Android 2.1 Display Depth Drama


When people began reporting on the Motorola Droid one of its more remarkable attributes was the screen: it’s not just beautiful, it’s gorgeous.

Shortly thereafter Google’s Nexus One came on scene, sporting Android 2.1. The Droid was stuck at 2.0.1, but an update was promised “soon” to satisfy early Droid adopters.

People loved the new Photo Gallery app that came included with the Nexus One. With its animated photo stacks, 3D “depth”, and connection to your Picasa Web Albums the app was initially given very high marks.

Before long an update to Android 2.1 for the Droid was made available which brought (amongst other things) the new Gallery app.

After the bells and whistles of the new app faded away people started to notice the pictures in the new gallery weren’t as “pretty” or “crisp” as they were in the old gallery. After a bit more digging it was discovered that the color depth had dropped from 24-bit in the old Gallery to 16-bit in the one one.

After the news about the 16-bit Gallery came to light Google admitted that the Gallery did indeed use 16-bit color rendering:

“The Gallery app in Android 2.0.1 is different from the Gallery app in Android 2.1. Google developed Gallery in Android 2.0.1, which uses 24-bit color rendered using 2D technology. On the other hand, Cooliris created Gallery in Android 2.1, which uses 16-bit textures rendered using 3D technology. We don’t have anything specific to share at this time regarding the Gallery app in future versions.”1

Michele Turner, executive vice president of products at Cooliris had this to say in an email:

“The Gallery application was originally developed for the Nexus One, and as such currently displays images in 16-bit color format, due to memory constraints using OpenGL textures. We will be working on a version that supports 24-bit color and scaling, but do not expect to see it implemented until after the next major Android release.”2

An upgrade is being worked on by Cooliris, but we don’t know when that will become available, nor if it will be pushed to devices using the Market or not.

In short, Cooliris built an app that sacrificed color depth for 3D, which seems like a fair enough trade-off to me. Where they went wrong was by not including a switch to turn off the 3D features in favor of high resolution photos. In their defense, Cooliris designed the Galley with the Nexus One specifications in mind, which they felt necessitated reducing the color depth.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.