Google Photo Sphere

Artie Beaty/ZDNET

When it debuted more than a decade ago, Photo Sphere was a simple but fun photo mode that allowed users to take 360-degree photos of their surroundings and then either upload them to Google Maps or Google Street, or view them in a Google Cardboard headset.

The feature was a fan-favorite for quite a while and had been on every Google phone from the Nexus to the Pixel 7, until it was quietly killed late last year and removed from all devices. But now, it appears Photo Sphere is back — for some users. 

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It’s rare that having an older phone is actually an advantage when it comes to new features, but that’s what’s happening here. For phones that had Photo Sphere before, it’s suddenly available again. For phones that never had it — the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro — it’s still absent. 

That makes sense given that the mode was cut out of Camera 9.1,the version the Pixel 8 shipped with. But with the AI power that the Pixel 8 carries, stitching together a series of photos to make a large, seamless picture seems like a prime opportunity. The newest Pixels do have a somewhat similar panoramic mode, but that’s only side to side and not all around. 

The feature wasn’t perfect and would produce warped images if you didn’t move precisely where the app told you to, but it was a fun mode to play around with for some unique images. 

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It’s unclear if this is a temporary or permanent return, but the feature does work exactly like it always has. By moving your phone around in a specific pattern, you can capture multiple photos that are stitched together for a view that completely captures a scene from all angles. 

If you have a Pixel phone that’s before the Pixel 8 and doesn’t have Photo Sphere, make sure you have the latest version of the camera app — If you’re not running that version, check for an update. 

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