Photo Spheres were introduced in Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), but we really don’t see enough of these unique, 360-degree images on the Web. A quick search for #photosphere on Google+ reveals a steady stream of uploads, but the volume pales in comparison to the deluge of square-crop, filter-friendly Instagram photos shared to Twitter and Facebook.

Google launched a community site called Views in July to give Android photographers a new place to share their Photo Spheres. The service is tied to Google Maps and also simplifies embedding these shots on other websites.

Now that the service is in full swing, there are some impressive, oftentimes breathtaking photos available on the platform. We’ve created a shortlist of our favorites to illustrate why we should all create Photo Spheres more often.

(Note: Hit the links below each preview to see the Photo Sphere in high-resolution)

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Underwater photography always captures a surreal, almost dreamlike aesthetic. This shot from the Great Barrier Reef, a beautiful natural feature in itself, gets up close and personal with some of the local marine life.

Given the detail in the photo, we’re guessing it was shot on a DSLR camera (it’s possible to covert standard JPEG files into Photo Spheres). Nevertheless, that shouldn’t stop you from trying something similar with a waterproof Android smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active or Sony Xperia Z1

Azadi Tower in Tehran, Iran

Ready? Use your mouse/trackpad/finger to grab this Photo Sphere and look up at the sky. Impressive right? Some of the most interesting photos use perspective and natural lines to guide your eyes through the image.

The Azadi Tower in Tehran is incredibly striking because of its shape, unusual materials and blend of bright, uplifting colors. Observe the visitors at the bottom of the frame to get an idea of just how dominating this monument is.

Shinjuku skyline, Tokyo, Japan

The mish-mash of different buildings and architectural styles gives the Tokyo skyline a very dense, compact feel. This Photo Sphere was taken at the top of the unusual warship apartment in Shinjuku, offering some rather unique views of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The perfect lighting conditions and cloudless sky means you can see for miles in all directions. The brightly colored structures are a joy to look at, and it’s nice to see the streets and sidewalks a little quieter than usual.

Frozen waterfall at Athabasca Falls, Canada

As the title suggests, this waterfall has frozen solid at Jasper National Park in Canada. It’s completely untouched and the position of the photographer means that you can see the texture of the ice in tantalizing detail.

Spin the Photo Sphere around to the right and you’ll see where some of the cascading water has been able to break through the ice and continue down the mountainside. Oh, and there’s a gorgeous dog if you flip it 180-degrees.

Sanja Festival in Tokyo, Japan

So. Many. People. Our second image from Photo Sphere extraordinaire Masato OTA was taken near the Senśo-ji Temple in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.

It’s the second day of the Sanja Festival – two million people are estimated to visit the neighborhood during the three-day celebration – and needless to say, plenty of folks have attended the festivities.

Tofo Beach, Mozambique

It’s not uncommon for office workers to have a random photograph of a beach or tropical island as their PC or Mac’s desktop wallpaper. Most have no idea where that place is, it’s just an intangible scene for their mind to wander to throughout the day.

The Photo Sphere below would make a perfect wallpaper, but thanks to Views we know exactly where it is in the world too. Ananda Shah, we salute you for visiting Tofo Beach in Mozambique. It looks stunning.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu looks like a fantastical movie set ripped straight out of Indiana Jones (The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was actually set in Peru, so maybe there’s a connection). The 15-century Inca site is very real though, positioned almost 8,000 feet above sea level.

Sidnei José Romano’s Photo Sphere gives you a good glimpse of the site’s foundations, while packing in a jaw-dropping view of the valleys that surround it. After giving this 360-degree shot a peruse, we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to visit the place for yourself.

Joffre Creek at the Karijini-National Park, Australia

If a Sony marketing executive happens to stumble across this article, please heed my advice: Find this place and use it for your next TV ad, as it’ll fit in perfectly with your ‘Color Like No Other‘ mantra.

On a serious note though, this Photo Sphere is beautiful. The lines in the rock face give the cove a worn, rustic look and the sheer range of colors produced is astounding. Blue, purple, red and orange. It’s dazzling.

Itsukushima, Japan

Any beach at lowtide, combined with this rather sinister patch of clouds would make for a teriffic photograph. This traditional Japanese structure counters the rest of the composition though, standing tall and resolute against the surrouning bleakness.

It’s an interesting locale and the effect is compounded as you move around the Photo Sphere. Panning to the left gives you a real feel for how far out this gate has been built. The narrow, rising pathway only adds to the intrigue.

Antarctica

Antarctica doesn’t need much of an introduction. Its beauty lies in the sparseness of any life or notable landmarks. Gaze out at the horizon and you’ll see that relatively little obscures your view. Miles of snow and ice, as far as the eye can see.

Swing to the left and you’ll see what looks suspiciously similar to a Google Trekker for capturing official Street View imagery. This is still an amateur Photo Sphere, but perhaps Bryan Kiechle knows some folks over at Google…


Note:
Did we miss any of your favorite Photo Spheres? Post a link to them in the comments section below!