3 Android camera shortcuts that make iPhones look amusingly antiquated

For most of us, referring to the rectangular gadget in our pocket as a “phone” is almost an artifact from the past.

Sure, our modern mobile devices can make and take old-fashioned voice calls (at least in theory — I think?). But more often, we rely on ’em for keeping up with email, checking in on information, and — perhaps more than anything — snapping photos as we make our way around the physical world.

And you’d better believe those photos aren’t just for vacation-week memories anymore, either. These so-called phones of ours can perform all sorts of powerful productivity-related feats through their exceptionally excellent lenses — everything from scanning Very Important Business Documents to interpreting QR codes and even copying text from the real world so you can paste it into a note for ongoing reference.

Plus, y’know, they can help you quickly snag a snapshot of Steve from accounting the next time he wears that hilarious Tabasco sauce tie. (That Steve. Such a cut-up!)

No matter what you’re doing, though, the key to any effective smartphone camera use is actually getting to the camera quickly. And that’s an area where Android has long excelled.

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I’ve been thinking about this lately because of a series of a stories about an apparent new Apple innovation in the works. As recently reported by the website The Information, Apple is supposedly looking at adding a dedicated camera button onto its 2024 iPhone model.

Yep, you read that right: a dedicated camera button — in 2024. It’d seemingly let the iFaithful open and control their cameras with a physical key and, according to report, serve as a “key selling point for the device.”

If you’re snickering as vigorously as I am right now, it’s probably because you realize that — speaking of artifacts from the past — Android phones had dedicated camera buttons….back around 2009. In the decade and a half since then, our devices have evolved to include that same exact sort of power within other existing buttons, thereby streamlining the setup and making it even more efficient.

With Apple gearing up to innovate this 15-year-old antiquated concept (and the iPhone-adoring members of the media presumably preparing to celebrate it as some magical new revelation), I thought it’d be worth revisiting Android’s existing step-saving camera shortcuts — ’cause seriously, this same exact stuff has been possible in our part of the mobile-tech world for ages now. And if you aren’t taking advantage of it, you’re really missing out.

Ready?

Android camera shortcut #1: The quick-open command

It’s absolutely wild to realize that our iPals still can’t do this, but on most Android phones today, you can call up your camera on demand anytime simply by pressing your physical power button twice.

A single double-press on that one button, and boom: You’ll be looking through your lens and ready to grab a photo, take a scan, or do whatever camera-related move suits you in no time — no dedicated button or overpriced new purchase required.

Best of all? You can do that double-tap from anywhere, no matter what you’re doing on the device at any given moment. It’ll even work when your screen is off, so long as the phone itself is powered up. It’s the swiftest and simplest way imaginable to summon your camera when the need arises without any time-wasting screen-tapping, inconsistent back-of-phone tapping, or awkward voice-command barking.

Now, if for any reason this action isn’t working for you, dig around in your phone’s settings to confirm you don’t have it disabled. On a Pixel device, the related option is within the System section of the main settings, inside a “Gestures” submenu — under “Quickly open camera.” On a Samsung phone, you’ll look within the Advanced Features area of the system settings, inside the “Side button” submenu.

Android camera shortcuts: Pixel, Samsung JR

The settings for controlling quick camera access on a Pixel device, at left, and a Samsung phone, at right.

Good to know, right?! And now that you’ve got that mastered…

Android camera shortcut #2: The fast camera switcheroo

Once you’ve got your Android phone’s camera open, it’s incredibly easy to switch back and forth between its front- and rear-facing lenses. And once again, no blast-from-the-past dedicated camera button is required.

On a Samsung phone, just repeat that same power button double-tap move you made a moment ago. That’ll swiftly switch you between the front and back cameras faster than you can say “Sorry, Siri.”

With a Pixel, you’ll want to twist your wrist twice to accomplish the same result. Again, there’s absolutely no need for a space-wasting, complication-creating extra button.

Android camera shortcut #3: The fuss-free capture or zoom

Last but not least, you can use your Android phone’s existing physical buttons to capture a photo in a snap — or, if you’d rather, to control your camera’s zoom.

Typically, by default, pressing either your volume-up or volume-down button will cause a picture to be taken anytime you have your phone’s camera app open. That’s the case with both Pixel and Samsung devices.

But with a quick little adjustment, you can change that function to a zoom control, too:

  • On a Pixel device, tap the settings icon in the lower-left corner of the camera interface, then tap “More settings” followed by “Button shortcuts” to find the option.
  • On a Samsung phone, tap the settings icon in the upper-left corner of the camera interface, then tap “Shooting methods” followed by “Press Volume buttons to” to reveal the same settings.
Android camera shortcuts: Volume button JR

You can easily access extra camera controls on Android via your existing volume buttons, as seen on a Pixel (left) and Samsung (right) device.

See? Couldn’t be much easier. And it’s all right there and ready for you this minute — no wildly unnecessary magical and revolutionary new button required.

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