Feature Friday: Camera Access On The Lock Screen

Our policy at USV is that all of our devices need to have lock screens. So I have one on all my phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. I don't mind it very much. Except when I want to take a quick picture or video of something that is happening in real-time. In that situation, seconds can make the difference.

The folks I know who use iPhones can put their camera in front of the lock screen. I am not sure how they do that, but I know they do. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to do this on Android.

This is a cool feature. I'd like to call it out as something every mobile OS should have. If anyone knows how to make an Android device do this, please leave it in the comments. If it is not possible, then this post is a feature request to the Android team to make it happen in the next build.


Comments (Archived):

  1. $27180517

    definitely agree with you on this one…camera access on the lock screen is a godsend for those in-the-moment instances where seconds count…probably accounts for a third of the photos I take with my iPhone

  2. Richard Muscat

    That only happened in iOS 5 and its been hugely useful. Its an OS setting. Haven’t heard of an equivalent android feature though.

    1. adrianoconnor

      Stock Android has it, at least on the phone I use for developing/testing Android apps. I had to Jailbreak it to get it though πŸ™

  3. GΓΈran Berntsen

    iPhone can do this? That might actually be the one feature that tips me over from Samsung to the Apple Empire next time..

  4. Max Yoder

    I might be the only one, but I’d be interested to know if Windows phones have this capability, too.

  5. usadventure

    Galaxy S3 does this, but I think it is a TouchWiz feature.

    1. Patrick Morris

      On the Galaxy S3 you swipe up from the phone icon to directly access the camera.

      1. kenberger

        who is that, jamming on stage? looks a cool gig.

        1. Patrick Morris

          M83 at the Central Park Summerstage

    2. fredwilson

      i am getting a galaxy s3 any day now. so excited for this feature!

      1. Jim B.

        Actually, this doesn’t work immediately with security enabled on the S3. You still have to enter your password or draw a pattern to access after choosing to open the camera from the lock screen. I think like me you are looking for instant access regardless – I don’t care if someone steals my phone and takes pictures . . .Was really disappointed about this and hope they modify it in an update. That said, I think there are some Android launcher apps that let you do this on most android phones. Just search on android central.

        1. fredwilson

          Yup. That’s my problem

  6. David Semeria

    If I had a time machine I wouldn’t bother with lotteries, I’d just file a bunch of silly patents like “System and method for displaying a camera icon on a locked smartphone screen”.

    1. fredwilson


    2. William Wagner

      hey, isn’t that what apple did, except instead of a time machine they had a few billion dollars and some attorneys

      1. David Semeria

        Apple have something better than a time machine.They get companies to come in and demo their technology and then patent it (or some slight ‘improvement’) themselves.

        1. adrianoconnor

          When has this happened? When Apple need to bring stuff in from the outside (everything except industrial design, I guess) they typically find a small company that is innovating in the space (FingerWorks, SoundJam etc) and buy them for the talent/tech. Nothing wrong with that, so far as I can tell.

          1. David Semeria

            In Apple vs Samsung details have emerged of several companies having demoed at Apple without any further developments.

      2. Ryan Frew

        I have Time Machine on my Apple.

    3. Richard

      See todays wsj, “Market wars shed a lot of ketchup” (page b6) for a contrarian view. What’s good for ketchup packaging is good electronics packaging. Not every innovator has the abilities or resources to be a startup entrepreneur.Β 

    4. ShanaC

      that is what you would do with a time machine? Not figure out who killed Kennedy or make a killing on the stock market? or patent something?

      1. andyidsinga

        I know – right? – as in : “mooo ha ha ha – finally I can corner the market on that camera icon on the locked smartphone thing – patent and all” πŸ™‚ ( @hymanroth:disqus just playing with you πŸ™‚ )

        1. ShanaC

          Maybe. I mean, what would you do if you had a time machine?

