Nikon Coolpix S800c: Can Android Make Wi-Fi Useful On a Camera?

It makes sense that Nikon's trotting out a Wi-Fi connected camera just like everybody else. For the people who replaced a real camera with a smartphone camera, taking pictures and posting them online are one and the same activity. But the Coolpix S800c runs Android 2.3 and has 4 gigs of storage for apps. That's weird! Is Nikon genius for adopting an open OS standard? Or are we so desperate for Wi-Fi that we've resorted to Android to get our cameras online?

Without Android and Wi-Fi, the Coolpix S800c is about as boring of a point-and-shoot as any: It has a 16-megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, a 10x optical zoom, built-in GPS, touchscreen controls, and it shoots 1080p video all for $350. Give or take a spec, dimension, or a couple of bucks, and it could easily be its Wi-Fi brethren like the Samsung MV900F or the Canon 530HS.

Except for one important difference: the connected features on those Wi-Fi cameras are so poorly designed that they're virtually unusable. And while there's some hints things might be getting better the problem hasn't changed. As of right now, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and Canon all have their own Wi-Fi interfaces that connect to an assortment of proprietary smartphone apps and cloud storage systems. We've used the cheapest and the priciest, and so far we've yet to be impressed. If these cameras are meant to have Wi-Fi, why can't it be easier? It's enough to make you wish you'd just plugged your camera into your computer to get the photos off.

Nikon Coolpix S800c: Can Android Make Wi-Fi Useful On a Camera?

You can say whatever you want about the outmoded Android 2.3 OS, but at the very least it works. The interface is immediately understandable to anyone who has ever used a smartphone. Maybe more importantly, by putting Android on the camera, you can suddenly load the camera up with photo-specific Android apps. Finally, Instagram on your camera. Wait, is that cheating? And hey, maybe developers will get creative and develop something new with connected cameras in mind.

Still, Android on a camera doesn't solve every problem, and in a way it's more reflective of existing failures than anything. Android doesn't suddenly make your camera a phone, and you still need an Internet connection to post photos online.

In the end maybe what we really need is a seamless way to dump photos onto a phone—what you do from there is up to you. In fact in testing Wi-Fi cameras across the board that seems to be the only feature everyone can agree on. Now it's just a question of nailing it down. We'll reserve judgement on the latest crop of Wi-Fi cams—including this bizarre Android thing—until they're available this fall. [Nikon USA]