Android Wear owners can now take photos with Google Camera installed on any Android smartphone running Android 4.3 or later by speaking to their watch. We’ll show you how to take a picture with an Android Wear smart watch and your Android phone using the Google Camera app.
Many phones come with Google Camera already installed, but others don’t, so first install it from the Google Play Store. The Google Camera app is key, since it doesn’t work yet with other camera apps.
Google did a nice job with their camera app, so it’s a good idea to install it anyways. It uses a simple user interface and offers Lens Blur, which mimics taking pictures with a shallow depth of field like one can do on a more advanced camera. The background looks blurry making the viewer focus on the subject like they would in portraits or product shots. There’s also a nice photo sphere feature that takes a 360 degree immersive shot of a whole room.
Android Wear users must connect their phone to their watch to make it work. Owners of the Samsung Gear Live, the LG G Watch or future Android Wear watches like the upcoming Moto 360 should take this step first. It’s as simple as installing the Android Wear app. Then follow the app instructions to connect the watch via Bluetooth from inside the app.
Steps to Take Photos Remotely with Android Wear
With the Google Camera app installed and the Android Wear watch connected to the phone, the user only needs to fire up the Camera to make this work. A notification card like the one below will show up.
When the watch registers that the phone loaded the Google Camera app, the watch will display the notification at the bottom of the screen. It reads, Remote Touch to control your camera. If the card doesn’t show up on the screen, swipe up from the bottom of the watch screen and it will appear.
Tap the notification card and the watch shows a blue circle that will act as a shutter release for the Google Camera running on the smartphone. Tap on the circle and a 3-second countdown begins, letting the user prepare the phone’s camera if she hasn’t already. When the Android War watch finishes the countdown, it will send a signal to fire the camera’s shutter release on the phone. The phone takes a photo and sends a thumbnail back to the watch so the photographer can see a preview of their shot.
The process isn’t perfect. First, after a person taps the blue shutter button the phone, there’s a delay before the countdown begins. There’s another lag after the countdown ends before the phone takes the shot. It can take awhile, making the user think it failed. Be patient, because it didn’t fail to eventually snap a photo in tests.
After the thumbnail of the photo appears on the watch screen, the user can swipe right to get rid of it. This helps when the person doesn’t want to wait for it to disappear before taking another shot. Swiping resulted in a long stall halfway through the swipe motion that lasted a few seconds. See the photo below.
The lag after the countdown and the stall during the swiping action took place on the Samsung Gear Live Android Wear smart watch. We didn’t test with the LG G Watch.
This problem won’t stop users from taking pictures, but hopefully Google will update things to speed up the performance.
Why Use an Android Wear Watch as a Remote Control
Why would someone want to control the Google Camera App from their Android Wear smart watch? We can think of a few reasons.
- This lets a person place their phone close to the action. Maybe a parent gets permission to place their phone on a seat in the front of an auditorium while their child performs in a dance recital. Mom can sit back and take pictures without annoying other attendees by hovering too close to the stage.
- Camera shake makes more blurry photos than anything else. This often comes a photographer moving their hand while holding the camera or a slight movement when the person taps the screen to take the shot. Place the phone on a tripod and use the watch to release the shutter so there’s no shake.
- Group shots look better when all the group members show up in the photo. Put the phone on a tripod, compose a shot and set the exposure and focus. Then jump into the frame, pose and tap the shutter button on the watch and say cheese.
The Google Camera offers five modes for taking images.
- Photo Sphere – takes a 360 degree image of the surroundings
- Panorama – takes a wide image usually for outdoor landscapes
- Lens Blur – blurs out the background behind and object or person
- Camera – regular photo mode
- Video – shoots video
Android Wear watches can only control the Google Camera in Camera mode. The first three in the list above make sense, because the user must move the camera in some way during the process. Photo Sphere moves in all directions. Panoramas mean panning from side to side. Even Lens Blur shots force the user to move the camera upwards so the camera can tell what part of the scene is close and what’s in the background.
There’s no obvious reason the shutter control on the watch shouldn’t start a video recording. That would make taking videos of a remote scene easier. We could see a person shooting a podcast of themselves and using the watch to start the video recording. This offers another reason for Google to improve this setup, along with getting rid of the lag.