Nikon slaps Android on a camera and it doesn't stick. (Or, why there's no iCamera yet.)

Apple keeps improving the camera in the iPhone on a roughly yearly schedule, but given some comments from Steve Jobs on revolutionizing photography, there have been rumors of... something more. Nikon has just explored one avenue of more-ness, namely slapping Android on a point and shoot to see if it would stick. And it doesn't, at least according to Phil Nickinson of Android Central who took a look at the brand new Coolpix S800c:

The Nikon Coolpix S800c could have been so much more. Nikon could have taken the Android framework and made a compelling user interface that complements the fundamental usage case for the device -- it's a damn camera, after all.

Instead, we've got a traditional Android experience. And while we're all for seeing Android on anything and everything, it needs to be customized. Just as the Android phone UI didn't lend itself well to 7-inch tablets, neither does it really work for a camera. Oh, it's functional, but that doesn't make it good. For a mass-market consumer device, the UI needs to be simple, intuitive and, frankly, simply look better than what's on the S800c.

Truly great product people -- the ones who know what the market wants before the market itself, and how to make technology accessible to hundreds of millions of mainstream customers -- are incredibly, stupefyingly rare. They're snipers. Carefully lining up single shots and taking them, and then taking out a market with them. More common are the shotgunners who pack their shells with anything and everything they can find around them and then blast away hoping to hit the market before the poor, terrified market can jump to safety behind a dumpster.

The Coolpix S800c from Nikon seems decidedly the latter, and Phil absolutely nails why. Phones may have cameras but cameras are not phones nor should they be running phone software -- especially overly complex phone software. Nikon appears to have made a smartcamera just to make a smartcamera, and not crafted something to really change the camera space or improve the camera experience.

Hopefully Nikon will try again, and do it better. And maybe Canon will license Android or something else and take their shot too. But they'll need to drop their shotguns and pick up fully scoped rifles to do it. Revolution rides on a single, perfectly timed bullet. Not on the back of buckshot.

If Apple is still working on photography beyond the iPhone, it won't be with iOS slapped on a point-and-shoot.

For more, check out Android Central's complete coverage of the Nikon Coolpix S800c:

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Nikon slaps Android on a camera and it doesn't stick. (Or, why there's no iCamera yet.)


This is an answer to a question nobody asked. People in the camera community have been watching smartphones eat the lunch of the small matchbox consumer cams, so they think that connectivity is the answer. There's already a name for this kind of device... it's called your iPhone. If you are posting to Twitter or Facebook, the resolution doesn't matter and even in low light, the current generation of smartphones look okay when downsized to Facebook postings. If you are a Twitter user, which is more convenient, posting directly over your phone's cellular connection or waiting to find a wi-fi signal with your camera?

I think the concept has promise, but i needs better execution. Starters, if Android it should be running ICS if not Jelly Bean as its base, and it needs to be customised for the purpose, including using better than the stock camera and gallery apps (I don't know if it does or not). Keep the GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi, drop the cellular hardware and software.

Rene has nailed it, the idea is to use the difference (Android in this case) to improve what you are doing. What Nikon has done is simply build a P&S running Android because they could. They didn't try to improve their basic P&S camer at all. They need to figure out what about Android (or any "connected" OS) can make a better camera and exploit that. The answer is obvious, but they have missed it. Better luck with the next version.