iOS for the Windows Guy: Pocket to Picture and Camera Button

iOS for the Windows Guy: Pocket to Picture and Camera Button

No, there's no camera button on the iPhone, but...

Sometimes it's the little things. Among the many innovations that Microsoft brought to the smart phone market when it launched Windows Phone four long years ago was the notion of "pocket to picture." That is, you could pull the phone out of your pocket, long press on the camera button, and start taking photos immediately without having to wake it up and sign in first. Apple's iPhone handsets don't have a hardware camera button, but the company has added a couple of neat features to iOS that somewhat emulate "pocket to picture" and make the transition less painful.

Note: To be clear, these functional additions did not debut in iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile OS. And no, they're not limited to Apple's latest handsets, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Here's how I described "pocket to picture" in Windows Phone 7 Secrets, the first-ever book about Windows Phone:

In mid-2010, I drove cross-country with my father in a Volkswagen convertible. When we arrived in Colorado, we saw a deer at the side of the road. "Quick!" my dad said, pulling over. "Take a picture!" I fumbled for my iPhone 3GS, yanking it up to capture the moment before the skittish animal bounded through the trees. Oh, right, the screen was locked, so I had to turn it on. But it was locked with a password, so I needed to correctly tap that in, an action that was complicated by the fact that I had recently changed the password for security reasons. Finally, I managed to arrive at the iPhone home screen. But not the screen with the camera. Frantically swiping right to left, I tried to navigate to where I thought that camera icon was located, lost in sea of icon-gridded iPhone home screens.  Finally, I found it. So I tapped the icon, waited impatiently for the camera app to finally load, raised the phone to my eye, looked, and ...

You guessed it. I snapped a blurry picture of the deer's tail and a slice of its hindquarters. In the time that elapsed while I was fighting the iPhone interface, the deer had simply walked away.

This will never happen to you with Windows Phone thanks to a new feature Microsoft calls "pocket to picture." If I had had a Windows Phone in this same situation, I could have simply taken out the phone, pressed the camera button, and taken the picture. And this would have worked even if the device was off at the time and locked with a password. That's because Windows Phone, unlike the iPhone, has an actual camera button. And the underlying camera works even if you're not logged onto the device.

Revolutionary? Maybe not in the strictest sense. But most everyone who's ever struggled with a phone-based camera has experienced something similar to what I describe above. And if you are (or were) an iPhone user, you know exactly what I'm talking about. This is a common and very frustrating occurrence.

Pocket to picture is simple. You just pick up the phone and press the camera button. It doesn't matter if the phone is off (and/or locked with a password), or if you're using it currently. Either way, it will switch, almost immediately, into the camera application, ready to take a picture. If the phone was off when you pressed the button, it should take about 2 seconds from the time you press the button to when the device is ready to take a picture, maximum. If the phone is already on, it will take even less time.

Flash forward to 2014 and modern versions of iOS. It's now possible to sort-of emulate "pocket to picture" and that missing physical camera button.

Here's how.

You can access the camera from the lock screen

OK, there's no real pocket to picture with an iPhone (or other iOS device). But you can eliminate much of the hunting and pecking I describe in the book excerpt above if you're using iOS 5 (circa 2012) or newer. Which of course you are. Just pull out your iPhone, tap the Home button to wake it up, and then slide up on the Camera icon you'll see in the lower right corner of the screen.

The Camera app launches and you're off to the races. As with Windows Phone, you cannot access the camera roll when you launch the app this way, or other parts of the phone. You will need to actually sign in first.

You can use the Volume Up or Volume Down button as a camera button

It's now possible to use the Volume Up or Volume Down button as if it were a Camera button. That is, while using the Camera app, the Volume buttons work like a camera's shutter button, so you don't have to use the onscreen shutter button. Many will find this more convenient—and less shaky—than tapping the onscreen button, especially those former Windows Phone users who are used to there being a hardware Camera button.

Again, it's not perfect. But both of these improvements will make the transition to iPhone—and other iOS devices—easier. 

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