Google has discreetly incorporated support for Android’s latest Ultra HDR Image Format in Google Messages, specifically for messages transmitted via RCS. Images in this format, when shared through RCS, retain their metadata and exhibit accurate display on the recipient’s device.
The discovery of this addition was made by TheSpAndroid, who identified the inclusion of the flag “bugle.support_ultra_hdr” within the application APK. Subsequent to community testing, the blog post authors confirmed that the feature is operational on Google Pixel 8 devices when sending images via RCS.
The Ultra HDR Image Format, a recent addition to Android 14, essentially functions as a variation of the well-established JPEG. It encodes a logarithmic range gain map image in the metadata. When viewed on a device capable of interpreting this metadata and equipped with an HDR display, the image appears with a broader dynamic range, featuring brighter highlights and enhanced shadow detail. On devices lacking metadata support, the base JPEG image is displayed in standard dynamic range.
Google integrated support for this feature in September ahead of the Pixel 8 launch. While Pixel 8 devices are the first Android devices capable of capturing images in this format, older Pixel models may not capture them but can still display such images as intended.
Despite this advancement in Android, broader adoption remains limited. OnePlus and Oppo have their version, named ProXDR, with metadata that isn’t compatible with Ultra HDR-supporting devices such as Pixel phones, and vice versa. Apple, with a similar feature since the iPhone X, utilizes its distinct metadata incompatible with others, even as it pledges support for RCS.
For this technology to gain widespread relevance, collaboration among companies is crucial to establish a unified format, particularly within the Android ecosystem, as Apple is unlikely to adopt Google’s standard while maintaining its proprietary system.