A GoPro Hero 9 Black firmware update has finally improved the action camera's frustratingly sluggish touchscreen – and also delivers some new open source tools that should see it play nice with other tech.
The Hero 9 Black's v1.6 update, which is available to download now via the Quik app, delivers several tweaks, but the main one is that it "improves touchscreen performance in menus and settings".
So does it actually fix the action camera's annoyingly unresponsive screen? Kind of, but not completely. We've updated our camera's firmware, and it's definitely easier to pull down the settings menu. Scrolling through preferences also feels much snappier. But compared to the Hero 8 Black there's still some slight lag in places.
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For example, hitting the 'capture settings' box results in a slight hesitation, which can lead you to tap the screen again, when you feel your first prod hasn't registered.
This certainly isn't a deal-breaker, and we did promote the Hero 9 Black to the number one spot in our best action cameras and best GoPros guides after a previous fix made some decent improvements; it's just slightly frustrating that the Hero 8 Black still offers a slightly snappier experience.
Arguably the bigger feature of the Hero 9 Black's firmware update, though, is its compatibility with the new 'Open GoPro' platform, which is a new API (Application Programming Interface) for developers to get their teeth into.
This allows anyone with some coding knowledge to write software that interacts with or controls certain aspects of the GoPro Hero 9 Black. Not everything is available to developers – for example, there's no access to the action cam's video feed – but tinkerers will be able to access the camera's wireless connectivity, video preview, status and SD card transfer.
Right now, this will only be available to the Hero 9 Black, and it's obviously early days for the API. But it does mean that you can expect to see much better integration with other hardware, like smartwatches and bike computers, along with other software.
Analysis: a quietly big deal for GoPro's action cams
This isn't the first time GoPro has flung open the software doors to its action cameras – just over five years ago it announced the GoPro Developer Program, which aimed to let companies create "a seamless user experience between their products and GoPro products".
This led to a few integrations with the likes of BMW, Fisher Price and Polar. But the program slowly fizzled out, so now GoPro has launched Open GoPro to be more, well, open than the previous API, which should mean a lot more creative integrations.
Rather than requiring an official partnership to be set up with GoPro, there is "no application or approval process", and you can see demos or sample code at the Open GoPro site.
The move is the latest step in a strategic shift by GoPro that started with GoPro Labs, which is a platform that lets you try out unreleased beta tools that massively increase the versatility of GoPro's flagship camera.
Back when the Hero 9 Black launched, we argued that it was secretly a big evolution for action cameras, because this new openness could help turn it into a surprisingly versatile Swiss Army Knife of a camera. For example, it could potentially become your webcam, body cam, dash cam or security cam, thanks to new features like wake-up timers for remote start capture.
The new Open GoPro platform should only boost this versatility. GoPro says that Amazfit smartwatches have used it to let you wirelessly control your Hero 9 Black with your smartwatch, while Orqa FPV goggles now let you wirelessly control a GoPro mounted on a drone. We're looking to see more creative tie-ins appear soon, once developers have got their teeth into the new GoPro API.