          1. andyidsinga

            problem is, there is a trap in time machine thinking. That is, that a time machine somehow enables us to do something we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do in the present. Time machines (imhhho) simply put us in a different time with the resources we have in our heads.that said …I would want to go back to the time and places of Leonardo Da Vinci to witness him in action – and maybe attempt to become some sort of artist/apprentice in one of his circles. Rather selfish – but there it is – I’d wouldn’t want to spend too much time there – would miss the wife and kids too much :)[edit: on the flip side – we’re living in *incredibly awesome* times right now – I think bigger than the renaissance – we have a nuclear rover on mars! ]

          2. Cam MacRae

            It’s a good point — in a couple of hundred years early space explorers might be venerated in the same way as the great masters.

      2. Person

        Obligatory: xkcd.com/1063/ πŸ˜€

        1. andyidsinga

          πŸ™‚ classic.

        2. ShanaC

          πŸ™‚ awesome!

      3. Cam MacRae

        So here ’tis a fun Friday activity… what would you do if you had a time machine?Me… I’d catalogue and archive the library of Alexandria, especially the section on patents being a total douche move. And maybe save Hypatia while I was in the area — what a babe!

        1. ShanaC

          I like that library of Alexandria choice! I think I would also want to meet the historical Jesus and actually understand what was going in Judea at that time. Hmm, I probably would want to see the future more though….

        2. Max Yoder

          Great idea.

      4. kidmercury

        the killers of kennedy have already confessed.https://www.google.com/webh…but it does not matter as no one cares anyway.

        1. CJ

          I remember reading that. I figure it’s about a 75% chance that it’s true. Which, given the content, should have been enough to prompt more investigations, inquiries and outrage. But then…this is America, I should never expect better.

      5. Techman

        I watched a program on some TV network the other day talking about who killed Kennedy. I’m pretty sure who it is due to how the police is discovering evidence. What do you think happened?

  7. William Mougayar

    That’s what it looks like on the iPhone. I’ve recently started to use it. You have to slide it up to make it open.

    1. WA

      Built in and fabulous. There seems to be two Albums by default as well. One of the albums (Streaming) holds the pics from the lock screen camera function and they do not replicate to the other album. Also noted is that you can access any of the pictures you take with the lock screen in place, without unlocking the screen…but cannot access any other albums or photos behind the lock.

      1. Wavelengths

        Elegant thought behind that detail.

    2. Brandon Marker

      This is one of my favorite features they added to iOS4! Now, if only I could get iOS4 to not slow and crash throughout my day…

    3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      thanks for sharing the image. It makes Fred’s post that much clearer

  8. Barry Graubart

    Good point, Fred. I use this all the time. Would love to see a small tray that held 3-4 apps that we could authorize for quick use. That said, still wishing for some Android capabilities to make it to iPhone – like ability to recognize my location and automatically set my bluetooth and wireless options.

    1. fredwilson

      that would be a cool thing for Android to do. make it user configurable. but only apps that are secure like camera, gps, etc

    2. johndefi

      Galaxy s3 has a configurable tray on the lock screen.

  9. Rohan


    1. ShanaC

      are you dancing?

  10. panterosa,

    I love using the camera on my iPhone this way. As a visual creative, I’m taking pictures all the time ( and replacing note writing with pictures as well). Because the feature is so easy I take even more pictures than before.

  11. AVCoholic

    It’s the default setting for the new iOS. Apple did it for us

  12. Greg Athas

    This feature has been part of Windows Phone from the start. Even cooler if you long press the shutter button, it starts up the camera. Great for quick shots.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s nice

    2. John Best

      Just tested that, confirmed. Cool πŸ™‚

    3. Tom Labus

      Yes, it’s there on the Lumia.My wife continually steals my phone for this feature.

  13. Trish Fontanilla

    Heard about WidgetLocker’s Lockscreen app… never tried it, but it’s $3. I miss the external camera button on Android. Sleek choices over functional choices…https://play.google.com/sto…..

