I'd love — hardware — fast camera access in iOS 10

What makes the iPhone camera so great is how fast you can get it out, take a shot, and end up with a great looking photo. Apple's done a lot to make this possible, including adding fast camera access to the lock screen software. What Apple hasn't done, though, is add fast camera access through hardware. And, with iOS 10 on the horizon, I kinda wish they would.

Fast camera access on the lock screen

With fast camera access on the lock screen, all you have to do is wake up your iPhone, swipe up the screen, and shoot away. That's still multiple context changes, though. You go from pressing a hardware button to swiping up on a specific region of the screen. That's perceptibly slower and cognitively heavier than a repetitive hardware action.

Buttoning down

Other vendors already provide just that functionality. Click the Home button twice on a Galaxy S7 and the camera launches. Click the volume down button twice on the G5 and same. Click the power button twice on a Nexus and... you get the idea.

On iPhone, double clicking the Home button from a sleep-state is already assigned to Apple Pay. So that's out.

Volume up or down would be convenient, since those buttons will already take a photo when the Camera app is live. So, double clicking to launch, then clicking again to shoot, requires no context change whatsoever. That's the definition of fast.

Some may worry, though, that double clicking a volume button would collide with controlling the volume. Last thing you want is to try and quickly lower a loud tune or show only to have the camera launch unintentionally and kill the sound entirely.

Apple could simply suppress Camera launch when audio is playing, though that would create inconsistency. The company could also use the sleep/wake button instead, since that has no double-click function as of yet. And it's not like anyone is going to try and press it multiple times to sleep/wake the iPhone faster anyway. It's on a different side than the volume buttons used to take photos, though, so it won't be as fast nor as coherent. But it won't collide.

Faster forward

My preference is for a volume button to launch the Camera app. But it's just that: my preference.

I'm not fussy and will gladly go where the usability data points. I'd simply like to pull my phone out and start taking pictures even faster. That's why I very much hope Apple maps a hardware button to the camera launcher. So, come iOS 10 — fingers crossed! — I'll be able to do just that!

