Google has quietly added support for the new Ultra HDR image format for Android in Google Messages when sending messages via RCS. These image files will retain their metadata and display correctly on the receiving device.
This was first noticed by TheSpAndroid by enabling the bugle.support_ultra_hdr flag in the APK application. The authors of the blog post confirmed through crowdsourced testing that the feature does indeed work on Google Pixel 8 devices when sending images via RCS.
The Ultra HDR image format appeared in Android 14 recently and is essentially a variation of JPEG and works by encoding the map image with a logarithmic upscaling of the range 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 with a wider dynamic range, with brighter highlights and more shadow detail.
When displayed on a device without metadata support, the base JPEG image is displayed in standard dynamic range.
Google added support for this feature back in September before the launch of the Pixel 8. The Pixel 8 devices are the first Android devices that can create images in this format, and while older Pixel devices can’t, they can still display these images as intended.
However, even though this feature is now built into Android, we don’t see it being widely adopted.
OnePlus and Oppo have a version of this feature built into their versions of Android called ProXDR, and the metadata on those devices isn’t compatible with Ultra HDR-capable devices like Pixel phones (and vice versa).
Apple, of course, has a similar feature since the iPhone X, and also uses its own unique metadata that is incompatible with others.
For this technology to be relevant, the companies will need to come together and agree on a single format, at least in the Android world, as it is unlikely that Apple will adopt Google’s standard when it has its own, even if it has promised to support RCS .