    1. fredwilson

      ooh. that’s great. i will check it out. thanks!

      1. Trish Fontanilla

        No problem… looking forward to hearing how it goes. πŸ™‚

  14. daryn

    One thing worth noting is that when you access the camera from the lock screen on an iPhone, your phone is still locked. You can take pictures, and see pictures in your album that you’ve taken during that session, but nothing else (no other apps, no notifications pulldown, no sharing options, etc.) It’s pretty smart.I think having a “lock-bypass” browser, that only ran in guest/incognito mode, would be handy too.

    1. Wavelengths


      1. daryn

        yes, thanks πŸ™‚

        1. Wavelengths


    2. WA

      Should have read yours before posting the same.

    3. CJ

      Yes, and they stole it from Windows Phone 7. πŸ™‚

  15. Emad Mostaque

    It depends on your phone although I believe it is now in jellybean by default. Hololocker should do it I think for ICS devices: https://play.google.com/sto

    1. fredwilson

      i am using jellybean and i can’t figure out how to do it

    2. Bruno_dR

      I also have JB on my GNexus and Holo Locker does not allow security + camera shortcut.

      1. fredwilson

        Yup. This is my issue. I should have been more specific in my post

  16. Deepak Gupta

    It’s available by default on stock ICS and JB. The little joys of using Google branded devices. πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      That’s what I have. How do I make it work?

      1. Deepak Gupta

        By default it’s enabled. So on lock screen you need to swipe the lock icon to the left. Normally you swipe to the right to unlock the phone.

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks. I should have been more specific. I use a pin on my lock screen.

          1. Deepak Gupta

            Seems like it works only for Slide screen unlock option & not on PIN/Pattern locked screen. πŸ™

        2. ShanaC

          I have a passedcoded one – where is it?

  17. felixc

    iPhone tip: It’s not just camera access from the lock screen that is handy. It’s also that you can use the “Volume Up” button as the shutter button.They physical button is much handier than clicking the virtual button on the screen.

  18. Chat

    apparently the new HTC incredible allows you to pick camera (phone and other features) from the lock screen just by pressing on the icon

  19. Riaz Kanani

    It is default on the HTC One X here in the UK – assume the same in the US? You can actually choose which apps you would like to access on the lock screen – messages, calendar etc. You just drag the icon to the unlock area to activate.Similar to the iphone, you dot have access to previously taken photos when using the camera app unless you proceed further to unlock the phone fully.

  20. kenberger

    (edited)On Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean, here’s an example of what you’re looking for. It works well with the “slide” to unlock setting, which is not secure. They need to implement it on the other Screen Security settings.See attached: the lock screen set to “slide” lets you slide to the right to unlock, or slide to the left for camera.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks Ken!

  21. John Revay

    “Our policy at USV is that all of our devices need to have lock screens”Interesting – I guess I can understand whyI started w/ one – buy found it too much of a pain – maybe I will reconsider.The neat thing w/ iOS – find my iPhone – is that I can remote lock ( & wipe?) my phone if every lost or stolen.

  22. John Revay

    The other cool feature they added to iOS ( at the same time as the short cut to the camera – I think it was iOS 5) was using one of the vol buttons – to snap the shutter.

  23. Paul White

    Phone, yes, tablets, no. My big pet peeve lately is a whole bunch of tourists trying to take pictures with their iPads in groups in NYC. It is getting impossible to walk the streets with everyone clogging things up holding their “shields” in front of them.

    1. Cam MacRae

      Ha! You should take a trip to Honky or god forbid Macau. Every. Second. Bloody. Tourist. iPad. Gaaaaaah!!(Mind you a 300mm tele on a 5D Mk III, with accompanying tripod [as you do], clogs things up just as effectively.)

