Google Photo Sphere Camera vs. App – A 360 Degree Showdown

In principle, creating 360-degree photospheres is simple as we have shown in our basic tutorial. But, simple does not necessarily mean easy. Especially not if you strive to create the best result that is possible with your equipment. Even if this equipment consists just of a smartphone, one difficulty could be seen in the decision for the right app you use to capture the sphere. Even though there are several products on the market and most of them (externally viewed) obviously do the same, the background processes and also the results can be very different.

To demonstrate the importance of choosing the right app for your requirements and to help you a bit to make a decision, we want to present two of the most popular apps/services for devices running Apple’s iOS operating system:

Google Photo Sphere vs.

Google Photo Sphere Camera and

Google Photo Sphere Camera app and app are available for free and downloadable in Apple’s iTunes Store. We downloaded both onto an iPhone 6 Plus and used them to capture the same three scenes with both of the apps. Then we finally put them into the same HoloBuilder environment, to ensure that the player environment does not influence the viewing experience. You can directly compare both results in the following presentation:

As you can see there are several differences in the results. The same scene looks quite different:

  • Image properties differ regarding
    • contrast,
    • brightness, and
    • saturation.
  • Edges are aligned differently due to dissimilar stitching algorithms used.
  • Differences in resolution/image quality are based on OUR conversion processes to put them into the same environment and are NOT representative of the capturing tools themselves!

These variations may (amongst other things) originate from differences in the user interface for the captioning process. Because of the fundamentally different “feeling” while capturing the image we want to show you both interfaces using Google’s and’s video tutorials:

In Google Photo Sphere Camera app you have to move the smartphone to hit target spots that are instantly stored, fixed and aligned so that the 360° sphere is put together by individual “solid” pieces.

Whereas in app you move the smartphone continuously around in a fluid process so that it feels more like capturing a video and you can also scan/record areas several times while capturing the “bubble”.

The differences that influence the results continue in the processing procedure:
Google Photo Sphere Camera app immediately starts it’s algorithms locally on your smartphone while starts to upload your “raw” images into their cloud, where they are being processed. These different approaches and probably also different stitching algorithms used could be one reason for differences in the alignment of edges in the images.

As soon as the processing is finished, you can view your result locally in Google Photo Sphere Camera app, add some (meta) information and finally upload it to Google Maps for publication/sharing. Furthermore, it is stored as a plain 2D image in your camera roll, which is a nice feature enabling you to upload it into tools like to add more information right into the scene or 3D models to enhance it. A result could look like following:

After processing in is finished, you can view your result inside the app on your smartphone, add some (meta) information and get several options to share it via email, Facebook, SMS, and others. If someone opens the corresponding link, he or she can view your scene in a nice player on the website, embedded in their closed ecosystem.

As you might have seen both apps/services have strength and weaknesses, which might play a bigger or smaller role, depending on your individual preferences. So finally it is up to you to make a decision and pick the app that suits your needs best: Google Photo Sphere Camera app and app are available for download in Apples iTunes Store.

And last but not least some bonus information:

  • If you are an Android user, the decision might be much easier, because unfortunately is an Apple iOS exclusive app at the moment and Google Photo Sphere Camera is already built into your device originally.
  • There are several more capturing apps available in the app stores (like Sphere by Spherical Inc.). If you have any suggestions for an outstanding competitor to the two apps presented in this article please let us know in the comment section!
  • You can buy various gadgets that can help you with the creation of amazing 360° photospheres using your smartphone, like Galileo from Motrr. If you have any recommendations for must-see or must-test devices please let us know as well.
  • Furthermore, if you get excited about the world of 360° photospheres you could decide to buy a professional camera with a fisheye lens that makes the capturing process much easier and faster (much less need to worry about processing, stitching, edges and such things). An affordable first step into this world could be a THETA camera by RICOH for example. And also here: Just let us know about any recommendations for must-see or must-test 360° cameras in the comment section.