for consumers, a panoramic image that can be later adjusted by the viewer offers a significant business case for:

  • Real-estate agents showing off a room
  • Detectives or other investigators capturing the dynamic of a crime scene
  • Artists capturing scenic vistas
  • Journalists capturing a scene for later reference


Because there's no standardized format for 360-degree photography, images taken by one device or app may not be fully interchangeable with any other device or app. Photo Spheres—being a native Google offering—is compatible with the Google ecosystem but your mileage in other platforms may vary.