opinion

iPhone Pulse: The Quest for Proper iPhone Camera Shutter Release

Stephen Yagielowicz

This article was originally intended to provide a glimpse at an app or two that would allow the “up” volume control button on the side of an iPhone 3GS to fire its camera — similar to the function brought to the iPhone 4 and 4GS via the iOS5 operating system.

Instead, however, it has become a rant against Apple and all companies enamored by totalitarian corporate policies and the chilling effect that it has on technical innovation and consumer choice.

Unfortunately, the lack of a physical shutter release often precludes reliable shutter firing especially when awkwardly holding the iPhone “backwards” for self-shot photos.

But first, let’s back up a bit…

For those unfamiliar with the device, Apple’s iPhone possesses the ability, but not always the capability, to capture stunning images. Essentially, the hardware is sufficient to the task, but its implementation and software control has been lacking — opening the door for third-party photography apps that brought a wealth of advanced features to the mobile platform.

The resulting quality, under ideal conditions, is suitable for everything from self-shot amateur content to behind-the-scenes candid photos and videos and even some forms of independent filmmaking.

Unfortunately, the lack of a physical shutter release often precludes reliable shutter firing especially when awkwardly holding the iPhone “backwards” for self-shot photos.

Fixing this problem is as simple as mapping the volume control to the camera, for a more natural, “camera-like” photographic experience — something that most users might consider a “no brainer” to add — so I expected to find a raft of apps offering this feature on older iPhone models.

What I found was the saga of an app known as Camera +, which among its previous innovative features, included the ability to fire the camera from the “up” volume button.

Apple, however, didn’t approve of this feature’s inclusion; telling the publisher that providing such an option would “confuse” users.

The app maker then made this a “hidden” feature or “Easter Egg” as they are known in programming circles providing users with a hack to access it via the company’s blog.

This of course resulted in the app being booted from the App Store, since Apple also disapproves of hidden features. While Camera + has returned this function is missing.

Apple may have quashed the single biggest improvement to the iPhone simply because they didn’t think of it first. Although to their credit, they have made this a core feature of its latest offerings — even going as far as allowing the volume control of an attached set of headphones trigger the camera’s shutter, like a true remote release would.

Still, the larger point remains that if you build your service offerings based upon another company’s set of rules, it’s like building your home on someone else’s property — you’ll always be subjected to their whims.

While there are apps that will provide volume control / shutter release functionality on the iPhone 3GS, they require a “jailbroken” phone — something many users avoid — making the best choice for photography minded iPhone users an upgrade to the new 4GS.

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