Apple has been varying degrees of ambivalent when it comes to the Volume Shutter or VolumeSnap feature on the iPhone. Volume Shutter is the feature that allow developers to use a Volume button as a hardware shutter release for the camera.

Since the release of iOS 5, Volume Shutter has become a popular feature in third party camera apps. New evidence has come up that Apple is about to restrict the feature… again. VolumeSnap and the Volume Shutter feature may be on it’s way out for good, or at least until developer and user uproar cause Apple to figure out a position on this feature.

For much of the iPhone’s existence, hardware button remapping has been off limits, no matter how seamless it was implemented. The most high profile incident came back in August 2010 when Camera+ by tap tap tap first tried to release an update with the feature. Camera+ was pulled from the App Store for several months after a hack was widely shared which activated VolumeSnap as an undocumented hidden feature. Links to two of LoFi’s stories on the issue are here and here.

When Apple released iOS 5, one of the new features in Apple’s Camera was Volume Shutter, which gives the iPhone camera a “hardware” shutter release. Although this was never released as an official API, many developers released their own version of Volume Shutter.

There are now plenty of camera apps available with Volume Shutter. Than number may be dwindling soon. This is only for third party camera apps, such as Camera+ and ProCamera. This does not effect Apple’s own Camera app.

Apple has previously told developers that third party developers are not allowed to use this feature even though Apple’s own camera application now has it. Still, many apps with this feature make it through Apple’s review process.

Apple seems to be cracking down on this. Recently, the developers of Camera Genius and King Camera were told to remove the feature.

Most recently, developer Josh Patterick had been trying to work with Apple to allow the feature into his two photo apps, QuickPix and TapShot (it’s currently in TapShot, but per Apple’s request will be removed in a forthcoming update). With the proliferation of many photo apps with Volume Shutter, it seemed that at that time Apple did not seem to have a clear answer on what implementation was acceptable or not.

Apple seems to have focused their policy and it looks like it’s only a matter of time before this feature is gone from the App Store. Josh Patterick said yesterday:

“As you may know, Apple is now rejecting apps that use the Volume Shutter. I’ve now spent a lot of time on the phone with Apple and was told that it’s going away for all although a few updates still seem to be slipping through at the moment.”

I’ve seen Volume Shutter implemented seamlessly in some photo apps making it a pretty cool user experience. I’ve also seen it done “less elegantly” in some photo apps and ended up cranking my iPhone’s Music app to 11 after taking several photos. Originally, this was a factor in getting the feature through Apple approval. Apparently now Apple may have changed their mind.

Of course, the highest profile app with this feature is still Camera+. It’s also one of the best and smoothest implemented. Given the history between Camera+, Apple and VolumeSnap, it will be interesting to see how that is resolved.

For now, Volume Shutter is still in many photo apps. Enjoy the feature while you have it.



UPDATE 01: Added a clarification that this does not effect Apple’s Camera app.