I've filed this feature request with Apple: rdar://25671012.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • This makes me miss the dedicated camera button on my Lumia 1520. Taking photos on my iPhone 6 is pretty fast but yeah who wouldn't want to have quicker access to the camera app.
  • See, competition is great! Everybody takes the best ideas from their competition and you have 2 really good phone operating systems with a lot of the best ideas. Of course their be differences still and that's how we decide which one we want.
  • Honestly, I just wish Apple would address the issue where audio stops when you open the camera app. I get that Live Photos take a short video clip, but I'd just like to take pictures while listening to my music.
  • I hate that too! It looks like people at apple don't use iPhones, what I would love for the camera app is the ability to pause videos, my iPhone 6s Plus is jailbroken and I have a tweak called "RecordPause" and I love this feature!
  • I like the idea I'm just not sure the sleep/wake button is the answer personally. It will be a personal choice because I hate dedicated camera buttons I think they look so stupid on a phone. Swiping up from the lockscreen is great and it's a known action. I almost feel like if Apple could have the iPhone wake up automatically as I pull it out of my pocket. Like the watch when you raise tour wrist then all I would have to do is swipe up on the lockscreen. Alternately if instead they made it possible to wake the phone by tapping the screen it becomes a tap and a swipe or just two taps. One to wake the phone then one on the icon to open the camera. Sent from the iMore App
  • I like how you think apple might give us a choice in how to launch it lol. It's their way or get your *** over to android.
  • I'm happy with Apple's way and I'll never use Android. Sent from the iMore App
  • I like what you say but here is my problem: I always unlock by pressing Home and keeping my finger on the Touch ID sensor. With Touch ID version 1 you had plenty of time to press home then swipe up on the camera icon before the phone unlocked. Touch ID 2 is way too fast to allow that. I know, I could always train my self to press unlock instead of Home to wake the phone or press Home with a different finger or adjusted grip. But, realistically changing the way a person does something, especially when that person wants to do it quickly as in snapping a photo takes some major retraining of the mind and muscle memory.
  • Before the smartphone boom in 2007, I had "dumbphones" with a dedicated camera button and it result in several photos of the inside of my pocket. I do NOT want a hardware button to the camera on iPhone.
  • Yeah I mean so hard to delete photos sent via Tandy color computer
  • Actually it was hard to delete photos in those days, on the antiquated phones of old. It's easier to delete photos on the iPhone of course, but you have to keep in mind there is also Burst Mode. So instead of taking 5 or 6 photos in your pocket, you're looking closer at 500 or 600 photos on the iPhone. Taking up valuable space that could go to things like automatic app updates. Especially if you don't check your phone for a couple of days, and there are some people that don't.
  • When I had my 920 I would press and hold down the camera button while pulling the phone out of my pocket. When doing this you would see(since it took a second) that the screen wouldn't turn on until after you pulled it out of your pocket. So you wouldn't be able to take a picture until that happened. That's the beauty of smartphones, they have hardware and software to tell when your phone is in your pocket.
  • I had dedicated camera buttons on Lumia handsets and not once did I accidentally take a photo of my jeans pocket.
  • I don't know what is the perfect solution, but I will say this about the swipe up function, most times I've wanted fast access, I've - no lie - had to make half a dozen efforts where it does the little bounce to say "sorry, you didn't do it juuuust right". At very least make a gesture that isn't quite so finicky :(
  • I want quick access to mobile data (like WiFi) Sent from the iMore App
  • You already have that. You can access that right on the lock screen if you have it set to do that. Just draw up from the bottom of the screen and you'll have the quick settings panel. Sent from the iMore App
  • There is no option for mobile data. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'd love a small, dedicated button on the side of the phone like the Nokia Luma 1020 that I use as a camera on my vacations. I know Jony Ive would have a heart attack, but sometimes more than one button is necessary. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Things are fine as they are. Us iPhone users don't care about all that crap. Didn't help its sales did it? The 1020 was a piece of junk in hardware that couldn't keep up with it's overkill camera. Sent from the iMore App
  • Read the comments, they would say different. The Iphone is a great phone but its not perfect, no phone is.
  • Double volume down would do. Sent from the iMore App
  • Lumia phones had this done right. I miss that feature. The iPhone could use another hardware button, the home button is so overloaded. Sent from the iMore App
  • As fast as the iPhone is now to launch the camera app, I would like something faster. I want a button that would launch it without me having to look at the screen.
  • Honestly, the camera in my 6S is terrible. It is so laggy when I open it up. It almost freezes for a few seconds. I usually have to force close it then reopen it. Not the greatest when I need to catch a shot of the boys. Now you must be thinking "this guys and android user and just talking ****", not the case my friend. Everything I own is apple (4 iPads, Apple TV, MacBook Pro, SE for work phone, and of course my personal 6S). I just think Apple should have put in the camera of the 6S, what they did for the 6S Plus. Bingo! Problem solved! Sent from the iMore App
  • That sounds like you've got some sort of software issue, are you running the latest version of iOS?
  • Do it with software. Give us the Option to change the Silent switch to instantly turn on camera.
    If you want silence, just go into DnD mode from lock screen quick settings.
  • DnD isn't the same as the silent switch, the silent switch means my phone still vibrates so I still know when I've got notifications, texts or calls. DnD would make you miss everything
  • How about a volume down, volume up button combo? It's unlikely anyone would do that when listening to their bangin' choons.
  • I'm quite happy without a hardware camera button. Shooting with the volume button requires you to push quite hard so tends to result in camera shake, but I like the option to use headphones as remote trigger.
  • I never use the volume buttons when I take pictures on my iPhone, I've always used the on screen button when taking pictures. Honestly the iPhone doesn't need a dedicated camera button. Sent from the iMore App
  • Could 3D Touch when iPhone is asleep be an option? I realise it would only work on 6s/6s Plus and whatever comes later but it's just a thought. Or fast double click home button for Apple Pay, slower double click for camera. Double tap home button reachability style when iPhone is asleep. Sent from the iMore App