  24. kenberger

    WidgetLocker lets you customize your lock screen: http://goo.gl/JU1hf, though I haven’t tried it yet with a PIN-based lock screen. Works non-rooted. There are definitely rooted solutions too.When you say “lock”, I’m assuming you mean a PIN (though you didn’t say that), or at least pattern or face recog.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. I run a pin on my lock screen. Anyway to get camera in front of that?

      1. kenberger

        WidgetLocker should in theory, worth a try. Might be a bit flakey against the pin, maybe not.

        1. fredwilson


        2. ShanaC

          thank you

  25. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    not to rehash an older post but after reading the comments below – it becomes obvious why the fragmentation of Android is a pain point for some users. No one can give one clear answer because they are using different devices

    1. Cam MacRae

      Bam!On the other hand, if this wasn’t enabled by default in iOS you’d have a better chance of a newly minted residency on mars than enabling the feature — meanwhile the android crew are workshopping multiple solutions in this very thread.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        where do i sign up for those mars residences? #curiosity is so awesome.

        1. Cam MacRae

          If you find out let me know!

      2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        The Android community is excellent. However, Apple does usually have excellent customer service and the ‘genius bar’ (whether you agree with term or not πŸ™‚ can usually resolve all these types of problems. This is of major appeal to non-technical users.

        1. Cam MacRae

          I meant if it wasn’t a built-in feature, but yes, I’ll take Apple support over Google every day of the week.

          1. CJ

            Google support doesn’t exist.

          2. Cam MacRae

            Technically not true, but truthy all the same πŸ˜‰

          3. CJ

            Well we’re enterprise customers of Postini and evaluated Gmail for enterprise and in our experience, when compared to others in the space – even the bad players, Google’s support is BYOS (Bring Your Own Solution) and that’s when you get to talk to someone (worthwhile) at all. In most cases you get sent to a website that isn’t updated nearly enough. It’s laughable.

          4. Cam MacRae

            Can’t dispute that.That said, when you’re spending large amounts of money with them they answer the phone just like any other supplier. Wine and dine you too. I think it’s comes down to an economy of scale thing.

          5. Ryan Brohman

            I’ve had opposite experience dealing with Google Apps for Business support. Got to a human really quickly, and each time they solved the problem thrown at them.

    2. Bill DeMuro

      spot on!

    3. Matt Busche

      a lot of that has to do with different skins on phones added by the vendor.

  26. EffectiveWebSolutions.info

    Please fill out a feature request form on the tech support page, thank you. πŸ™‚

  27. Wavelengths

    A few minutes ago I used a link from a comment here to go to a Pogue article on how he lost his iPhone on a train, and recovered it a few days later. Now I can’t find that comment here. Did it vanish, or what?Pogue used the “Find my Phone” app to locate his phone in a house in suburban Maryland and the police recovered it for him. What I thought was astounding, though, was that 4 of his commenters thought that his use of the app was a violation of the THIEF’S privacy!

  28. $54638720

    Not sure if anyone really answered this. On ICS / JB1. settings > lock screen > screen security > switch on “show widgets before unlock”2. settings > lock screen > slider shortcuts > choose 3 other apps to open from lock screen (camera and unlock are default) and saveI have Camera, TuneIN Radio, direct dial for my missus, Chrome and Unlock (which takes you to enter pin/pattern screen. A handy thing about this is that if you put a contact on the lock screen they can be called without unlocking the device, useful for emergency services or theft. You can also put screen information, i have an alternate email address in case my phone gets lost. Hope this helps

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t see that. Maybe because I use a PIN

  29. Person

    On SGS3: Settings -> Security -> Lock Screen Options -> Shortcuts

  30. jason wright

    “For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to do this on Android”Join Androids Anonymous for a group therapy session.

    1. ShanaC

      hi, my name is shana….I’ve been an android user for 3 years now and it has taken over my life….

      1. jason wright

        Tell me about your childhood.

