Recent reports suggest that Apple may be once again rejecting apps that make use of the iPhone volume buttons for shutter control, despite iOS 5’s addition of the feature into the built-in Camera app, and the subsequent approval of several camera apps implementing the feature.
Several app developers added volume button shutter controls to their iOS 4 camera apps in 2010, most notably Tap tap tap’s Camera+. Apple rejected the app due to this feature, so Tap tap tap added it as a hidden option instead. Soon thereafter, Apple began cracking down on apps with the feature, citing App Store Guidelines that prohibited changing the features of iOS hardware buttons. When Apple discovered the hidden feature in Camera+, it removed the app entirely from the App Store, and Camera+ didn’t return until several months later, with the “VolumeSnap” feature conspicuously absent.
With iOS 5.0 Apple brought the ability for the volume-up button to be used as a shutter control in the built-in Camera app. Several developers took this as a sign of Apple’s willingness to approve the use of this feature in third-party apps, and Camera+ was able to resurrect VolumeSnap late last fall. Several other camera app developers followed suit.
It appears that Apple is planning to change the volume button shutter, though it should be noted that the App Store Guidelines were never updated to permit third-party apps to use the feature. Last week, SmugMug released an update to its Camera Awesome photo app, adding Instagram support, however as Harry McCracken discovered, the update also quietly removed the ability to use the volume up button to take photos. McCracken contacted SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill for an explanation and was informed that Apple had “called and told [them] that they were asking all app developers using the volume button this way to remove the functionality because it was going to break in a future iOS update.” MacAskill goes on to explain that Apple has not confirmed whether it will provide an approved method for using the volume button as a shutter control, and notes that he “expect[s] more apps to start removing their volume button support in the future as a result.”
Notably, however, the latest version of Camera+, updated around the same time as Camera Awesome last week, still retains the ability to use the volume up button as a shutter control.