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Essential says it has improved its terrible camera with new software updates

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Two updates are rolling out today, and more are coming

Essential Phone Vjeran Pavic

Essential has released another update to address what is by far the weakest element of its debut smartphone: the camera. This latest attempt is a two-prong approach, as the company has simultaneously released a new firmware update for the phone itself and updated the Essential Camera app in the Play Store. “Our small team has been hard at work improving the Essential Camera app,” software engineer Michael Kolb wrote in a blog post.

The latest version of the camera app promises to “eliminate shutter lag for one-off captures.” That delay when shooting even a single photo has been a major annoyance for users. Essential also claims to have improved low light photo quality and made all-around image output more consistent in various conditions. Here are the specifics of what you can expect to see after installing both updates:

Boosted capture speed in regular and low light to below 1 second (over 40% faster)

Improved brightness and performance in low-light

Spatial sound when shooting in 360 (supported on device, Facebook and YouTube)

Use volume up/down keys as shutter buttons in 360 mode

Countdown timer when in 360 camera mode

Bug fixes and overall reliability improvements

Separately, Essential has also confirmed that it will be adding more modes and functionality to the sparse camera software. A Pro Mode is “in the works,” as are Portrait Mode and live-streaming to Facebook and Periscope using the 360-degree camera.

“System build NMI81C is starting to roll out today so expect to receive this update soon,” the company said of the phone’s software update. The end result of these updates will be a major test and example of just how much can be fixed and improved through software after a phone has already shipped. With the just-announced Pixel 2 shipping soon — and a slew of other Android options to choose from — Essential needs to work fast if it hopes to be a viable purchase for the $700 price.