        1. ShanaC

          one of my earliest memories involved me building parental robots out of duplo in pre-school. The little kids lived in a house in the stomach, I think my android addiction began there.(fyi, that is a true story about me. I distinctly remember doing that, and being the only girl playing with lego and duplo)

          1. Wavelengths

            I played with blocks, Lincoln logs, Tinker Toys, Erector sets, and then with those fancy modeling “toys” you used in chemistry to build molecular models. πŸ™‚ Oh, and I took apart clocks. Too bad you can’t do that anymore.(Am I describing the childhoods of a significant population in this forum?)

          2. ShanaC

            excellent question. I don’t know.

          3. baba12

            nope I played with mud and dream someday of having all the lego I can have and playing with them. Unless you are a person who comes from privilege in India and of a decent middle class family in the U.S I don’t think playing with toys is defacto norm despite being made cheaply in China. Plus in many parts of the world kids grow up very fast, there is no time for playing with toys, life beckons you.

          4. Wavelengths

            I was also blessed with grandparents who were dairy farmers — 40 cows, up at 4:00 a.m. for milking, milking again in the afternoon, and early to bed, seven days a week, every week of the year, for decades. The house and barn were several centuries old. Thanks to my grandmother, I can churn butter, cook on a woodstove, use a treadle sewing machine, and be happy to read by candlelight. I am grateful that thanks to that background I have been able to travel with a backpack and enjoy many parts of the world without requiring 5-star accommodations.I realize that we are fortunate to be able to share all kinds of backgrounds here in Fredville. I think that’s part of what makes our conversations such a rich experience.I meant no disrespect, and I appreciate you sharing your experience as well. We need these reminders that the world marketplace does not look like what we see in our own mirrors.

          5. jason wright

            Lego trains were my forte. My mother threw my Lego down the chute. She hated the bricks being all over the floor. Scared for life.

  31. matthughes

    iOS – the little engine that could.Who knew?

  32. Rex Madden

    I don’t have an android phone, but here’s the first app I found that looks like it does the trick: https://play.google.com/sto

  33. Matt A. Myers

    I’m guessing this has been answered by now – however, I just have to slide the lock to the left, instead of the right, and it goes to camera.Note: I don’t have a password set, so perhaps by doing that it prevents this slide-left functionality going to camera; My phone, Galaxy Nexus, came that way.. so not sure if it’s a setting or not.

  34. candice

    Back when my razr had gingerbread, the default behavior with a pin or pattern let you into a locked camera mode without a pattern. So useful. Also so gone.Since the ICS upgrade I am without it — and the slide unlock unlocks itself in my pocket too easily. Sigh.

  35. Wavelengths

    Enning is a spammer.

  36. CCD

    Widget Locker is an app that allows you to place several icons in your swipe to unlock mode.https://play.google.com/sto…..Now, I believe that with the AOKP ROM you can have your pin and slider too. There is a setting to allow PIN unlock and then it shows the standard slider screen.

  37. Sasha Chh

    In android if you have swipe to unlock (thus no password or pattern), you can swipe to the left to open the camera. I don’t have a passcode or pattern because I use Prey, if my phone is stolen I’d rather the thief get in and get caught and tracked by Prey, rather than factory resetting the device because he/she can’t unlock it.

  38. Steve Poppe

    I smell a simple fingerprint app — one that is instantaneous.

    1. Wavelengths

      An app where you can load into it whatever you want to have instantaneously “at your fingertip”? Do I see an app name?

  39. eric scherer

    Also available on Nokia Lumia with Windows OS.

  40. george

    Wouldn’t it be easier just to get an iPhone? It’s simple and it works!

    1. fredwilson


  41. Jan Schultink

    Anyone knows how to get Camera+ instead of the default iPhone camera before the lock screen on an iPhone that is not jail-broken?

  42. Gregory Magarshak

    Apple just added this feature to the iOS, it’s not something the users do.

  43. fredwilson

    I believe Google may solve this soon