The camera in Google's Pixels has always taken some of the best photos in the world of smartphones, but they might be getting some expanded color chops soon — if not in existing hardware, then maybe in the Pixel 4. Google may be gearing up to add P3 wide color gamut support to the Pixel's first-party Google Camera app. According to some code dug up and enabled by a tipster at XDA Developers, Google has already integrated at least some of the required changes, and they were able to turn it on for testing.
Left: The P3 color setting XDA Senior member cstart27 was able to enable. Right: Exif data showing P3 profile on a captured image. (Both images via XDA Developers)
An album with a pair of full-resolution quick comparison images assembled by XDA's Dylan Raga is here, though note you'll need both a display with wide-color support and the files will need to be viewed via software that supports it as well. A video made by XDA which seems to approximate the effect within a narrower sRGB color space (for the purposes of demonstrating the type of difference you can expect) is also embedded just below.
The difference is most noticeable in the reds and greens, showing additional saturation that isn't possible in the limited sRGB color space: Display/P3-D65 includes 25% more color coverage than sRGB, with especially more coverage when it comes to the types of reds/greens shown in these demonstration images.
Comparison of Display P3 and sRGB color space. Image via Apple.
Color space on Android has long been mismanaged. While applications have ostensibly been able to declare support for specific color spaces since Android 8.0 Oreo, most apps simply stick to the sRGB space. For a long time, selecting a wider color space in your phone's settings would simply result in remapping overly saturated colors over the top of the sRGB space. While that could be vaguely accurate but still technically wrong in absurdly specific circumstances (if, say, the content was a P3 image viewed in an sRGB-compatible app subsequently remapped to P3 color space), in general, it just resulted in inaccurate and oversaturated colors.
A great (but long and now slightly outdated) video on the subject of color in Android.
Because not all developers/applications (including many of Google's first-party apps) have integrated support for expanded color profiles, Android still essentially defaults to sRGB in most circumstances today. Even Google Photos shamefully lacked support for expanded color profiles for years, though there have been small-scale tests spotted enabling it.
For comparison, Apple's iPhones since the iPhone 7 already capture photos in the P3 color space. Apple's displays and software have also supported wider color gamuts for much longer, and developers building apps on the platform have actually used it, providing a seamless improvement in color without all the headaches Android can't seem to avoid.
Most recent camera sensors can capture colors outside the sRGB space. While it's nice to see Google finally working on wider color support for its first-party Camera app, hopefully it can come to older phones (and more apps) as well.