Google has quietly added support for Android’s new Ultra HDR Image Format in Google Messages when sending messages over RCS. Images in this format when sent over RCS will maintain their meta data and will display correctly on the receiving device.
This was first noticed by TheSpAndroid through the inclusion of the flag bugle.support_ultra_hdr inside the application APK. The authors of the blog post confirmed through crowdsourced testing that the feature indeed works on Google Pixel 8 devices when sending images over RCS.
The Ultra HDR Image Format is a recent inclusion in Android 14. This format is essentially a variation of the venerable JPEG and works by encoding a logarithmic range gain map image in the metadata. When such an image is displayed on a device that can read this metadata and has an HDR display, the image is displayed in a wider dynamic range with brighter highlight luminance and greater shadow detail. When displayed on a device with no metadata support, the base JPEG image is displayed in standard dynamic range.
Google added support for this feature back in September prior to Pixel 8 launch. The Pixel 8 devices are the first Android devices to capture images in this format and while the older Pixel devices cannot capture them they can still display these images as intended.
However, even though this feature is now built into Android, we haven’t seen greater adoption. OnePlus and Oppo have a version of this feature that they have built into their version of Android called ProXDR and the metadata of these devices is not compatible with the Ultra HDR supporting devices like the Pixel phones (and vice versa). Apple, of course, has had a feature similar to this since the iPhone X and also uses its own unique metadata that is incompatible with others.
In order for this technology to be relevant, companies will need to come together and settle on a single format, at least in the Android world as it’s unlikely Apple will adopt Google’s standard when it has its own, even if it has promised support for RCS.