Use Your iPhone Headset As Shutter Release in iOS 5

A few of the hundreds of "new" features in iOS 5 were "appropriated" from other developers. One, the ability to trip the iPhone camera shutter by pressing the Volume Up button instead of pressing a soft-button on-screen, came from a hidden feature that iOS developer tap tap tap included in a version of Camera+, an iPhone camera replacement app.


As an added bonus, if you press the Volume Up button on the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic that comes with every iPhone that will trip the shutter as well.

It's a pretty clever trick, and for those who use the iPhone to take pictures -- of which there are many (see below) -- it might come in handy. Combine the iPhone and headphone remote with a simple tripod/stand like the Glif, and you've got a cheap-and-functional camera rig.

camerapopularityflickr

Hat tip to Cult of Mac, and Charles for the video.

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Top Rated Comments

Westacular Avatar
171 months ago
A few of the hundreds of "new" features in iOS 5 were "appropriated (http://www.9to5mac.com/71850/ios-features-apple-borrowed-from-jailbreakers/)" from other developers. One, the ability to trip the iPhone camera shutter by pressing the Volume Up button instead of pressing a soft-button on-screen, came from a hidden feature (http://www.tuaw.com/2010/08/10/how-to-use-your-iphones-volume-buttons-for-shutter-control-in-c/) that iOS developer tap tap tap (http://taptaptap.com/) included in a version of Camera+ (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id329670577), an iPhone camera replacement app.

What's with the attitude from MacRumors all of a sudden regarding iOS 5 features? Both this and the Wi-Fi sync article had very unprofessional tones, and the accusations that Apple plagiarized from developers seems particularly unjustified in both these cases.

Phones have been using volume buttons as shutter releases for a decade. It was never really that novel; tap tap tap was just the only developer ballsy enough to sneak it into an app, and they were punished for it.


So why did Apple ban the functionality in the first place?

With iOS devices, the rationale has always been that an app gets full and exclusive control of what's happening on the screen, and any touch events, while hardware buttons are the sole domain of the operating system. Any app that tried to use a hardware button for a non-standard purpose was rejected on principle -- Apple didn't want to allow for the consequential possibility of user confusion, etc. Home button is for home, Volume buttons control volume, period, no exceptions.

Generally, it seemed like a sound policy, but taking photos is one of the few exceptions where a physical button would be really handy, and the volume buttons are in just the right spot to do it.

In July or August of 2010, tap tap tap proudly talked about adding that feature, and submitted a new version of Camera+ which included it (among other things). It was rejected by reviewers, based on the above policy.

So, tap tap tap said "ok" and resubmitted a version with that 'removed'. But what they'd really done is disabled the feature and added a hidden cheat code that would turn it feature. Knowledge of this went viral. Apple was not pleased at being tricked, and the banhammer came down: Camera+ was pulled from the app store, and tap tap tap went almost entirely silent for 4 months -- no blog posts, no updates to other apps, nothing. One might speculate Apple put them in the time out corner to think about what they did.

Then, in December, tap tap tap suddenly came back to life and released a brand new 2.0 version of Camera+, with lots of new features (and no presence or mention of the ill-fated volume-button-shutter feature, or discussion of the long absence).


Now, as to why Apple seems to have had a change of heart on this issue, there's a couple things to note:

-As mentioned in the keynote, over the past year since the iPhone 4's release, it's become abundantly clear how much serious photography is being done using iPhones. And tapping the on-screen button to take the photo is extremely awkward/clumsy in a wide variety of scenarios. Apple finally realized this point. (Or rather, the people inside Apple who were probably arguing for something like this all along were finally able to garner enough support or evidence to justify the change.)

-The boundaries of that split between "apps own the screen" and "iOS owns the buttons" are visibly eroding from the other side, especially in light of other iOS 5 features: Notification Center is adding a system-wide gesture, and frequent little notes on the top of the screen, and the 4-5 finger multitasking gestures are finally becoming an official preference option on the iPad. This is on top of the growing rainbow of multitasking items that add another line to the status bar (and steal taps to the area), such as phone calls, voice recording, VoIP calls, and Wi-Fi tethering.

Clearly, Apple is less beholden to that principle now than it was a year ago. I've not yet heard if they intend to allow 3rd party camera apps to also use the volume as a shutter button, but I don't see why they wouldn't. *Not* allowing it would *reduce* platform consistency.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
3rdparty Avatar
171 months ago
A little known existing feature of iOS4 is that the remote button starts/stops video recording...
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AdeFowler Avatar
171 months ago
What's with the attitude from MacRumors all of a sudden regarding iOS 5 features?

I sensed the same attitude during MacRumor's WWDC Live Feed; at times it bordered on immature.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
houdinize Avatar
171 months ago
I wonder if this means that other apps (like Camera+) will be able to access this and use the volume button and remote as the shutter within their app? I would think and hope so.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Compile 'em all Avatar
171 months ago
So why did Apple ban the functionality in the first place?

They didn't ban anything. They simply felt that an "app" that "some might have and some might not" shouldn't define hardware behavior. And well, a new feature should be released in an all new feature release.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spillproof Avatar
171 months ago
A little known existing feature of iOS4 is that the remote button starts/stops video recording...
And I was always annoyed that it didn't work for photos. Now I don't have to be!
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)